In other, less fortunate parts of the country, farmers markets are a warm-weather occurrence. They kick up shortly after the last frost (That's this thing they have in some places where the ground actually freezes ... No, really!) and they stop sometime around Halloween, when it gets so cold that outdoor vegetable shopping qualifies as an episode of "Survivor."
Not so here in Southern California, where the seasons shift smoothly and our markets never really miss a beat. Granted, vine-ripe tomatoes are going to be scarce (or at least they should be), but there are so many other fresh fruits and vegetables available that nobody really seems to mind.
We'll walk you through the market in a series of videos as the seasons progress, showing you some of our favorite fruits and vegetables and telling you how to pick the best quality and then turn them into delicious dishes.
What we lose in winter with the lack of tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini, we gain with quince, winter greens and citrus. There are treasures aplenty if you just take the time to look for them. And cooking with them is almost as easy as it is in summer.
One of my favorite examples is the persimmon, specifically the flattish Fuyu persimmons, the ones that are sweet and juicy when crisp. You can almost think of this as the tomato of the fall. Want to make a terrific salad? Cut the persimmon in wedges and dress it with lime juice and cilantro. How easy is that?
Our cool-weather markets are rich with such pleasures. Sliver leaves of kale and give them a brisk rubdown with a little salt and olive oil -- you're halfway to a delicious salad. Toss tangerine sections with honey warmed with lavender or rosemary leaves -- is there a better dessert?