Sunday, January 2nd: Happy New Year! 2011 - Can You Believe It?!?

Whether this image intrigues you or disturbs you, there is no questioning that it is real -- authentic. This is our food, direct from the farmers who raised it, in its raw, natural, unadulterated state. This calf's head and assorted organs in the refer case of Sea Breeze Farm is considered waste by most Americans, but for the people of the rest of the world who cannot imagine wasting perfectly good food, and to a goodly number of foodies and immigrants here in Ballard, these are delicacies. And let's face it: can you really argue the validity of the argument some make that you should be able to look an animal in the eyes before you eat it? Hey, I like a nice hunk of flesh on my plate as much as the next guy, but in this country, we have so sanitized everything about our food that we no longer even recognize it... unless, that is, you shop at a farmers market.

A big thank you to those of you who shook off your holiday hangover and braved the sideways rain and violent winds last Sunday to shop at your Ballard Farmers Market. The vendors and management of your Market appreciate all of you for your hearty loyalty, especially those of you who assisted us in holding down canopies and rounding up flying merchandise. Today is forecast to be much nicer -- sunny and calm winds, though a stitch on the chilly side, so layer up. Oh, and hey, all of the vendors who took a long holiday weekend last week are back today, like Colinwood Farms with some lovely parsnips. The holidaze are over, and the grind returns tomorrow. Enter the new year with good, local, safe and nutritious food!

Samish Bay Cheese is here today with their award-winning cheeses. You know, they were the most award winning Washington cheese maker at the 2010 American Cheese Society competition held in Seattle this past August. And they also have yogurt, beef and pork, too!

Stoney Plains returns after its holiday hiatus to continue to mesmerize us with how much they seem to be able to harvest this time of year, in spite of the weather. Of course, they wisely balance out the greens they grow in greenhouses and hoop houses with a nice selection of dried beans, spuds, roots and these lovely red sunchokes.

Have you gotten your sauerkraut on lately? We're talking living food here, people, loaded with all kinds of goodness your body craves. Firefly Kitchens makes their Classic Sauerkraut & Rudy Red Sauerkraut from local cabbage -- I think that's Nash's in those jars right now -- and trust me, this is some of the best darned kraut you've ever tasted! And it'll dress up you dogs and brats very well, too.

Hopefully, the good folks from Cape Cleare won't freeze to death on their way to Market today. But really, if anyone is gonna be a hearty soul, it's going to be a fisherman, right? So look for them and their bicycle trailers stocked with magnificent, frozen-at-sea salmon and smoked salmon. In fact, I had some of their salmon for lunch at TASTE Restaurant before seeing the Picasso exhibit at SAM on Friday. Seriously, that's some good eatin'!

This winter, I have been practicing the old adage, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." And Collins Family Orchards has been doing an admirable job of keeping me well supplied with apples for the task. They've got Fujis, Pink Ladies, Braeburns and a few others right now, along with Asian pears and some other goodies.

I've gotta say, I just love checking out Foraged & Found Edibles each week to see what wild mushrooms and other foraged foods have been offered them by Mother Nature for our dining pleasure. Take these wild hedgehog mushrooms, for instance. I love these just sauteed with some butter, but you can use them lots of ways. They've got yellowfoot chanterelles and black truffles currently, too.

Pipitone Farms was one of the first farms around these parts to do a really effective job of season extension through value-added products. "Huh?", you ask? What I mean is, they take what they grow in the summer, and they dried it, jam it, pickle it, and so on, so they can continue to sell it in the winter, even when their farm in Cashmere is blanketed by snow. I love using their dried herbs and cayenne peppers, above, for all manner of cooking I do. This stuff is way fresher than the stuff at the Big Box Stores, and it's organic, local and delicious. Oh, and did you know that many dried herbs and spices are irradiated these days? Well, these aren't!

There is much more waiting for you at your Ballard Farmers Market today. Just check the What’s Fresh Now! listings in the upper right-hand corner of this page for a more complete accounting of what is in season right now. But please note that due to our recent cold weather, some crops may not be available as anticipated.