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Try Farmers’ Markets For Flavorful Presents

By Becky O’Malley
Friday December 19, 2003

Do you hate wasting the few sunlit hours at this time of year on indoor shopping trips? Berkeley offers great outdoor shopping, and it’s even environmentally friendly. 

The Berkeley Flea Market at the Ashby BART station lets you select “re-use” gifts of all kinds, even Chinese antiques at one stall. Telegraph Avenue has locally made craft items sold by the craftspeople. And the Berkeley Ecology Center hosts outdoor markets which have the perfect gifts for people who “have everything”—consumables which are both tasty and environment-friendly. 

There are two Berkeley farmers’ market days left before Christmas this year. They’re open rain or shine. 

On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. you can go to the biggest one, next to City Hall on Addison Street between Martin Luther King and Milvia Street. It has an enormous variety of mostly organic produce and products. There’s also a crafts fair in Martin Luther King Park, with handmade wares from around the world—the sweaters from South America are particularly nice.  

The Tuesday fair, on Derby Street between MLK and Milvia from 2 to 6 p.m., is smaller but has plenty of good choices. This report will spotlight Tuesday’s vendors, as an aid to desperate last minute shoppers. Some of them also come on Saturdays.  

A few stars: 

• Aurthur Davis, the owner of Ludwig Avenue Farm in Santa Rosa, features potatoes and eggs grown without pesticides year-round. But for gift-givers, the real find is the assortment of baked goods made by his wife, Thelma Davis, whose family roots are in Louisiana. She specializes in what Southern cooks, especially African American cooks, are famous for: poundcake which tastes like it’s all butter, sweet potato pie, and at this time of the year, fruitcake. Yes, that’s right, real old-fashioned heavy, dark fruitcake. You’ve always been a yuppie anti-fruitcake snob? Time to grow up and get over it. These fruitcakes, made with home-grown pecans, are authentic and delicious. Start dousing them with brandy the day you bring them home, and they’ll last a year in a tin, getting better all the time. At our house, we finished off the last piece of last year’s cake just in time to put the new one down after Thanksgiving. Good to have around in case of earthquakes, nuclear wars, who knows?  

• Frog Hollow Farm (Al Courchesne, founder) is almost too obvious, now that it’s been written up in the New York Times. But the jams and jellies, made from California specialties like Meyer lemons, are unusual—nice to send, if you hurry, to out-of-state grandmothers. 

• For local giving, how about some smelly goat cheese? Or not so smelly goat cheese? Redwood Hill Farm, out of Sebastopol, has a great selection. Their hard goat cheddar keeps forever—good for backpackers to take along.  

• And for the really sweet tooth: honey. Marshall’s Farm sells “natural honey” in many, many flavors which are derived from where the bee sucked its nectar. They also claim, and it might be true, that if pollen allergy sufferers eat a tablespoon or so of local honey everyday, they will better resist local allergens. You can put together cunning gift packages in fancy boxes with an assortment of their little jars of different kinds of honey. 


And if you’re looking for something tasty to serve from all those Farmers’ Market offerings, here’s a suggestion from a member of our own Berkeley City Council. 


Holiday Greens 

By Linda Maio 


Our family is big on greens—chard, kale, rapini, greens of all kinds, fresh organic greens that are simmered slowly in a big cast iron skillet with lots of garlic. The basic recipe I learned from my mother, who learned from hers. Neither ever cooked from a book. Over time several cooks in our family have come up with a few special touches for birthdays and holidays.  

A few things to know about cooking leafy greens: The golden rule of greens is to start, always, with young, fresh produce. The stems of each type of green are treated differently from the leaves. Kale stems are tough and have to be removed, but the thick spine of young chard softens nicely in a slow, long-cooked recipe. If a stem looks thick and tough, remove it. It is always advisable to trim the big bottom stem of any plant.  


Basic recipe 


The basic recipe is perfect for broccoli rabe, a southern Italian vegetable. Rabe (also known as rapini) has a strong, somewhat bitter and wonderful flavor that is enhanced by the simple basic recipe. Some people cut the bitterness by parboiling the rabe first. This recipe serves 4 people. 


Two bunches of rabe 

A large, heavy skillet and lid 

A wooden spatula 

Lots of garlic 

Virgin olive oil 

Salt to taste 


Place skillet on the lowest possible flame. I use a big cast iron skillet. While the skillet is heating, mince garlic, about 5-6 cloves, or more if you like. 

Plunge the rabe into cold water, rinse well, and place in a colander. Cut off an inch of the bottom stem and peel the remaining lower stalks so the cooked vegetable will be tender. Chop the rabe roughly into big pieces. The skillet should be hot but not smoking. If it’s smoking, it is too hot; pull it off the burner for a minute or two. Cover the bottom of the skillet with olive oil (4-5 T, or more if you like) and allow it to heat, slowly. Add the minced garlic and simmer until the garlic softens. This will fuse the garlic flavor into the olive oil. Be careful not to let the garlic turn brown. Turn up the flame to medium and add the rabe. Using the wooden spatula, mix the rabe well with the olive oil and garlic until it is clearly hot and simmering. Turn down the heat to quite low and cover. Stir the rabe around every 5 minutes or so. If it appears to be drying out, add a little water. Add salt to taste. The rabe should be ready to serve after 15-20 minutes, but I (and Mama) advise a taste. Makes tasty leftovers. 


To make Holiday Greens 

Chard, kale, or collards make great Holiday Greens. Add 1/2 diced onion with the garlic, simmering both in the olive oil. Throw in a small handful of golden raisins when adding the chopped greens. A few minutes before the greens are done, stir in a sprinkle of nutmeg. (Note: If I am preparing chard, I chopped the chard’s spines and add these at the same time I add the onion and garlic.)