On Wednesday mornings, the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market is small and intimate, about a quarter the size of its Saturday sibling. Customers meander through a single aisle, greeting friends and chatting with favorite vendors. It’s an easy market, with plenty of parking, no lines and little competition for, say, spring’s first green garlic. On Wednesdays you needn’t worry about timing; if you sleep late, it’s no big deal. The market awaits, including Triple T Farm’s fresh spinach, which can be gone by 9 a.m. on Saturday.
“Lettuces are looking really beautiful right now,” manager Paula Downing says, “especially the spring lettuce mixes, which is just gorgeous.”
Min-Hee Hill Gardens of Sebastopol has big heads of lettuce grown in the ground, not hydroponically, a technique that produces tough textures and bitter flavors. Min-Hee lettuces are so beautiful that they could make a lovely centerpieces; they are equally delicious, with the delicacy and snap that good lettuce must have. Min-Hee also has this market’s first green garlic, along with green onions and beets.
Ortiz Farms and Armstrong Valley Farms have excellent lettuces, too, and Triple T Farm’s salad mix is excellent.
When it comes to arugula, is it just me or has it never been better? I think the cold weather has had a wonderful effect on it, creating a lovely sweetness that complements its characteristic bitterness; it also holds up well for several days. I think I’ve tried arugula from every farmer that grows it and it is all excellent.
Radishes are loving this weather. The leaves are pert and flavorful, the radishes themselves bright and crisp. Beets, too, are excellent right now, with balanced flavors, silken textures and delicious leaves.
Hector Alvarez has some of the first sweet spring onions, delicious stalks perfect for grilling or roasting.
Winter produce is still abundant, with sturdy greens and root vegetables, a bit of winter squash and plenty of citrus. Armstrong Valley Farm has several delicious varieties of winter storage potatoes, along with grapefruit and oranges.
Schletewitz Farms has an excellent variety of sweet citrus and very good sweet potatoes.
After a two-week vacation, DeSantis Farms is back with their extraordinary selection of familiar and unusual citrus, including several varieties of lemons and limes. They still have kumquats and almost always have a few enchanting surprises, like fresh goji berries, Italian frying olives and Sarawak grapefruit, to name some of the things I’ve discovered at their stall in the last year.
Neufeld Farms has dried fruit, including pears, apricots, pluots, nectarines, nectarines and, if they haven’t sold out, delicious dried cherries.
Dream Catcher Ranch is the one meat vendor at this market and Wednesday is an excellent time to chat about how their animals are raised. Their pork is excellent, with various cuts available from week to week. Santa Rosa Seafood sells fish and shellfish, including their own smoked salmon, Full Circle Baking provides breads and Mama Tina’s Ravioli of Forestville offers tastes of their delicious handmade raviolis. Grandma’s Jams will satisfy your sweet tooth and if you want to nibble while you shop, you won’t do better than a hot tamale from Mi Fiesta, which also sells enchiladas, tamales and sauces to take home.
The Wednesday market takes place from 8:30 a.m. to noon in the east parking lot of the Santa Rosa Veterans Building at the corner of Maple and Brookwood Avenues.