On Friday morning, the Sonoma Valley farmers market is filled with customers–shopping, chatting and lingering over nibbles such as hummingbird-shaped cookies and lumpia–as a stream of moms, grandparents and nannies usher babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers and pups into the adjacent park.
Two vendors, Paul’s Produce and Oak Hill Farm, are located nearly across with each other, with their similar harvests an evocative expression of this valley’s <<ital>> terroir<<ital>>. Both have extraordinary carrots, with the thinnest of skins, an appealing snap and a remarkably delicate sweetness.
Much of Paul’s harvest–arugula, parsley, salad mix, spinach, dried herbs, less than perfect carrots– is portioned and packaged. Other produce is arranged in bins with big, clear signs. This week you’ll find onions, golden beets, red beets, leeks, broccoli, dandelion greens, red cabbage, green cabbage, Lacinato kale, Red Russian kale, collard greens and rutabaga.
At Oak Hill Farm’s booth, produce is in baskets and bins, each item described in chalk on its own blackboard. There’s arugula, leeks, stinging nettles, parsley, Naval oranges, Meyer lemons, broccoli, beets, chard, kale, winter squash, tiny yellow tulips on short stems and the first green garlic of the year. Between two of the tables you’ll find gorgeous farm bouquets and flowering quince. The farm also has wreaths–including heart-shaped wreaths made of dried chiles–dried lavender and bunches of curly willow.
Sebastopol’s French Garden Farm’s diverse harvest includes red cabbage, broccoli, onions, new potatoes, sunchokes, cylindrical red beets, round golden beets, leeks, Mandarin oranges, Meyer lemons, winter squash, baby parsnips, turnips, chard, kale, frisee, salad mix and several lettuces.
Ortiz Farms has a big selection of greens, onions, radishes, broccoli, flowering quince, cabbages, potatoes and more. This Santa Rosa farm has cilantro, too, though you need to be quick, as it can sell out early. Hector Alvarez has onions, chiles, garlic, potatoes, eggs and, of course, a huge selection of honey. Carson’s Catch has smoked salmon, wild salmon and cod.
Victorian Farmstead offers its meat and eggs here and its stall serves as a pick-up spot for CSA subscribers. Their current selection includes pork, lamb and beef. Chicken is available whole, halved and in parts. Finally, a source for local leg-thigh pieces! It’s been a while.
The Baker–spelled, roughly, <<ital>>de bejkr<<ital>>–does a brisk business with organic pretzels, pulled hot from his portable wood oven. All the breads are gorgeous and delicious. Capay Gold Olive Oil has its delicious 2011 oils. Strauss Family Dairy has organic milk, half and half, cream, sour cream, yogurt and butter.
Mt. Moriah Farms has organic apples, Bohemian Well Being Farm offers delicious mushrooms, there are three egg vendors and several familiar prepared food vendors, including The Hummus Guy, Primavera Tamales, Redel’s Roasted Almonds, J’amie Patisserie and the Handmade Pantry with granola. Community Cafe and Catering, at the market for the first time, offers soups, granola, cookie dough and scone mix to take home and hot chicken tortilla soup to enjoy on the spot.
Local artisans, an author and a coffee vendor complete the sense of community that has thrived here for more than two decades.
The Sonoma Valley market takes place on First St. West, a few blocks north of the Sonoma plaza, in the parking lot of Depot Park. It operates year round on Fridays from 9 a.m. to noon, with manager Hilda Swartz at the helm.