Seasonal dining at the winter market – Sonoma Sun.

Seasonal dining at the winter market – Sonoma Sun.

Published December 23, 2021 by Sonoma Valley Sun.

by Seth Dolinsky –

As the days get shorter and the temperature drops, the end of the growing season for Sonoma Valley farms is upon us. Winter solstice is a time when nature retreats and humanity celebrates. With the intoxicating abundant summer days long gone, local farms are nearing the end of what has been a solid growing season. A visit to Paul’s Produce just off Arnold Drive for a visual reconnaissance literally revealed the dirt on what’s coming on the market for the holidays.

As usual, my inspection yielded unusually neat rows of vegetables, in all shades of green mixed with reds from lettuce and chicory, a reminder of Paul’s ability to grow and control his crops. There were signs of freshly harvested fennel bulbs where only the outer skins remained discarded along the bed. There were long rows of brassica – broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kale – some of which were in the process of being harvested, while others were waiting for future harvests due to successive plantings. I felt a sense of security, as a resident of the valley, knowing that food was growing in my neighborhood, and much of it!

My trip to the Friday Farmers Market led to a reunion with Paul’s crops laid out on tables that seemed to continue forever. There was salad mix, radicchio, arugula, pea shoots. There were brassicas, next to the season’s last peppers, and plenty of root vegetables, including Paul’s famous carrots. German butterball potatoes, leeks, onions and winter squash – a true bounty for the home cook. And there was only one stand.

Across the road, the Patch had another impressive spread, highlighted by large tables of purple and yellow cauliflower, large heads of lettuce, beets, squash, beautiful bunches of multicolored radishes, and, unbelievably, tomatoes. “This is my last week,” said owner Lazaro Calderon. “I’m going to grow everything before the rain.” He sounded relieved to take a break from the vegetable treadmill he had been on for nine months in a row.

While the patch will be missed, it will be bluntly picked up by the Oak Hill Farm stand, decorated with cut flowers and holiday wreaths and excellent products including Romanesco cauliflower, turnips, small pearl lettuce, persimmons and whole Brussels sprouts.

Filled with vegetables, I moved on to fruit and picked up good tangerines from the Gertz farm. “I want to be here every week,” assured orator Chris Gertz, “Citrus is coming strong,” pointing to navel oranges, pink grapefruit and Meyer lemons. More citrus was to be purchased nearby at Rhodes Farm, as well as Asian pears and late harvest Crimson table grapes from Central Valley.

I stopped for the microwaves from Sweetwater Spectrum, some carrots from Ortiz Farm that had impressive holiday wreaths, mushrooms from Sammy’s Bohemian Farm from Occidental, and of course bread from Mike the Bejkr, which has a variety of pastries, cookies, scones and incredible kabocha squash chocolate cookies. With so many more stalls selling local meats, eggs, dairy products, tea and coffee, fermented foods, I realized two things: how lucky we are to have high quality food available directly from the producers, and … that I had to to go back to the ATM.

Seth Dolinsky is the director of the Sonoma Valley Agricultural Cooperative, a program at Sonoma Springs Community Hall that aims to support local farms and food producers who use organic methods and ingredients. He is also the owner of New Land Systems, a regenerative land management company.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.