If nature doesn’t take your breath away regularly, you may not be paying close enough attention. Every time I go to a farmers market–usually several times a week–I am dazzled and never more so than Saturday in Petaluma.
Although there were a couple of clues that winter is approaching–there was a lot of winter squash and, when I arrived, Santa Claus was talking with a vendor–summer’s harvest was colorfully abundant, apparently unscathed by last week’s rain and cold snap. I was wrong when I suggested tomato season was just about over for the year; there is still plenty of time for tomato salads, fresh salsa, tomato pie, and several more BLTs.
As always, vendors of produce and grass-fed meats are organized along Fourth St., making it easy for the shopper to take in the scope of what is available, which I usually do before making my purchases. Vendors of cut flowers and prepared foods, including Carson’s Catch smoked salmon, are on the lawn opposite and along the southern portion of E Street, too, where I was thrilled to spot a <<ital>> traditional <<ital>> taco truck.
One of the most popular vendors at this market is Petaluma Bounty Farm, which has a very diverse harvest that includes strawberries, raspberries, melons, lettuce, salad mix, rainbow chard, kale, cucumbers, carrots, beets, cauliflower, Padrons, sweet peppers, summer squash and fresh flowers.
Soda Rock Farm of Alexander Valley has a gorgeous selection of delicious tomatoes in every color, from pale yellow, gold and striped green to every shade of pink, orange and red. The farm still has basil, plenty of lemon cucumber and a great array of chiles, including Padrons, bells and other sweet peppers.
The Patch has plenty of tomatoes, too, and likely will through the end of November. The Sonoma farm also has figs, basil, onions, zucchini, several types of winter squash, eggplant, green beans, potatoes, Nantes carrots and sweet peppers.
Hector Alvarez currently has a lot more than his popular honey. He’s harvesting onions, several kinds of cucumbers, tomatillos, melons, summer squash, sweet and hot peppers, tomatoes and potatoes. Let Us Farm, which is usually snuggled up next to Hector’s stand, counts tomatoes, basil, cauliflower, onions, summer squash and greens among its current offerings.
Laguna Farms of Sebastopol, which always has a very precise display, with individual items displayed in low baskets, has tiny summer squash, small zucchini, colorful sweet peppers, little turnips, little lemon cucumbers, red beets, pert green onions, red kale, fennel, carrots, collard greens, cilantro, Italian parsley and several types of heirloom tomatoes.
Ortiz Farm of Santa Rosa also has several types of summer squash, a great selection of greens–kale, chard and chard among them–lettuces, cucumbers, radishes, cilantro, parsley, mint, eggplant, sweet peppers, beets, broccoli, corn, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, tomatillos and jalapenos, along with gorgeous flowers. Ortiz also still has squash blossoms.
Bloomfield Farms is one of the only vendors with spinach and also has nice broccoli, red beets, fat golden beets, a good variety of greens, summer squash, red onions and winter squash.
Anderson Organic Vegetables wins the prize, once again, for best hidden harvest. Although they have a fairly large selection of vegetables, you see almost nothing. Everything is kept cool in large white coolers. A sign on the back of a truck is the only visual cue to what you’ll find if you open the coolers’ lids. There’s beets, carrots, chard, spring onions, bell peppers, lettuce, squash, broccoli, green beans, cauliflowers, basil, eggplant, potatoes, cucumbers, bok choy and more.
Vikki Medium Straub’s GVM Farm has a diverse harvest and diverse signage, more than I’ve seen at any vendor’s stall. If you can, take the time to read the signs, which are informative and, often, amusing. One sign encourages customers to sign up for lamb now; it will be ready next fall. GVM farm has pumpkins, onions, summer squash, eggs, tomatoes, melons, cucumbers and winter squash.
Well-Being Farm of Occidental attends this market, with enoki, white trumpet, abalone, shiitake and maitake among its current harvest.
Several vendors have late-season stone fruit and grapes, another has dried fruits, including dried plums and some specialize in apples, like Olympia’s Orchard of Two Rock. Olympia’s grows more than 50 varieties of apples and had several, including the uniquely-shaped Yellow Bellflower and the diminutive Wickson, at the market.
Tolay Twisted Farms, located within Tolay Lake Regional Park, has several types of beautiful pumpkins, including Cinderella and Fairytale. The farm has winter squash, corn and baby pumpkins, as well.
When it comes to meats and fish, Swallow Valley Farm has beef and lamb, Tara Firma has beef, lamb, chicken and pork and Carson’s Catch has fresh and smoked salmon. Bread is from Panorama, there are two honey vendors, two olive oils and a selection of prepared foods.
The Petaluma Farmers Market is well attended, not only by locals shopping for fresh produce but also by community members of all ages. Some come to play in the park, some come for the crafts vendors, some for the camaraderie. Last week, the park was filled with dozens of people of all ages sporting facial hair–some real, some attached, some drawn on–for the annual Whiskerino contest.
In a couple of weeks–on October 22–there will be an opportunity to make sugar skulls, a traditional part of El Dia de los Muertos and on October 29, there will be a Halloween parade, which always draws a huge number of participants.
The market’s final day of the season is November 19.
The Petaluma farmers market takes place on Saturday from 2 to 5:30 p.m. in Walnut Park, at the corner of Petaluma Blvd. S. and D Street.
Erica Burns-Gorman is the manager of the market.