This time of year for produce can be a waiting game. Growing year-round in our climate is possible though it takes some pretty careful planning and timing. Our farm usually rests and regenerates during the winter months, and we are fortunate to have local farmers to rely on – especially during the lull of late winter & early spring. Even with plants in the ground at the fig farm, the progress seems painfully slow. (There’s nothing like the summer months when sprouts rocket out of the ground after seeding!)
Here’s some of the fresh local produce you’ll likely find at the farmers’ markets this month (and on our menus!)
Chicory is an herbaceous perennial plant grown for its greens, buds, and roots. It’s leaves are mildly bitter and excellent fresh or in cooked recipes. Side note – chicory grows wild (aka it’s a weed!) in Europe. There are now countless varieties of cultivated chicory, including radicchio and endive, which we love for their crunchy bitterness in salads.
A crunchy and slightly bitter salad, set off with creamy dressing, as in this Chicory Salad with Meyer Lemon Dressing, a la Martha Stewart; or this bitter-sweet, caramelized creation, Bitter Sweet Chicory by Abel & Cole.
Stinging Nettles are another wild-growing perennial now cultivated for nutritional and medicinal attributes. If you’ve ever accidentally strolled through this, you might be shaking your head while reading. I am not kidding, you can eat it! (Nettle is endlessly fascinating to me, but I won’t bore you here…if you’re interested in all of its magical qualities, this is a great read.)
The secret to eating nettle is that once they’ve been cooked just a little (you don’t want to overcook them, this spoils the taste) the stingers are deactivated. This yields a rich, hearty “green” flavor.
Robust, flavorful greens prepared in a rich custard, as in this Stinging Nettle and Porcini Quiche by Edible Aria; (Seriously, I am making this ASAP!), or used as you would basil in a pesto, like this pasta with stinging nettles and ramps pesto by the Olga Massov of the Sassy Radish. (Love this blog.) Just this weekend, Chef Dustin prepared them in Fazzoletti (Handkerchief pasta), with spiced duck sugo, & pecorino. Beautiful.
Alliums are the family of plant that includes onions, garlic, and chives (a few of our favorite things!). In Sonoma, they can be planted in late fall for an early spring harvest. Green garlic and spring onions have starred in our weekly Plats du Jour over the last few weeks, and are popping up throughout the menu, in dishes like our shellfish stew, with braised bacon, white beans, spring alliums, white wine-onion broth, and grilled bread.
The onion family is so versatile. Here are just a few of the countless ways they might be used: in a fresh and zingy spring dip, such as this Ricotta & Spring Onion Dip, by BBC Good Food, www.bbcgoodfood.com; or perhaps their sweetness accentuated by roasting or grilling them whole, right from your CSA box, as in this Roasted Spring Onions, by Virginia Willis of Country Living? Yum!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of What’s in Season…
Happy seasonal eating!!