Sunday, September 9th: Sweet Potatoes, Winter Squash, Black-Eyed Susans, Saffron Corms & Some Folks Taking A Break After Today's Market, So Stock Up!

I don't usually start off with flowers in my weekly blog posts, but I also don't usually have a photo of these stunning black-eyed susans from Pa Garden. They just scream September, don't they? You know, ever since I first began working with farmers markets like a century ago -- okay, it was 1991, but still... -- I have come to recognize that our seasons are color-coded. And at no time of year is this more evident than right now, as we begin our shift from summer to fall crops. Think about that as you continue on reading this week's epistle, and enjoy it in all its splendor as you walk through your Ballard Farmers Market today. Because we have now entered the highest of the high season -- September is peak season for local produce, and at no other time of year will you find more different crops on our farmers' tables than right now!

Look, kids! It’s sweet potatoes from Lyall Farms at your Ballard Farmers Market. Yeah, baby! Sweet, nutritious tuberous deliciousness! And an early taste of fall. Only one local farm grows sweet potatoes to sell at Ballard Farmers Market. Most in Seattle come from far, far away. Enjoy these. They are wonderful!

Right now is also peak season for fresh king salmon from Wilson Fish. Why? Because right now, the salmon are beginning to swim from the Washington coast, where they've been fattening themselves up for months now, through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and into the Frasier River, where they will make one of the longest journeys of any fish on earth, deep into Canada to eventually spawn until they die. See, once they leave the ocean and enter the River, they stop eating, so they need to have stored a lot of fat up before they start that journey. Add to that that we are seeing big returns of four and five year kings this year, and the result is fish that are much larger and loaded with flavorful fat, making them the best of the year. And add to that that the Washington coastal salmon season ends in just a couple of weeks, and the answer is that now is the time to enjoy incredible, local salmon!

"This will be the second of three, possibly four, Market Sundays at which I'll have saffron corms available for purchase," says Jim Robinson of Phocas Farms. They are sustainably grown with OMRI approved nutrients in an herbicide and pesticide free environment. Many know Phocas Farms for their spectacular collection of succulents, and some know them for the saffron they produce in Port Angeles. The problem lately is that they are a victim of their own success, having all of their saffron harvest pre-sold to many of Seattle's top chefs. That means, if you want some of Jim's saffron, your best bet is to get some of these saffron corms today and grow it yourself! (For more information about saffron cultivation, visit SaffronBulbs.com.)

These little clams are affectionately called varnish clams by the good folks of Hama Hama Oyster Company because of the color of their shells. They are tasty, and you should eat as many of them as you can, because in reality, they are an invasive species brought here from the East Coast many years ago. So, you'll actually being doing yourself and Hama Hama a favor by gorging yourself on them! (Don't you just love mixing virtue with gluttony?)

Speaking of an early taste of fall, how’s about winter squash from Stoney Plains Organic Farm? Yuppers, they’ve got it already. Deeply sweet with a divine texture, you gotta love ‘em. And keep in mind that they store really well, so even if you are not quite in the mood for it now, get some for later. Because we’ve only got four more weeks left in the season for your Ballard Farmers Market. Just store them in a cool, dark, dry place, and be sure to let the stems fully dry out without molding, and whatever you do, don’t remove the stem!

The good news is that this is the best yogurt in America. This jersey cow yogurt from Silver Springs Creamery is rich and creamery and absolutely amazing, and it won Best Yogurt at the 2010 American Cheese Society Awards. Their jersey cow milk and goat milkyogurt and cheese are great as well. The bad news is that this will be their last week at your Ballard Farmers Market for a while, as Farmer Eric is taking a bit of a rest break, due to doctors orders. So, stock up on yogurt and cheese today, as it keeps, and get your last fix of their milk for a while.

Speaking of rocking the fall colors, how's about these peppers from Colinwood Farms. They're on fi-wuh, as Elmer Fudd would say. These babies vary in intensity, so do as questions, so you'll get what you're looking for. I am loving grill-roasting peppers right now. Their sweet meatiness combined with the grill's smokiness are simply delicious.

Celery seems so un-sexy, especially amidst all this magnificent late summer color, but fall is a season that begs for good celery -- for making soups, roasts, salads, stuffings and more. And no one grows better celery than Boistfort Valley Farm. Seriously, if you've only ever experienced celery from the Big Box stores, you are in for a real treat. This celery is fresher, sweeter, tastier and more nutritious. I know. You've been hearing all that anti-organic propaganda lately saying it is no more nutritious than conventionally-grown produce, right, and that it still has pesticide residues. Well, perhaps someone should have suggested that the folks down in Palo Alto at Stanford University take the time to actually compare conventionally-grown crops, and large-scale organic crops, for that matter, to freshly-harvested local crops at farmers market. Because the reality is that the crop diversity, care for the soil and the fact that crops are harvested usually within 24 hours of coming to market makes the crops on the tables of the small, local, family farms at your Ballard Farmers Market more nutritious. The better the soil, the better the crop variety, and the fresher it is, the more nutrients are packed in them. Just sayin'.

Now, there's some fall color, eh? Wild lobster mushrooms from Foraged & Found Edibles! These dense, earthy mushrooms are incredibly flavorful, easy to work with, and make for an excellent accompaniment to meat, fish, pasta and more. And we are blessed with an extra early, long season for them this year, so enjoy!

If you are looking for non-toxic candles made from natural, essential oils, you must check out our own Ascents Candles at your Ballard Farmers Market. Think about it. You are likely burning candles in your home, right? But most candles are made from materials that, when burned, release toxic gases into the air... meaning into your house. I'm thinking you probably don't want to be doing that, right? Solution: get your candles from Ascents Candles. Simple. Except that Julianna is about to take a month-long break from the Market after today. So stock up! You'll find lots of great prices today, too!

Look! Even the cucumbers are getting in on the colorful action today! Just take a gander at this collection of the fruity vegetables from Full Circle Farm. From slicers to lemon cukes to picklers, they've got a cucumber for every occasion, and I'm not even sure what that means.

Another sure sign of the waning days of summer is the return of Jerzy Boyz with their gorgeous organic orchard fruit, like these sunrise apples. They grow a number of heirloom varieties not grown by any other orchardist at your Ballard Farmers Market, from peaches to apples to pears. Stop by, welcome them back, try a sample or two and pick up some fruit for the week!

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.