With the first favas curling prettily on the vine, cherries dangling rosy from the trees, and baby zucchini plumping up in a rainbow of colors, it must be spring. For real proof, look to local farmers’ markets, budding again for the season and tempting with a bounty of fresh produce, meats, cheeses, seafood and more.
Plan now for your fresh picks, with these tips on what to look for and where. Certainly, bring a big basket. But hint: harvests tend to be limited from such small, family owned farms, so shop early in the morning for the best selection.
Many of Sonoma’s finest boutique growers gather at the markets, spreading their wares beneath tents, at booths, and under umbrellas with celebrated names such as Ridgeview Farm, La Bonne Terra, Geyserville Gardens, Middleton Farms, Bernier Farms and Earlybird’s Place. This time of year, the tables glisten in a colorful tapestry of arugula, mint, curly celery, breakfast radishes, heirloom lettuces and edible flowers. Or fill your re-usable shopping sacks with artichokes, pea shoots, walnuts, the last of the season’s citrus, asparagus, green garlic bulbs and scapes, tender spring onions, carrots, leeks, celery root, nettles, and shallots.
Some markets have a head start on summer tomatoes, including the hothouse varieties of Parsons Homegrown of Fulton. Or you can purchase your own starts for planting, from purveyors like Singing Frog Farms, Soda Rock Farm, La Vida Buena Nursery and Let’s Go Farm.
One of the most magical fresh foods is eggs, still warm from the chicken, and you can stock up on the rich bounty of Foggy River Farm, S&W Farm, Wyeth Acres, and Grandma’s Farm Fresh Brown Eggs (despite the name, some are gorgeous pastel colors).
Meats go beautifully with those fruits and vegetables, meanwhile, and all-natural farms like Gleason Ranch and Williams Ranch offer up the kind of premium cuts most diners can only get at expensive restaurants: grass-fed beef, pork, sweet lamb, rustic goat, and handcrafted sausages. Or perhaps you prefer fish, in which case you need to visit Santa Rosa Seafood or Bumblebee Seafood, for catch such local halibut, colossal Gulf or baby shrimp, and salmon.
Plan a feast around sumptuous cheese, too, in favorite labels including Pugs Leap Goat Cheese (try the exceptional Petit Marcel, Pave, Buche, Cabri and Cabremer varieties), Spring Hill Cheese Co., or Valley Ford Cheese Co. For that perfect finishing touch, sprinkle the cheese with lavender flowers from Sophie’s Five Acres.
Rounding out the meal, bread is then a must, and artists like Full Circle Bakery are on hand with rustic hearth loaves. Add a beautiful salad – you can even make a lovely vinaigrette with Vivo Vinegar and Deergnaw Olive Oil – and a most delicious dinner is on the table.
To Market We Go:
Cloverdale Farmers’ Market, Fridays at Cloverdale Plaza and Broad Street, beginning June 10 through September 2, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., music until 9 p.m.
Cotati Farmers’ Market, Thursdays at La Plaza Park on Old Redwood Hwy. and W. Sierra Avenue, beginning June 2 through Sept. 15, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., cotati.org.
Geyserville Farmers Market, last Thursday of each month at The Geyserville Inn, 21714 Geyserville Avenue, beginning June 30 through Oct. 27, from 5 to 8 p.m.
Glen Ellen Farmers Market, Sundays at Jack London Village, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.Oakmont Farmers Market, Saturdays 9 a.m. to noon, year-round, Oakmont parking lot.
Healdsburg Farmers’ Market, Saturdays at North and Vine streets, from May 7 through Nov. 26, from 9 a.m. to noon. Also Tuesdays at the Purity lot at Vine and North streets, beginning June 7 through Oct. 25, from 4 to 6:30 p.m., healdsburgfarmersmarket.org.
Occidental Bohemian Farmers Market, Fridays 4 p.m. till dusk, downtown Occidental, June through October, www.occidentalfarmersmarket.com.
Petaluma Farmers’ Market, Saturdays at Walnut Park on Petaluma Blvd. S. and D Street, from May 21 through Nov. 19, from 2 to 5:30 p.m. Also Wednesdays at 2nd Street between B and D streets, beginning June 1 through Aug. 31, from 4:30 to 8 p.m. petalumafarmersmarket.com.
Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market, Wednesdays and Saturdays at Veterans Memorial Building, 1351 Maple Ave., year-round from 8:30 a.m. to noon, santarosafarmersmarket.blogspot.com.
Santa Rosa Downtown Market, Wednesdays on Fourth Street between Mendocino Avenue and E Street, from May 11 through Sept. 28, from 5 to 8:30 p.m., srdowntownmarket.com.
Sebastopol Farmers Market, Sundays at Downtown Plaza on McKinley Street, from April 3 to Nov. 27, from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Sonoma Valley Farmers Market, Tuesdays 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., at Sonoma Plaza, from May through October. Fridays year-round, from 9 a.m. till noon, Depot Park.
Rohnert Park Farmers Market, Fridays at the Library parking lot on State Farm and Civic Center Drive, beginning June 3 through September 30, from 5 to 8 p.m., ci.rohnert-park.ca.us/index.aspx?page=630.
Windsor Farmers Market, on Windsor Town Green in Old Downtown, on Sundays from May 7 through Nov. 27, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Also Thursdays, June 5 though Aug. 28, from 5 to 8 p.m., windsorfarmersmarket.com.