Most Saturday mornings, when we’re at our place in Santa Barbara, you’ll find us at our local farmers’ market downtown. We’ve been avid farm produce shoppers for as long as I can remember and have haunted farmers’ markets across the country and even abroad, but I have to say that the Saturday market in downtown Santa Barbara is one of the very best I’ve ever seen.
Before her passing not so long ago, Julia Child frequented the Saturday market, poking he way along the stalls, her signature lilting voice declaiming about this or that lustrous eggplant or heirloom tomato. Absent her legendary presence, it’s still quite a show. Even if we’re headed out of town and have absolutely no need of any fresh produce or flowers, we’ll sometimes go anyway, just to walk around, see what’s there, enjoy the diverse musical offerings on the various aisles, and generally take in the scene.
This past week, however, we were having some friends over for dinner Saturday night, which gave us reason to go. I was in search of some ripe yellow peaches to make a batch of low-carb fresh peach ice cream for dessert. (See recent blog and substitute a cup of chopped, slightly mashed, fresh peaches for 1 cup of liquid in either the coconut milk or the no-holds-barred dairy version of the recipe) . There were half a dozen stalls piled up with peaches and I found some really flavorful ones. That’s one of the beauties of shopping at the farmers’ market–you get to taste the produce before you buy it and thereby select just the right peach for the purpose. The ice cream was divine, if I do say so myself.
We also picked up a triple basket box of small, very sweet strawberries from a local organic grower. They tasted so good that had my heart not been set on peach for the menu, we’d have surely ended up with fresh strawberry ice cream Saturday night. In my humble opinion, these two summer fruits are hands down the quintessential homemade ice cream add ins. Blueberry is fine; cherry is fine, but give me peach or strawberry any day.
They also happen to be two fruits where it’s muy importante to spring for the extra bucks, if necessary, to buy organic. Why? I’m not sure, but maybe the pesticides sprayed on commercially grown fruit collect more readily on the fuzzy skins of peaches, strawberries, and raspberries, leaving more toxic chemical residues aboard than even a really good flush can completely wash away. Although maybe not, because topping the list of pesticide-laden fruits and veggies is nectarines and they’re slick as a whistle, so it’s clearly not just the fuzz. Caveat emptor. For the skinny on just how much of what chemical contaminant remains in non-organic fruits and a good guideline of where it’s important to spend your organic produce bucks, click here and here.
If you love, as we do, the pleasures of cooking with the freshest locally grown produce, check out Deborah Madison’s fantastic cookbook, Local Flavors, which is all about cooking what’s local and seasonal from farmers’ markets all over the country. Then if there’s one near you, head on down to your local farmers’ market and enjoy the show. Pick up some locally grown fruit and churn up a batch of low-carb summer bliss. The farmers and your own health will thank you.