On any Sunday this December you’ll find something intriguing at the Walnut Creek farmer’s market. Some of winter’s harvest is also some of the most interesting.
The citrus crop covers many types of oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits but Buddha’s Hand is by far the most eye-catching. With its wild finger-like appearance this type of citron looks more decorative than edible. While you don’t eat the fruit like other citrus it does have an unforgettable lemon zest to use in baked goods, ice creams, drinks and salad dressings, or the peel can be made into a delicious candy. Buddha’s Hand is also a popular gift for Chinese New Year since it symbolizes good fortune, happiness and longevity.
California produces 90 per cent of the nation’s walnuts, almonds and pistachios. Most walnuts grown in California sport a light tan seed coat. For something more colorful and festive check out the red walnut at the Lone Oak stand. It’s named Robert Livermore who contributed to the breeding program and had the walnut named after him. Mr. Livermore managed the Bishop Ranch in San Ramon when it was a very large fruit and nut ranch (before becoming the now large commercial business park).
The red walnut does not taste significantly different than the conventional walnut but gives consumers and farmers another option. Toasting enhances the flavors and aroma of nuts. Place shelled nuts (whole or cut up) in a single layer on a shallow pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 4 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Watch them closely since they go from nicely toasted to burnt very quickly!
All types of cabbage are now up for scrutiny. Cabbage along with its cousins broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, collards, kale and kohlrabi thrive during the cooler months.
Cabbage comes in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Most common are the head cabbage (greed, red and savoy) and Nappa cabbage. Green and red head cabbage are made up of sturdy, smooth leaves and basically the same except for color and the slightly thicker and tougher leaves of the red varieties.
Savoy, with its loosely layered, crinkled leaves, is the most tender and mildest tasting of the head cabbage. Nappa cabbage, also called Chinese cabbage or celery cabbage, is identified by its oblong shape made up of pale green leaves that hint of sweetness, pepper and mustard. And don’t forget the leaves of beautiful flowering cabbage and kale to use as decorative bases on appetizer platters.
What else is in season?
Artichokes, avocados, rutabagas, hard winter squash, persimmons, pomegranates, carrots, radishes, sweet potatoes, leeks, fennel, mushrooms, apples, onions, raisins, dried fruits, celery, quince, salad greens, parsley and pummelos.
Enjoy and see you at the market!