Gardening where the sidewalk ends

California Goodness December 1, 2008

You know, I truly love Michael Pollan, but I always get a little annoyed when he talks about eating seasonally and locally, living as he does in Berkeley, CA. Easy for him to say! Here in Seattle, the locally grown stuff is waning fast to a winter pittance, and if all we ever ate was local produce, we would never taste even a bite of one avocado, banana, grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange, mango, papaya, etc etc and the list goes on.

I’m not advocating against making good-for-the-planet choices and being mindful of where our food comes from. I just wonder if Mr. Pollan would be so quick to advocate for localvore-ness if he lived in, say, Manitoba.

A recent visit to the California Avenue Farmers’ Market in Palo Alto proved illustrative of this point. Here we were, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, strolling around in the sun. It was in the 60sF, so a lot of people weren’t even wearing jackets.

Strolling the market

Palo Altans have not one, but two Markets to choose from when they wish to buy direct from producers. The other, on Saturdays in downtown Palo Alto, has been around longer (since 1981) and is therefore more established. They are run by different entities, not sure what’s up with that. We flew in on Saturday evening so we only had the Sunday market option.

Here is just some of the goodness that was on offer. Root veggies and squash, pretty standard anywhere at this time of year.

Loads of fall veggies

Biking to the market, also possible elsewhere depending on your climate and personal hardiness.

Bike to market

But then things started to get a little more interesting. Fresh raspberries in late November, anyone? Pricey, but I had to have some to share with family and friends. Won’t have any again until next summer, so it was worth it.

Mmmmm, raspberries in late November

The raspberry ladies were also selling flowers. I loved their pumpkin vase, I’m going to have to remember to try this next year for a Halloween centerpiece.

Pumpkin vase for fall flowers

Organic lemons and limes for $2 a pound, now I was almost crying with joy. And right next to them, tiny little perfect Hass avocados. I bought some of everything and made guacamole. I wondered if the avocado pits would be proportionally large for the fruit, but they were tiny and perfect too. I should have saved one to sprout indoors back home.

Lemons, limes and baby Haas avocadoes

Pomegranates are almost at the top of my all-time favorite food list. They are $3/each for organic ones at my Seattle food co-op, so they are usually a once-a-year treat. Here they were super cheap, ditto persimmons. Into my bag they went.

Pomegranates and persimmons

My daughter is not big on tasting new things but even she had to agree that the Fuyu persimmons were tasty. There sure were a lot of options for sampling!

Citrus and persimmon tastes

Oh man, I forgot to mention the pineapple guavas. I’d never even heard of those, and I consider myself a foodie! And yes, they were organic and grown locally. They tasted more like a flower than fruit, and are the little green lime-looking things at the top of the final photo, below.

I’m definitely down with the eat-locally cause. I just know it would be a heck of a lot easier, and would have so much greater variety, if I still lived in California!

California November fruit goodness


12 Responses to “California Goodness”

  1. Gail Says:

    Well said! I would surely miss the crisp lettuces that have to be shipped in during the winter months!


  2. Michelle Says:

    Don’t know the California Ave market, but the downtown P.A. market was a favorite of mine when I lived in the area. I always wished it was year round though.

    So far a “local” goes, what’s the definition of local? Is 200 miles away local? That’s how far Cayucos is from Palo Alto. And I’m sure those raspberries have to be coming from even further.

    But, I have to admit, we are spoiled here in California. On the other hand, you should check out the farmers’ market in the middle of February – slim pickings!

  3. Racquel Says:

    Wish we had something like that nearby. Those are some great prices & delicious looking produce!

  4. Ditto.

    The markets closed for the season around the end of September here.

  5. fairegarden Says:

    We would have nothing to eat but meat and dairy if we only ate local in our part of rural Tennessee. That market is a dream.


  6. Jen Says:

    Great pics! I ‘m really curious about those pineapple guavas. Peeled? juicy? Color of flesh? (sounds almost pornographic doesn’t it)

  7. greenwalks Says:

    Gail –

    Yes, unless you have a greenhouse, that stuff is hard to come by without it being shipped. And then a greenhouse uses energy, which releases carbon, etc. Guess you could try cloches, depending on your climate, but I imagine that doesn’t work where things get super cold.


    Michelle –

    Oddly, the CA Ave one seems to be year-round, whereas the downtown PA one stops December 20. Yeah, 200 miles is a bit far for “local” but it’s closer than CA to WA, which is how far a lot of our food comes to Seattle. I think the raspberries were from Watsonville but I could be wrong there. That counts as local, I think. Interestingly, they are now the #2 crop for Santa Cruz county, according to the CA farm bureau.


    Racquel –

    Well, maybe someday you will! At least in the summer.


    Susan –

    We still have some markets open, I need to go next weekend and see what they have. I’ll try not to compare it all to what I saw in CA!


    Frances –

    Well, I guess that goes for a lot of areas! I’m at least trying not to buy things that come from super far away, like Chilean pears and whatnot.


    Jen –

    Supposed to be scooped out with a spoon when ripe and squishy. I had one that was a little under-ripe. Like eating perfume, maybe it would be good in sorbet or ?? I just loved the novelty of eating a new fruit. Yeah, it was kinda sexy. 🙂


    I was expecting a pointed comment from the Shibaguyz, but none so far. 🙂 I know we have a remarkable bounty here in the PNW, and you are so good about harvesting it and putting stuff up for later. For us lazy mice, though, the fun kind of stops when the fresh stuff wanes.

  8. Curmudgeon Says:

    That pic of the berries was just cruel! 😉 After living in NE for 5 yrs, Seattle markets seem like heaven when it comes to fresh produce year round. Okay not always local–sshh, don’t tell the Shibaguyz. But still, there is produce that looks edible. Won’t even get into the lack of available organic produce in NE. I know those pineapple guavas as feijoas.

  9. Megan Says:

    Good point, it is quite different to eat locally for those of us who don’t have a climate that supports everything delicious. I never even thought of that.

  10. Ohhh you are making me cry in my overcast, dreary, northwest life. Ugh what I wouldn’t give to be able to grow some of that stuff. I love, love, love pomegranates, ate one last night, it was $3 and NOT organic!

    On the other hand we can grow some killer moss, mushrooms, and other kind of fungus like gang busters here in Western Washington!

    I feel your pain…Kim

  11. in Ohio there is little local or seasonal to eat this time of year. The summer garden is canned and jarred though. Welcome roast peppers and cherry tomatoes. Yum

  12. We are blessed here in CA. At least in the produce department. You are right to raise a point about the viability of local eating in other parts of the country. My three years in New York definitely gave me pause.

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