Sunday, July 22nd: Colorful Cauliflower, Nectarcots, Loganberries, Rainbow Carrots, Kraut Juice, Native Potatoes, Raspberry Jam, Beefsteak Tomatoes & The Return Of Boistfort Valley Farm!!!

Today's epistle is a tale of many colors and hybrids, of summers delicious bounty and the return of one of Washington's finest family farms to your Ballard Farmers Market. Let's start with a splash of color, though, in the form of this wonderful purple graffiti cauliflower from Oxbow Farm. Besides being delicious, cauliflower is one of those weirdly beautiful vegetables that kinda defies logic. And we are now coming into the peak of summer cauliflower season. Woohoo!

We will enjoy at least five different varieties of cauliflower at your Ballard Farmers Market this summer, from the white titan cauliflower we saw arriving from Oxbow last week to this stunning cheddar cauliflower from Growing Things Farm. And soon, we'll also see green cauliflower and romanesco, the only vegetable that grows in fractals! Each has its own unique qualities and flavor. I like to steam romanesco, then grate some fresh parmesan cheese over the top of it. I like roasting the white and cheddar in a hot oven, simply tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, though you can dial it up a notch with other spices. Try giving cumin a shot. And try grilling it, too!

If you're anything like me, first off, let me give you the number of a good therapist! That said, you've probably been missing Boistfort Valley Farm from, well, Boistfort. You know, we kinda gauge just how late a year it is for Westside farmers based on how late Boistfort Valley comes into your Ballard Farmers Market, and I do believe this is the latest they ever have. Now, if you are unfamiliar with Boistfort Valley Farm, let me tell you a little about them. Farmer Mike Peroni has been farming in Southwest Washington and selling at the Olympia Farmers Market for almost 25 years. He grew up in an Italian family in Pennsylvania with an Italian's healthy appreciation of food. He specializes in growing Italian and Asian heirloom varieties of vegetables, and his market displays are so legendary that he is regularly called upon to give workshops to other farmers on how to set up one's market stall. Indeed, Boistfort Valley Farm is one farm to which some of the most admired farms in Washington aspire to be. Thus I say, so what if they're late coming in. They'll be with us now through Christmas, and we'll get to enjoy their splendor! Welcome back Mike and Heidi, and your crew. We're all ready to fall in love with you all over again!

Okay, every year, when the nectarcots from Collins Family Orchards arrive at your Ballard Farmers Market, I cannot help but ponder the absolute explosion in stone fruit hybrids over the last 10-15 years. From donut peaches to pluots to apriums to peachcots, it seems the made scientist orchardists are having just too much fun playing pin the pollen on the other tree's flower and see what we get. The good news is that this madness has resulted in many more kinds of fruit for us to enjoy, and made it available for much more of the year. I mean, remember back when you had two kinds of cherries, one peach, one nectarine and one apricot? How boring does that seem now? Seriously yawnsville, right? Then again, I am still holding out for the introduction of the nectareach, that mythical hybridization betwixt nectarine and peach. I suspect the delay in this particular fruit has something to do with trying to keep the genes from favoring the juicy, watery interior of the nectarine surrounded by the fuzzy exterior of the peach. Yikes!

Ozette potatoes are the closest thing to a native potato that Washington has. Truth is, all potatoes originated in South America. But did you know that almost all potatoes in the United States travelled from South America to Europe before coming here? Yup. However, there are a few notable exceptions. See, in the late 1700s, the Spanish, who, with the Portuguese, are largely responsible for transporting South America's most famous tuber to the rest of the planet, sailed up the Pacific Coast of North America from South America back in the 1790s looking for more ports to call home. You didn't think the Strait of Jan de Fuca  was named by the Brits, did you? The Spaniards set up trading posts in several northern ports, including our own Neah Bay, and they brought with them, direct from South America, potatoes -- beautiful fingerling potatoes, to be exact. They plunked their flags down in Neah Bay in 1791, and by 1793, they figured out that the weather here kinda sucks, and they scarpered off back to Mexico. But lucky for us, they left behind with the Makah Indians those potatoes, and the Makah continue to cultivate them to this day. Indeed, the Ozette potato is one of the few potatoes to travel directly from South to North America, and now it is our potato, cool and dampness hardy, dense and starchy and delicious -- absolutely brilliant roasted, great steamed, smashed and slathered with butter, or grill-roasted in a foil pouch in butter and herbs. Alvarez Organic Farms has them today. Enjoy!

Berries exhibit another exercise in diversity and color this time of year. Take the humble loganberry from Jessie's Berries, for instance. Big, juicy, sweet and tangy. Perfect for jams, pies, topping ice cream, adding to salads or even dressing up salmon and pork. And just look at that astonishingly beautiful color, eh? You know, when I post photos like this one on our Facebook page, I often find myself blindsided by people from all over the world commenting on the photos and expressing how they wished they could be in Ballard with us to enjoy this absurd bounty we have here. We are pretty darned lucky to live here and to have access to all that our local farmers have to offer us. Take a moment to reflect on that, take a moment to thank the farmers today as you shop at your Ballard Farmers Market, and please, show your appreciation for this special market by voting for it in the 2012 America's Favorite Farmers Market Contest.

Nothing goes together quite like peas and carrots, right? They're like a marriage made in vegetable heaven... or was it a market research laboratory at Green Giant's headquarters in Blue Earth, Minnesota? Whatever the case, if you still eat peas from a bag you got out of the freezer case of one of the Big Box stores, I beg you to indulge me and dive into fresh shelling peas from Stoney Plains Organic Farm right here at your Ballard Farmers Market. Besides how amazing they are straight out of the pod, I personally find it worth the effort to load up on these babies and shuck pounds of them. I'll enjoy some fresh now, but more importantly, I will fill a couple dozen pint freezer bags with them, packing four pint bags to a gallon freezer bag, and cram the whole lot into my freezer. Then, when I want frozen peas this winter, so I can make one of my favorite pasta dishes with some of Pasteria Lucchese's pappardelle and Wilson Fish's smoked salmon, all I have to do is grab one of those pint bags, empty the contents into the pot with the pasta about 30-60 seconds before the pasta is done, drain, and then toss the lot with the salmon, and bam!, I've got the best friggin' frozen peas ever. Ever! You don't need to blanch them first. Just shuck 'em and freeze 'em. Ever! Bam! You can thank me in January.

Like peas and carrots, baby! Pea and carrots!!! And how's about yet another rainbow of vegetative color? Rainbow carrots from Gaia's Natural Goods. Simply awesome, eh? But carrots are orange, and raspberries are red, and cauliflower is white, and tomatoes are red, and, and, and... only if you shop at the Big Box stores, baby! Here at your Ballard Farmers Market, we use the jumbo pack of Crayola crayons, and with it, we get more flavor, more nutrients, more goodness, more life!

I am so glad that a couple of years ago, I lobbied hard for Firefly Kitchens to keep making their caraway sauerkraut. It is the perfect accompaniment for a nice bratwurst, you know? And with most brands of kraut in the Big Box stores these days being cooked to death or laden with preservative sulfiting agents, having access to this beautiful, fresh, living kraut made with local cabbage is such a gift. And now, they are even bottling the caraway kraut brine left after the kraut is all jarred for sale. This is a potent living tonic that'll make your body purr, and it's also got all the deliciousness of the kraut itself. But stock up soon, because we are hitting peak season now at your Ballard Farmers Market, and all our farms are back and needing multiple spaces for all their fruits and veggies, and that'll mean Firefly Kitchens will be taking its summer hiatus soon to make room for them all.

Clayton from Alm Hill Gardens has been teasing us with hints of the imminent arrival of beefsteak tomatoes from their greenhouses for a couple of weeks now, but today, they are finally here. Indeed, this photo was taken at our Wallingford Farmers Market this past Wednesday. It is time for real tomatoes again, ripened on the vine and picked at their peak -- juicy, delicious and ready to take your burgers, your salads, your soups and sauces to new heights! Can I get an amen?

Fresh duck in the house! Okay, truth be told, I don't know for sure if Sea Breeze Farm will have fresh ducks in their case this week or not. They did last week, and I got me some and pan-roasted it. Yummers! Of course, that game of "what will they have this week" is half the fun of Sea Breeze Farm. You can always count on them having a great array of raw jersey cow's milk products and a nice selection of artisan sausages, but from week-to-week, you never quite know if it is going to be a fresh chicken and veal week, or maybe lamb and pork. Will they experiment with a new pate? Will the ham being simply salted and smoked, or will the rub contain black pepper and cloves? Will they have cheese? Whatever the case, you can count on it being some of the best meat and dairy you've ever encountered anywhere. So stop by today, and see what George has got in the case this week! (Oh, and grab a bottle of their wine, while you're at it.)

Wow. I think this is the longest post I've ever written. And it's been one big bang after another. So it seems only fitting that we end this week's installment with one last big bang -- raspberry jam with thyme from Deluxe Foods. They make this stuff with raspberries from Hayton Berry Farms and Ballard-grown thyme. If you have not tried the many heirloom, artisan jams and jellies made with local ingredients and love by Deluxe Foods, you really don't know what jam can taste like. Yes, I know it is my job to be a relentless cheerleader for all things deliciousness at your Ballard Farmers Market, but seriously, my job is ridiculously easy, given what I have to work with. I mean, when have I steered you wrong, eh? So today, go by Deluxe Foods stand, and systematically sample each and every flavor she's got, and it you don't walk away thinking it's the best jam you've ever tasted, well then, I'll be a monkey's uncle! (Stop snickering, Clayton. I know you already think I'm a monkey's uncle.)

Finally, another reminder to please bring your own bags today, and every Sunday, as Seattle’s single-use plastic bag ban is now in effect. Also, please take note of our new green composting and blue recycling waste receptacles throughout your Ballard Farmers Market, and please make an effort to use them correctly. Each container has what’s okay to put in it pictured right on the lid. Please do not put the wrong materials in, because that drives up the cost of recycling and composting, and it can result in the entire container being sent instead to a landfill. Your understanding and cooperation are appreciated.

There is plenty more local deliciousness waiting for you today at your Ballard Farmers Market. Just check What’s Fresh Now! for a more complete accounting of what is in season right now.