The seasonal shift is as visible in the changing faces of our market vendors as it is in the produce itself, or nearly so. Some farmers are wrapping up their harvest year and getting ready for the work of winter; others are taking their places, with winter crops and other items suitable to the season.
One Saturday newcomer at the Santa Rosa Original Farmers Market is Pepper Ranch Poultry, which offers heritage breed organic pastured meat chickensfrom their Petaluma farm. Currently, whole frozen chickens are available but expect more options as word spreads. On their first day, November 5, Craig Azevedo and Amy Swenson sold out.
The market is awash in fall colors, with enormous winter squashes in white, tan, orange, red and green alongside piles of colorful chiles, some as tiny as a baby’s finger, others bigger than a fist. There are small squashes, too, and some cut into pieces by farmers who understand that a squash that is nearly too heavy to carry can seem daunting.
Colorful squashes may catch your eye at first but don’t overlook apples. There’s a lot of ruckus in August when our beloved Gravenstein, the first apple of the year, appears. But Gravs kick off the season: There are plenty of delicious apples throughout fall and winter. Enjoy them in everything from apple-cranberry sauce and apple-juice-brined turkey to apple pie and apple crisp.
This Saturday, Ted Richardson of Bella Ridge will have Pink Lady, Black Twig, Granny Smith, an old variety of Pippin and Arkansas Black, along with Bosc pears. Richardson’s farm is certified organic; Saturday will be his last day of the season. Other apple vendors include Walker Ranch, Lambert Ranch and EGB Chavez Farm. Sonoma Coast Organic Produce has outstanding chestnuts, along with chanterelles and ripe quince.
Wild Rose Ranch has beautiful watermelon radishes, delicious shaved thin. Several vendors have cabbage, some big, crisp and perfect for homemade sauerkraut. Foggy River has rutabaga, cabbage, broccoli and a big array of winter squash, including Delicata.
DeSantis Farm has an excellent selection of citrus, along with both red and white pomegranates (the white fruit is sweeter than the red). They also have pineapple guava.
Twin Peaks Orchards, which is located in Newcastle, has several varieties of persimmons right now. These persimmons were allowed to hang until after the first frost, which guarantees sweetness.
Cliff Silva of Ma & Pa’s Garden has some of the best celery root you’ll ever taste, along with squash, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower.
Ortiz Farms, Redwood Empire Farm, Armstrong Valley Farm, First Light Farm, Orchard Farm and several others have diverse fall harvests, with everything from chards and kales, to beets, broccoli, cauliflower and more.
There are still eggs, though not as many as a few weeks ago, as hen wind down in weather. Some continue producing in the winter but not all.
This market continues to be one of the best sources for grass-fed and pastured meats; local cheeses, butter and yogurt; plant starts, cut flowers and gorgeous tropical plants, including orchids, that you rarely see anywhere else; a huge range of condiments; prepared foods to take home and yummy things to eat on the spot. You’ll find the best chocolates in the county here, from Gandolf’s Chocolates. There are a lot of craft vendors, too, along with information booths and a stall where you can get a massage.
The Saturday market, which operates from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., is the largest in the county. The Wednesday market, which closes at noon, is much smaller but still an excellent source for stocking your pantry and your frig.
Paula Downing is the manager of the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market, which takes place in the east parking lot of the Veterans Building at the corner of Maple and Brookwood Avenues.