Ripening Persimmons

Yi Gao — artist and storyteller

Gently squeeze to see

if fruit yields using a firmly

placed thumb. Astringent

types are yielding when ripe.

Non-astringent varieties

go either way, but note

size and color of each exotic

piece. Place in brown paper

bag with an off-gassing banana,

crumple or nestle together

in a deeply rounded bowl

for a couple of days and long

nights, nesting, entwined. Eat

strawberries while you wait,

sip champagne, embrace, slip

 into our luscious sweetness

♦    Kate Campbell

Note: Scientists in California and Japan have discovered how to sex persimmon trees. Male trees code for a very small piece of RNA that acts as “molecular scissors,” cutting down gene expression to create a female tree. But, the experts say RNA scissors can be “fickle,” and this may help explain why “dioecious” plants that are genetically one sex can also function as another.

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Food as Form: Finding the Human Body Delicious

Seattle chef Tiberio Simone says he was seduced into an exotic/erotic marriage of food and the human form while volunteering to make deserts for a Seattle theater company. Although he’d had private adventures with food and what can happen between consenting adults, his inspiration to cover an entire body with pastry and flowers got him some attention for the sensual pairing. Freelance photographer Matt Freedman, known for his evocative photos of the Burning Man Festival, invited the celebrated chef to make some of his food and body creations in a photo studio.

Of the first photo session, Simone says, “I cut cucumbers into thousands of paper thin slices to create a full body of green scales, and the result was so magical that it gave us the inspiration to create the book.”

The result is La Figa: Visions of Food and Form, a large format photo essay that offers the human body as canvas and food as the medium. The models wear nothing but Simone’s edible inventions – coffee bean necklaces, apple slices and more. Simone calls it an examination of the relationship between food, touch, and “the ingredients that make life delicious.”

Shot over a five-year period, the pair have created a new art form. The synergy of his ephemeral food art with Freedman’s photography is provocative – producing a series of  images that tap into primal instincts for flavor and pleasure. Simone says he is a self-styled sensualist who views food and touch as the basic ingredients of life. In the book, he offers advice on how to use food for seduction, tips for selecting a perfect piece of fruit or a vegetable, and twenty of Simone’s favorite recipes. The writing and photography of La Figa will leave you with a new perspective on the relationship between what we eat, and how we connect with each other as sensual beings. Order online. $40 from Amazon.com

From Farm to Family — Time to Celebrate

La Jolla Farmers Market - squash and pomegranates

La Jolla Farmers Market – squash and pomegranates

National Farmers Market Week

 August 3-9 

With the nation’s harvest of fresh fruits and vegetables streaming into farmers markets, it’s time to get out and celebrate the abundance and the beauty. Farmers markets are an integral part of  our history and the urban/farm connection. The number of markets nationwide has continued to grow in number and  popularity, mostly due to growing consumer interest in obtaining fresh products directly from the farm. Farmers markets allow consumers access to locally grown, farm fresh produce, enables farmers to develop a personal relationship with their customers, and cultivate consumer loyalty with the people who grow their food.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says direct marketing of farm products through farmers markets has grown 3.6 percent increase since 2012.

The USDA’s National Farmers Market  Directory lists more than 8,100 markets that feature two or more farm vendors selling agricultural products directly to customers at a common, recurrent physical location. Maintained by the Agricultural Marketing Service, the Directory is designed to provide consumers with convenient access to information about farmers market listings to include: market locations, directions, operating times, product offerings, accepted forms of payment, and more.  Search for markets by zip code, geographic proximity, product availability, payment method and even whether the market participates in Federal nutrition programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). You can also search by typing the official name and indicating state.

Nectarines

To find a market close by try USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory!  or the National Directory of Fruit Stands & Farmers Markets 

California leads the nation in the number of farmers markets, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports. Across America, these markets have more than doubled in the past decade, mushrooming from about 2,900 markets in 2000 to more than 6,100 today.

Although it’s difficult to pinpoint how many Californians regularly shop at farmers markets, it’s estimated that each week millions of families grab their canvas produce bags and walk, bike or drive to their local market.

Pear harvest is under way in California.

Pear harvest is under way in California.

Here are some farmers market shopping tips from the experts

  •  Quickly circle the market once to see what’s available before buying anything.
  • Check for new, in-season produce and compare prices.
  • Purchase only enough for one week’s meals.
  • Ask for a taste sample, particularly if buying in large quantity for canning or preserving.
  • If canning or preserving fruits or vegetables, ask the grower if “uglies” or seconds are available. Preserved food is going to be cooked or sliced and the flavors are just as tasty in produce with a few blemishes.
  • Remember to ask growers for suggestions on methods of preparation.
  • Peaches and apricots and the stem end of melons should smell good enough to eat; that means they’re ripe.
  • Growers are happy to suggest the perfect apples for baking or squash for roasting or greens for salad—just ask.

Remember to thank your local farmers for providing fine-tasting and healthy food for your family.

—Joanne Neft, founder of Placer County farmers markets and cookbook author

For an online guide to year-round farmers markets, go to http://www.cafarmersmarkets.com.

In California many farmers markets operate year round, here’s a feature about my trip with Joanne Neft to a winter market: http://californiabountiful.com/features/article.aspx?arID=766

Fresh Produce for the Rich & Famous, as well as the rest of us. Click for a feature on my visit to the iconic Los Angeles Farmers Market.