Sunday, September 2nd: Westside Sweet Corn, Bartlett Pears, Soft Pretzels, Padron Peppers, Turkish Eggplant & Some Very Large Stories!

I cannot remember a year in which sweet corn from Western Washington came into season this late. What a bizarre year this has been. And now, we are in what seems like an endless summer pattern in which we are well positioned to break the record for the most consecutive days without rain. Huh? Weren't we just whining about too much endless rain?  Wasn't July the wettest one ever? Well, we're heading into El Nino, folks, and according to the weekend weather woman on Fox News, that means it's likely to be a warmer, drier fall than normal, so things may be coming on late, but hopefully they will stick around longer, too. Anyway, this is all to say, enjoy some Westside sweet corn from Stoney Plains Organic Farm today at your Ballard Farmers Market.

Oh, and while you're at it, please vote right now for your Ballard Farmers Market in the 2012 America's Favorite Farmers Market Contest. See, voting closes tomorrow, and we need at least 200 more votes to finish where we did last year, in the top 10, though 400 more would put us up in the top 3. Now, I know about 1,500 people are going to read this today. Voting only takes about 30 seconds. Click the link, click on "Ballard Farmers Market", and then vote. Simple. Please don't be the person who figures that the other people with vote, so you don't have to. If they think the same way, then who's gonna vote? I mean, we know you love your Ballard Farmers Market, since you read these words of, ehem, wisdom every week. Please share that love with the world with your vote! Thanks!

It’s plum and pear season, folks! Woohoo! Check out these gorgeously delicious Fortuna plums and Bartlett pears from Collins Family Orchards. The plums will certainly satisfy the making a mess of your face and shirt requirements for this weekend, and those pears will easily pack with you in your lunch box next Wednesday when you head back to school, bringing with you a little yummy reminder of the wonderful summer we’ve had.

This Meadowfoam honey from Golden Harvest Bee Ranch comes with a bigger story than most honey, and that's saying something, because all honey comes with a big story. In this case, this honey is the product of the bees of Tom Schioler, the man behind the tables of honey you see every week at the Market, in front of Bastille, and he and the bees both have found themselves in a bit of a squabble with some apparently not so neighborly neighbors. On paper, it's a squabble over property lines and land use issues, but in the end, what's at issue is Tom's bees, and the meadow on his property upon which they dine, and from which they produce this Meadowfoam honey. See, some people still just don't get the importance of bees, and they see them as a nuisance. And one person's beautiful meadow for bees is another person's unkempt lawn that would do well with a nice application of Roundup. But without bees, a huge percentage of the food we eat would simple disappear, as it depends of the bees to pollinate it. The full story here is long and complicated, but ultimately, what you need to know is Tom's bee ranch is under siege, requiring him to need to mount a legal response and hire a surveyor in order to set things straight and protect his bees. And you can help simply by purchasing this Meadowfoam honey. Oh, and I imagine Tom would be happy to give you the unabridged story, too, if you ask him!

Ah, pepper season. And to say Hilario Alvarez of Alvarez Organic Farms is proud of his pepper crop is an understatement. He should be proud. He grows around 200 different varieties of peppers, some of which he has developed himself. An immigrant farmer from Mexico, Alvarez worked for years as a farm laborer for other farms in the Yakima Valley, eventually working his way up to being a foreman, the entire time squirreling away his wages and slowly investing in land of his own. Now, he is one of the most renowned organic farmers in the nation, Hispanic or otherwise, and his pepper fields are the stuff of legend. During the harvest season, these fields look much like the tulip fields of Skagit County during the spring Tulip Festival, awash in a rainbow of colorful peppers. For the next two to three months, we get to enjoy these peppers at your Ballard Farmers Market, in every color and intensity imaginable, from the mild gypsy sweet peppers, to the pleasantly spicy serrano peppers pictured about, all the way up to the notoriously hot ghost chili. Plus, they have their beautiful pepper wreathes and garlands to brighten up your home!

These are Grateful Bread Bakery’s new soft pretzels, and they are perfectly soft, salty and chewy. They made this Philly ex-pat a little homesick, in fact. Seriously. The only thing they lack is some yellow mustard. Lots of yellow mustard! Nuff said.

These are the big, juicy peaches dreams are made of… and messy shirt fronts! These are Suncrest peaches from Martin Family Orchards. Several years ago, I visited a Serbian restaurant in Milwaukee, and the owner told me this amazing story of fighting with the Yugoslavian resistance during WWII, and how he and his two brothers escaped Yugoslavia in 1956 by climbing over the Alps into Austria when the Soviets invaded Hungry, as the Yugoslavian military left the border along the Alps open as they scrambled to the Hungarian border. He told me that they then joined their father in Milwaukee at his restaurant, which he had named Three Brothers in just the hope his three sons would eventually join him there in freedom. It was one of the great life stories I’ve ever heard. But when he heard I was from Washington, all he wanted to talk to me about was these big, beautiful, juicy peaches!

Padron peppers are beloved in Spain, where they like to flash fry and salt them and snack on them. They serve them this way right down Ballard Avenue at The Walrus & The Carpenter, in fact. But not too many folks grow them around here. One farm that does is our own Full Circle Farm from over in Carnation. These peppers are mild, with a lovely, green flavor, though it seems that due to some weird genetics, one in 10 of them turns out spicy hot. It makes eating them a little bit of an adventure!

Speaking of "finally on the Westside", how's about these heirloom tomatoes from Oxbow Farm? Again, I cannot recall a year in which these came into season so late. Confounding, really. But here they come, so dive in and enjoy them while you can. Go tomato crazy! Because they'll be gone again soon enough.

Berry season seems to keep plugging along, though. Seems like it may go on forever, and I can live with that. Especially when Hayton Berry Farms keeps bringing this dazzling, colorful collection of berries for us to enjoy. Just remember, alway get twice as many berries as you think you'll need. Trust me on this.

These stunning fruits are Turkish eggplant from Tiny's Organic Produce. Sure, you may know Tiny's for all the amazing kinds of tree fruit they grow, but they also grow some fruits of the vegetable persuasion. Fruits like cucumbers and eggplant. And not the ordinary varieties either. They grow an amazingly collection of heirloom varieties of these two crops. You know, sometimes I think that Tiny's uses three criterion to choose what crops they plant -- they have to be delicious, stunningly beautiful and have a really cool name and story behind them!

These early Gala apples from ACMA Mission Orchards are a little less sweet and a little more tart than their winter counterparts, making them perfect for adding to salads. And they are wonderfully fresh and crisp right now, providing a satisfying crunch when you bite into them.

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.