Inspiration – A True Seedless Sugar Baby Watermelon

Dave's signNot only am I lucky enough to live within cycling distance of what I consider to be one of California’s best Certified Farmers’ Markets, the Sunday Downtown Sacramento Market, there is a wonderful farm stand about 5 miles down river from me for those times when I need to replenish either fresh fruit or veggies during the week.  From May until the end of October, Dave’s Produce becomes my mid-week “go to spot” for fresh produce shopping.


Dave’s Produce belongs to Sacramento River Delta Grown an Agri-tourism Association of businesses adjacent to the lower Sacramento River. The group’s mission is to promote: Agricultural sustainability and profitability through Agri-tourism, and Agri-education, by providing public accessibility to local farms, while enhancing the public’s awareness of production agriculture, and enjoyment of the rural farming experience. The businesses are varied and include many of the wineries from the Clarksburg region, which I might add make some very nice wine. It’s a beautiful area and one I love exploring in all seasons.

Dave's farm standDave’s Produce is part of Vierra Farms which is where the farm stand is located. Here’s how they describe their location on their website: “Vierra Farms is influenced by the Sacramento Delta Region by its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. Situated at the edge of the Sacramento River, Vierra Farms takes advantage of the coastal gap as the northern and southern coastal ranges meet at the Sacramento Delta. As temperatures rise in the central valley, cool maritime breezes are pulled directly across the Sacramento region creating a distinctive climate that helped create Vierra Farms’ premium mouth-watering watermelon and bountiful hard squash​ that has been provided to the greater Sacramento area wholesale, retail and food service customers for over the past 10 years.”

I have to say they are right on when they talk about premium mouth-watering watermelon, the squash too, but I want to talk about one of the varieties of watermelon they grow, Inspiration.

Inspiration watermelonInspiration is what is called a black watermelon, the name referring to the outside color of the melon. It is a true Sugar Baby seedless, early maturing watermelon with a brix of 9.5, Brix being a measure of sweetness , where 7.8 – 8.2 is somewhat sweet, 8.3 – 9.0 is sweet, and >9.0 is very sweet. The melon I bought was definitely sweet, seedless and juicy, a perfect summer melon. 

I think this particular watermelon is grown in other regions of the US and would love to hear from you if you have tried it or other black watermelon varieties this summer. I’ll be looking for it again out at Dave’s next season.

chopped watermelon

Grill’n Between Storms

Grilling in February isn’t unheard of where I live. I’m lucky to live in an area where there are many winter days that are sunny and dry. On days like that, that come between storms, I get the urge to roll my little grill out of the garage where I keep it and grill away.

Today was one of those days and I found myself in the mood to grill. But what?  A quick inventory of the the fridge turned up fennel and asparagus which both grill up nicely, a further search turned up up spring lamb chops.

Now that I knew what I was going to grill I headed to the back yard for some herbs. Rosemary, definitely a must have, for the lamb. Some thyme for the veggies, but not English thyme, I have some lime scented thyme in my garden.  I know lemon is a good accompaniment to both asparagus and fennel, so why not lime?  I marinate the lamb in olive oil, garlic and rosemary, the asparagus and fennel in olive oil and the lime thyme.

I decided to add one item that didn’t require grilling, a nice soft “pumpkin” polenta. I had some roasted winter squash left over and decided that this recipe from The Tra Vigne Cookbook, Seasons in The California Wine Country, by Michael Chiarello was just begging to be tried. It was fantastic. The perfect accompaniment to the grilled lamb and veggies.

Put a little summer into your winter days by firing up your grill in between storms.

Soft “Pumpkin” Polenta

1 ½ cups chicken stock

1 ¼ cups heavy cream

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon salt

Pinch ground white pepper

5 tablespoons polenta

5 tablespoons semolina

1 cup roasted winter squash pureed

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Combine stock and cream in a heavy saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the polenta and semolina and cook over very low heat, whisking regularly, until the grains are soft, about 8 minutes. Whisk in the squash then the cheese.

What to buy at the Farmers’ Market:



Lamb chops


Thyme (lemon or lime)


Winter squash

Sunshine on a Dreary Day

Off to the Farmers’ Market last Sunday in the cold grey fog. It’s been foggy like this for days. No sun, just grey skies. Ever hear the phrase, grey skies bringing me down? Well I’m so there.  So I’m thinking, what will perk me up? What can I find at the Farmers’ Market that looks and tastes like sunshine?  Something big and yellow with a taste that is crisp and sweet.  I know, a pomelo.

I know the picture looks like a grapefruit, but it’s so much more. A pomelo is an exotic citrus fruit that is an ancient ancestor of the common grapefruit. It may also be called Chinese grapefruit, shaddock, pommelo, or pompelmous. It is the largest of the citrus and has a very thick, soft rind. Think of it as a grapefruit on steroids. It is sweeter than a grapefruit and can be eaten fresh, although membranes around the segments should be peeled because they tend to be bitter.

A history check says it’s grown in many eastern countries including China, Japan, India, Fiji, Malaysia, and Thailand. It is also now grown in the Caribbean and in the United States, in California and Florida. They’re in season November through March, so right now.

Pomelos are especially popular for Chinese New Year. The Chinese believe the delectable pomelo is a sign of prosperity and good fortune – good things will happen if you eat it. A good thing to keep in mind since Chinese New Year, The Year of the Tiger, is just around the corner.

They are a good source of Vitamin C and potassium.

I’m one of those funny people who eat grapefruit like most people eat oranges. And so it is with the mighty pomelo, I just peel em and eat em. But in my research I came across quite a few interesting recipes that might just be worth a try.

Pomelo and Crab Salad

½ cup crabmeat

1/2 cup julienned carrot

½ cup cubed cooked chicken breast

1/4 cup sliced cucumber

1 medium pomelo fruit

1/4 cup fish sauce (dipping sauce)

1 tablespoon finely chopped mint leaf

2 tablespoons coarsely ground peanuts

1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon fried shallot (optional)

Peel pomelo, extract the segments as intact as you can, separate into small 3/4″ pieces.

Combine all ingredients except cilantro and peanuts.

Toss gently in a mixing bowl.

Serve lightly chilled with cilantro and fried shallots if desired.

Serves 4 – 6

Pomelo Mojito

4 peeled sections of pomelo chopped

6 mint leaves

2 tablespoons orange juice concentrate or orange sorbet

1 1/2 ounces white rum


Club soda

1 lime wedge

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the pomelo with the mint and orange juice concentrate. Add the rum and ice and shake well. Pour into a highball glass. Top with club soda and garnish with the lime wedge.

What to buy at the Farmers’ Market:




Mint leaves



Don’t miss this weekend’s Farmers’ Market!

The weather is going to be great this weekend. Do yourself a favor and skip that trip to the mall. Instead, pack up the family and head out to your local Farmers’ Market. The markets will be bursting with entertainment, tasty food, fresh produce and lots of holiday gift selections. Check out my November 18, 2009 and December 10, 2009 posts if you need more inspiration. Annie and her basket will be there. I hope you will too.

Here’s a list of fruits and vegetables that you will find at most Northern California Farmers’ Markets this weekend.




Brussel sprouts














Sweet potatoes

Swiss chard



Winter squash

Davis Farmers’ Market Free Holiday Gift Basket Central

I headed out early Saturday morning, across the causeway through the cold tule fog, to the Davis Farmers’ Market. It certainly was dreary out  but, I was feeling great and  in a holiday shopping mood. The market was already a buzz with lots of shoppers when I arrived. I chose Davis because I can’t think of another market in my area that has the variety they have; great fruit and produce, fresh seafood and meats, baked items, dried fruits, honey,  herbs, plants and flowers, just to name a few. Then, there are the crafts. Everything from ceramics, clothing, dolls, fabric arts, jewelry and metal works to woodwork and candles. And, finally there are the Socio-Political Community Groups. Don’t be put off by this title. There are some wonderful groups representing some very worthy and important causes. Grant High School’s Eat From The Garden Salsa was one  of these groups. I’ll tell you about them a little later. If all of that isn’t enough to peak your interest here’s something that might.  They have a service, at the market,  they call “Gift Basket Central”. This great idea lets you shop the market for the items you want, then you take them to the Gift Basket Central tent, located in the middle of the market by the deck under the big Oak tree, where they wrap them for free. Now that’s service.

I’ll have to admit there is another reason I chose Davis. I lived in Davis for many years and during that time I shopped the Davis Farmers’ Market every Saturday morning.  It’s also a place where I have always done part of my holiday shopping. So, this year was no different. Here is just a sampling of some of the places I shopped. For obvious reasons I can’t tell you everything but here’s some tips I can share.

English Hills Soap Company
Oh, what beautiful products they have. They are all  hand crafted and natural as can be. The soaps and skin care products are all made from goat milk and are available in various fragrances, including my favorite Plumeria. They also have fragrance-free. They’re gift baskets are really nice.

Fiddyment Farms
Wow, where to start, these guys have the greatest gourmet pistachios. They come in savory and sweet flavors as well as lightly salted and salt free. They also have pistachio butter and my favorite the Butter Toffee Kernels. If they don’t have what you’re looking for at the market, you can order from their website.

Good Humus
I have been shopping for holiday gifts from Good Humus for as long as I can remember. I love their beautiful handmade wreaths and the lavender wands. They also make some of the best homemade jams, jellies and syrups. Try the Nectarine Ginger Jam. It’s great brushed on grilled chicken or spooned onto hot buttery biscuits. They also have some very nice herbal teas as well as a variety of dried fruits and herbs.

Towani Organic Farms
Check out the unique herbal wreaths here. I know that this picture doesn’t do justice to their products but it gives you a visual of what to look for. Through my years of shopping at this market Towani Organic Farm is one of the farmers I have always frequented. Their quality is outstanding and their wreaths are beautiful and last for a very long time.

BJ & Leslie Nursery
Another of my favorite stops. They have the best deals on plants. Right now, the cyclamen and the azaleas are really great, and the Christmas cactus is worth a look too.

Yolo Bulb Farm
This is where I get my quince fix. Last year I bought a jar of quince conserve to try and I loved it. So ,I was hopeful that they would have some again this year. Guess what. They did. They also had quince jelly as well as other varieties of jams and jellies. They are also have a new label and name, D Madison & Daughters. Very nice.  Check out their fabric arts too. They’re beautifully crafted.
A couple more stops I want to mention because they not only offered nice products but the money went for a good cause. They are part of the Socio-Political Community Groups I mentioned before.

The first one is Grant High School\’s Eat From The Garden project. This is a terrific program that is teaching students how to create healthy, sustainable communities. The salsa themed baskets come three sizes and range in price from $18 to $32. They also sell individual jars of salsa in Traditional and Spicy Peach flavors. I bought the Traditional Salsa. Had some on Sunday and it’s yummy. Down the way a bit was another nice product being offered for a worthy cause. The children from Pioneer Elementary School in Davis made some delightful rosemary wreaths and are selling them for $5.

The Davis Farmers’ Market is open Saturday’s from 8 AM till 1 PM. I love to go early. Sometimes I order some breakfast or I buy a special coffee and pastry then, I take a few minutes to sit and listen to some of the musical entertainment and people watch before I head out to shop. If you’re a late riser,  you’ll probably want to arrive later and shop the market first.  Then, maybe have some lunch before you head home. There are lots of choices for breakfast, lunch or just a snack so explore your options.

If you don’t have anything planned for Saturday, why not drive over to Davis and explore their Farmers’ Market. I just might see you there.

I Love Onions!

I can’t imagine cooking without onions. They are one of the basics I always keep on hand. During the winter months I use both the red and yellow dry-skinned onions. I pick onions that are firm and have papery skins that crackle. Onions that smell moldy or that feel soft, especially at the neck are to be avoided.

Here’s a quick little recipe I made tonight using onions, some leftover shitake mushrooms, a little chard, leftover grilled chicken and brown rice. I love throwing together this kind of quick meal. First I slice the mushrooms and brown them in a little canola oil. Then, I add the sliced onion and chard stems, and sauté them until they were just crisp-tender. Next, I add some shredded chard leaves and a little chicken stock, cover the pan and simmer it until the chard is wilted and the onions and chard stems are tender. In a soup bowl place some leftover brown rice and diced leftover grilled chicken, cover it with a plate and warm it in the microwave for about a minute and a half. Just before serving I add a little sesame oil to the onion/chard/mushroom mixture, toss it, then place it on top of the chicken and rice. Quick. Satisfying. Nutritious.

Ingredients to look for at the Farmers’ Market:

Dry-skinned onions


Chard, spinach or beet greens

Organic short grain brown rice

Organic, free-range chicken

Ocean Beach Farmers’ Market 11/25

I recently returned from a visit to San Diego where I spent Thanksgiving with my aunt and several cousins. Before I headed down south, I researched Farmers’ Markets in the area that we might be able to visit. I found an evening market in Ocean Beach that sounded pretty good so I proposed the idea of a visit the eve before Thanksgiving to the gang. “Sounds good” was the reply.  And, so it was that we headed out on the eve before Thanksgiving to explore the Ocean Beach Farmers\’ Market.

The first thing we saw as we approached the market was the llamas. If you’ve got little folks with you, who are under 75 lbs & 4 ft tall, they can take a llama ride. We didn’t have anyone who fit that description. But, there were some little folks who did and they were already taking a ride  so we spent a few minutes watching them before we headed out to explore the rest of the market. Like so many of the evening markets, this one has a festive atmosphere, like that of a street fair. There was a wonderful mix of things to see, to taste, to smell, to touch, and to hear.

There definitely was some incredible produce to choose from, we bought some green beans, baby carrots and baby chard. We also tasted humus from a vendor who had so many choices you could get full by just tasting. As we wandered along, I saw a sign for tamales, which I love. But, then I saw they also had something called a chili relleno taco. OK, even though we were going out to dinner, I said to myself, I have to try this. It was sooooooo yummy. I’m still thinking about that taco and hoping that I’ll get another chance to try one again.
We stopped several times to listen to various musicians and chat with vendors offering samples to taste. Half way down the block we marveled at the people gathered around the mini donut booth. We didn’t try any but from the length of the line they must be a favorite. My cousin ventured down a little side street lined with artisans with hand crafted items. She bought a beautiful hand crocheted hat that was her favorite color.

If you looking for a great way to spend an evening in San Diego check out the Ocean Beach Farmers’ Market. I know I’ll be headed back next trip down that way.

Seckel Pears

These little beauties are Seckel Pears. They look like baby pears and are wonderful eaten out of hand.  Or, you can slice them and serve with a young Manchengo cheese, they also poach or roast well, in combination, with white wine, honey and spices. Then there’s always the combination of pears and chocolate. Who could say no to that? If your taste buds haven’t tried Seckels’, perhaps, you should treat them to some.

Oh No, I Missed This Weekend’s Farmers’ Market!

For all of you, who like me, had scheduled a weekend away and missed your chance to shop at the Farmers’ Market, there are still a few opportunities open to us before Thanksgiving, this Thursday. There are markets scheduled for the first part of this week. Here are a few that are scheduled in the Sacramento region. Addresses and more information for these locations can be found on the Blogroll on this page.  If you’re not from the Sacramento region you can check the Blogroll on this page  for a listing of Farmer’s Markets in surrounding regions. If I don’t have  a link listing that covers your area, Google, Yahoo or Bing search Farmers’ Markets and, please let me know what areas I need to add to the Blogroll.


Roseville: Fountains Shopping Center

8:30 to 1


Auburn DeWitt Center

10:30 to 1:30

Davis Farmers Market

Noon to 6

Winter Squash; The perfect Thanksgiving soup.

Squash Bisque

This is, by far, one of my favorite soups and one I often make for Thanksgiving. I thought you would get a kick out of the fact that it’s still on it’s

original typewritten, (yes with a typewriter) 3 x 5 recipe card. There are even some if my handwritten notes on it. There’s something very comforting about recipes that have stood the test of time.

Squash Bisque

3 tablespoon butter

1 cup minced onion

¼ cup minced carrot

salt and white pepper

2 Russet potatoes, peeled and diced

2 Delicata squash, peeled and diced

4 cups chicken stock or broth

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup milk

cayenne pepper

In a saucepan melt butter. Add the onion and carrot and sprinkle the vegetables lightly with salt and white pepper. Cover the pan with a sheet of buttered wax paper and the lid and cook the vegetables for about 10 minutes, or until they are tender. Add the potatoes and squashes, both peeled and cubed, and the chicken stock or broth and simmer, covered, over low heat for about 25 minutes until the potatoes and squash are very tender. Force the mixture through a sieve. Return it to the pan and add the cream and milk. Cook the soup until it is heated through. Add salt and white pepper to taste. Pour the bisque into a tureen and serve it in heated cups, sprinkling each serving with a bit of cayenne, if desired. I highly recommend the cayenne but, be careful not to use too much! A sprinkle looks beautiful and isn’t overbearing.

Serves 8

Note: If you want to make it ahead of time, make the soup through the part where you mash the vegetable mixture. Cover and store in the refrigerator. When you are ready to finish, warm the vegetable mixture (the microwave is great for this), return the mixture to the stove, add the cream and milk and cook until the soup is heated through.

Pick up these ingredients at your local Farmers Market:

• 2 Delicata squash

• 1 yellow onion

• carrots