Spring is in glorious profusion at the Sonoma Valley Certified Farmers Market. On Friday, the air was soft, warm, fragrant with lilac and filled with children’s voices, wafting from the adjacent playground.
A crowd was gathered at Paul’s Produce, as shoppers eagerly gathered plump artichokes, murmuring to each other that they were the best they’d ever tasted. Wasn’t it just last week that I wrote about artichokes being one of the few things rarely if ever in abundance at a farmers market? I stand corrected, happily so. I snagged three and later that evening agreed that they are among the best ever, especially their tender hearts.
Paul’s also has fresh favas, green garlic, Easter Egg radishes, plump shallots, Tokyo turnips, sunflower sprouts, snap peas, pea shoots, fresh herbs, red butter lettuce, Upland cress, spinach and salad mix. There are delicious Nantes carrots, too, but you must arrive early or miss out, as I did.
Carrots sell out early at Oak Hill Farm’s booth, too, and halfway through the morning, none remained. French Breakfast radishes were nearly gone, too. The farm’s current harvest also includes Lacinato kale, several varieties of lettuce, green garlic, leeks, favas, arugula, snap peas, cilantro and beautiful flowers, including those fragrant lilacs.
Ortiz Farm is always a reliable source for produce staples, including red and green cabbage, broccoli, leeks, radishes, onions, potatoes, chards, kales, Italian parsley, cilantro and red beets. They also have excellent lettuces, salad mix and beautiful bouquets.
The French Garden Farm was on hand with the last of its Delicata squash, along with Meyer lemons, clementines, fresh herbs, red and golden beets, celery, scallions, kales, chards, fennel, carrots, small artichokes, frisee, escarole, salad mix and several varieties of lettuce.
Aubin – Ranch, Fowler Creek Farm and Victorian Farmstead provide the market with excellent pastured eggs. On Friday, Fowler Creek Farm was also taking orders for homegrown hogs. Victorian Farmstead offers its full range of products, including eggs, chicken, lamb, pork and beef, along with sausages, bacon and little cured meat sticks to nibble on the spot. This market is also a pick-up location for CSA members.
True Grass Farm of Valley Ford, one of three members of the exciting new Valley Ford Young Farmers Association, currently has grass-fed California Kobe beef and Katahdin- lamb. The group also operates a CSA and hosts monthly farm tours, with lunch; for more information, visit valleyfordyoungfarmers.com.
Carson’s Catch has its excellent smoked salmon and fresh-frozen Alaskan wild salmon, the only seafood currently available at this market. Bohemian Well Being Farm has a big selection of mushrooms, some familiar, like shiitake, and others, like turkey tail, unusual.
Straus Family Creamery sells all its products here, including its new lactose-free organic milk, voluptuous new sour cream and whole milk yogurt, which I cannot live without. Spring Hill Farm’s cheese curds, cheeses and butter are available here, too.
There’s still plenty of citrus, though its season will soon conclude. Hector Alvarez has his beautiful honeys and honey products, garlic, dried chiles and eggs. “Da Bejkr” offers some of the best breads you’ll ever taste, along with large pretzels hot from the wood burning oven. There’s coffee and other hot and cold beverages from the Java Wagon, tamales to enjoy on the spot or take home from Primavera, nibbles from the Lumpia King, delicate baked goods from J’aime Patisserie and granola from the Handmade Pantry.
Several local crafts vendors attend this market and manager Hilda Swartz sells her beautiful photo cards.
Although I believe that the best farmers market is the one closest to where you live, this market is a great destination for everyone at the beginning of spring and summer, as the valley microclimates generally allow earlier planting and earlier harvesting than elsewhere in the county. This is a good thing to remember when you start craving summer tomatoes.
This Friday, the first cherries of the year will be available.
The Sonoma Valley Farmers Market, founded in 1985 and managed by Hilda Swartz, takes place on Friday mornings from 9 am. to noon in the parking lot of Depot Park on First St. West, just north of the Sonoma town plaza.