This time of year always has a way of making us ready for the warm days of spring and summer. And of course with those thoughts of warm months come dreams of our spring and summer vegetable garden! For the last few years, we've really made an effort to put in a substantial vegetable garden in our backyard. The children love to help pick out the seeds, plant them, water the plants, and pick the vegetables (and eat them, too), so it's a fun, educational, and tasty, experience for them.
Our first task of the season is always to go get our seeds. We always go the heirloom route—they're so much more fun than your plain old (ahem) garden variety vegetables—and we buy our seeds at the Petaluma Seed Bank, the West Coast outpost of the fantastic Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Mansfield, Missouri. They stock a vast array of seeds for a wide variety of vegetables, many of which you probably didn't know existed.
Here's another delicious Thanksgiving side dish recipe from our friends at Agricultural Community Events Farmers Markets, the non-profit group that puts on the Marinwood, Downtown Novato, Fairfax, Petaluma East, and Santa Rosa Community Farmers' Markets, among others. This one features everyone's favorite healthy leafy green—kale. What's great about this recipe is it tells you which farmers' market vendors you can buy the ingredients from!
5 tablespoon olive oil (Big Paw at Marinwood Community Farmers' Market has great California Olive Oil, Bannono Olive Oil at Santa Rosa Community Farmers' Market, Wylands Orchard at Petaluma East Side Farmers' Market has olive oil from Petaluma, Nan's Gourmet at Petaluma East Side Farmers' Market)
1/3 cup chopped almonds (Noeller Farms at Marinwood Farmers' Market or Redel's Almond at Petaluma East Side and Santa Rosa Farmers' Market)
2 medium red onions, sliced (Calvillo Brothers at Marinwood Community Farmers Market, Ortiz Brothers at Marinwood, Petaluma East Side and Santa Rosa)
4 clove(s) garlic finely chopped (Krout's Sunset Ranch at Petaluma East Side Farmers' Market, Laguna Farm at Petaluma East Side Farmers' Market and Ortiz Brothers at Marinwood Community Farmers' Market)
Here's another delicious Thanksgiving side dish recipe from our friends at Agricultural Community Events Farmers Markets, the non-profit group that puts on the Marinwood, Downtown Novato, Fairfax, Petaluma East, and Santa Rosa Community Farmers' Markets, among others. What's great about this recipe is it tells you which farmers' market vendors you can buy the ingredients from!
5 celery ribs, thinly sliced - Calvillo Brothers (Marinwood Farmers Market), Ortiz Brothers (Marinwood, Petaluma East Side, and Santa Rosa at the Veterans Building)
2 medium onions, chopped - Lots of options here, Tolay Valley Farm (Marinwood Farmers Market), Calvillo Brothers (Marinwood Farmers Market), Ortiz Brother (Marinwood, Petaluma East Side, and Santa Rosa at the Veterans Building), First Light Farm (Petaluma East Side Farmers Market)
Here's a delicious Thanksgiving side dish recipe from our friends at Agricultural Community Events Farmers Markets, the non-profit group that puts on the Marinwood, Downtown Novato, Fairfax, Petaluma East, and Santa Rosa Community Farmers' Markets, among others. What's great about this recipe is it tells you which farmers' market vendors you can buy the ingredients from!
8 medium carrots, chopped (Calvillo Brothers at Marinwood Farmers' Market, Ortiz Brothers at Marinwood, Petaluma East Side Farmers and Santa Rosa Farmers' Market, Tolay Valley Farm at Marinwood Farmers Market)
4 tablespoon unsalted butter (Springhill Cheese at Petaluma East Side and Santa Rosa Farmers' Market) plus more for ramekins
1 small onion finely chopped (Calvillo Brothers at Marinwood Community Farmers Market, Ortiz Brothers at Marinwood, Petaluma East Side and Santa Rosa)
On our last visit to Petaluma, we stopped by the farm store at Green String Farm, located just east of town on Old Adobe Road. At this time of year, this sustainable local farm is just overflowing with amazing fresh produce. We also happened to visit during one of their summer sale weekends (currently through Sunday, August 25), and everything costs only $1 per pound (except for stuff like grass-fed beef, eggs, honey, and olive oil). If you haven't shopped here, it's definitely worth the trip up to Petaluma, even on a non-sale day.
Green String Farm's farm store is situated in the middle of their 140-acre agricultural plot. Take in sweeping views of cultivated fields, orchards, vineyards, and the Sonoma County hills beyond. The farmstand carries just about every local, seasonal fruit or vegetable you can imagine, from apples, Asian pears, and stone fruits to peppers, heirloom tomatoes, onions, fresh herbs, and lettuce.
My kids enjoyed selecting fruit and carrots that are destined for their school lunch boxes, and I picked out lettuce, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, cucumbers, and more that I'll work into my meal plan this week. Prices are a bargain, especially during their sale, and we filled up a big Trader Joe's shopping bag to overflowing for less than $12, and that included the basket of almonds that my daughter wanted for a snack!
On one of our recent visits to the Sonoma Valley, our favorite Wine Country destination, we discovered the newly-opened Sonoma Broadway Farms, a small organic, sustainable farm located just south of town. Tucked away on a plot of land between Broadway (hence the name) and Sonoma Creek, this six-acre farm offers a farm stand, a delightful picnic area, animals to visit, and the opportunity to go out into the field and pick your own vegetables and fruit.
Enter the farm via the driveway that it shares with the Sonoma Seventh Day Adventist Church. The farm is a cluster of weathered buildings that include a barn and a farm stand. There's a spotless picnic area to the side of the barn, with plenty of new picnic tables, each with its own patio umbrella to provide shade. It's a great place to bring your lunch and eat before or after your you-pick excursion.
The farm is just getting started for the season right now, which means that some of the you-pick options, like tomatoes, are a little limited, but give it a week or two and everything will be in full swing. Meanwhile, look for several varieties of heirloom summer squash, beets, hot and sweet peppers, kale, cucumbers, and sunflowers.
Like many families, we like to know exactly where our food is coming from. So that's why we're big fans of the u-pick Sundays at Bloomfield Farms in western Sonoma County. My kids love the opportunity to pick their own food, whether it's in our own backyard garden or at a local farm. While there are plenty of local farms that offer farmstands and sell at various farmers markets around the Bay Area, there aren't too many that offer a chance to go out into the field and pick your own veggies.
Bloomfield Farms is a certfied organic family farm located just west of Petaluma in Sonoma County. It's easy to get to, and makes for a fun Sunday family outing. Bloomfield Farms sells produce at farmers markets, supplies local markets, and provides CSA boxes to subscribers, but decided to start their u-pick event last summer so families could come experience how their food is grown and harvested.
Pull into to the farm and register at the counter with Nick, Jess or one of the farm staff. They're welcoming and enthusiastic, and will explain how the farm's u-pick Sunday works: head out into the fields, pick and cut vegetables, and fill your crate.
Chili is one of those meals that can be on the hearty, heavy side and not something you necessarily want to eat for a summer dinner—except for this fresh and healthy version. For this summer chili, I lighten things up considerably and take advantage of fresh summer produce like the zucchini growing in our backyard garden and sweet corn.
Serve this chili with a variety of toppings and add-ons so each diner can customize it to his or her taste. You can make it vegetarian (or vegan, really) by omitting the ground turkey and doubling the amount of beans and squash. Either way, it's delicious! And our kids even eat it, too. There's probably no reason you couldn't make this year-round, either, although you'd have to subsitute frozen corn for the fresh.
This weekend, visitors to Bloomfield Farms' u-pick event will not only be able to pick their own certified organic produce, but plant it as well! Bloomfield Farms was selected to help grow the heirloom squash, pumpkins, and gourds for the giant tower of vegetables at this year's National Heirloom Exposition at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds.
Families visiting the for u-pick on Saturday and Sunday, May 4 and 5, can help plant these heirloom seeds (contributed by the Petaluma Seed Bank and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds). Then, come back in the fall to see how they've grown and pick a pumpkin, gourd, or squash (nature permitting, one per customer).
As usual, you'll also find a variety of great organic produce, including, kale, lettuce, chard, artichokes, leeks, broccoli, and more. We hear their new strawberry patch is in full swing now, too. Also, Chef John Lyle will be on hand again this Sunday for a "pay-what-you-can" Farm Fun Brunch. If you haven't been to u-pick yet this is a great weekend to check it out.