May at the Hillcrest Farmers Market in San Diego is a wonderful immersion into the world of produce, fresh food and warm community spirit. This week I did my usual tour of farmer’s booths and before long, I was carrying 4 canvas bags overflowing with the organic bounty of the day.
La Milpa Organica is my first stop. There, Barry Logan sells my Ayurvedic vanilla beans while I find culinary inspiration in his abundant selection of greens, herbs, root vegetables and edible florals. He also sells organic California olives and sauerkraut made from the purest ingredients.
On either side of La Milpa Organica are two organic farmers: Nicolina of Terra Bella Ranch and Christie of Cahuilla Mountain Farm. I filled one bag with Nicolina’s luscious ripe loquats in addition to red Livermore walnuts, Chandler walnuts, dried apricots and Haas avocados.
Christie’s artistically decorated booth features organic herbals and medicinals and her custom floral arrangements and wreaths. Every week her booth has new items and I always enjoy viewing the provocative display and sniffing the
Barry Koral of Koral’s Tropical Fruit Farms is one of the more vibrant booths at the market. It’s not only Barry’s striking personality, but also the colorful displays of his locally grown rare and tropical fruit.
Many varieties of lemons and limes are surrounded by chermoyas, loquats, avocados, passion fruit and mulberries, both white and black. In addition, he has local organic macadamia nuts and dried persimmons to die for. His booth is a feast for the senses and a source of vitalizing foods.
For chocolate I go to Mariella Balbi’s booth. She is the talent behind Guanni Chocolates, which I think is the best chocolate in San Diego.
Her vegan Wari bars are made with 100% crillo cacao from Peru and are unparalleled in taste and quality. It is truly world-class and worth every super-food nibble.
My next stop is Archi’s Acres Sustainable Agriculture. There I find live basil, lettuces, avocados and tomato plants. Colin and Karen Archipley have created a program which directly aids combat veterans through their organic and sustainable farm in Escondido, California where veterans are able to work. Their website is Archisacres.com-their program is a worthy cause and they happily accept donations of time or money.
With a little more room in my bags, I top them off at Suzies Farm and Sun Grown Organics, two different operations from the same farm. Suzies Farm is ambrosial organic produce and Sun Grown is micro-greens, edible flowers and sprouts. I always purchase an assortment of micro greens such as beet, fenugreek and red perilla. I enthuse over the sweet popcorn shoots, sunflower and buckwheat sprouts.
I finally wound up back at Sage Mountain Farm where I donned my chef’s coat and presented my book Vegetarian Traditions to the passers-by. It was a great time as I was able to talk to Phil’s customers about his produce and share ideas on what to do with it. Some of the vegetables that stood out were a variety of freshly harvested potatoes, baby Russian kale, tat soi, baby bok choi and baby arugula.
As I drove away with a trunk full of energizing and outstanding produce, I anticipated the most exciting part of the day–cooking my fabulous bounty!
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