Test Your Produce IQ: Can You Identify These Unusual Fruits?



Back in June, I asked you to test your knowledge of unusual vegetables which I’d photographed at Berkeley Bowl, the great East Bay produce market. Today, I’m asking you to have a go at identifying a dozen fruits, also found at Berkeley Bowl. The answers are at the end of this post, but try guessing and see how many you can come up with, and then send us a comment telling how well you did. Are you a produce whiz, or do you have room for improvement?  Take this quiz and let us know! My previous post of the vegetable quiz is here. Good luck!



Continue reading

Think You Know Your Veggies? Take This Produce IQ Test And Find Out!



I imagine readers of this blog to be pretty savvy when it comes to produce, but take a look at the unusual vegetables I photographed yesterday at Berkeley Bowl, one of America’s premiere produce markets. Most every time I shop there, I see something new to me, and many of these veggies would have stumped me before I became a devoted Berkeley Bowl shopper. After the jump, you’ll see photos of ten vegetables.  How many do you recognize? The answers are at the end of this post, but try not to look until you’ve finished attempting to identify all ten.  Leave a comment, and let other readers know how well you did! In a future post, we’ll look at exotic fruits.

Photo above: Mystery vegetable number ten may not be what it appears to be at first glance.

Continue reading

Look What I Found Today at Costco!

I bought this today at Costco–and for a very fair price (just over $13 for a 12-pound bag). Because I do catering for groups on retreat, I find Costco, the membership big-box store, very useful. They carry a wide range of decent quality food in large sizes, and at very competitive prices. Naturally, I wish they’d carry more organics, so when I spot an organic product I can use, I make sure to buy it.  But seeing Lundberg rice, really stopped me in my tracks.  For generations, Sacramento Valley-based Lundberg Family Farms has been the leading grower and marketer of organic rice and rice products in North America, and the standard against which all others are measured. Their rice cakes, for example, are so much better than the rest, they are really the only ones worth buying. While they are now a successful business with some 200 employees and 17,000 acres of rice under cultivation, when they started growing organic rice decades ago, it was a risky business on which almost no one else wanted to gamble. For upholding high standards, for continuing to be family-owned,  and for making their superior foods widely available, I salute Lundberg Farms. If whole, organic foods are ever to make it onto a majority of America’s tables, they will have to be reasonably priced and much more widely distributed. Finding Lundberg’s rice at Costco gives me hope in both regards. I thank both companies, and hope this is not a one-shot deal, but a sign of the acceptance of high quality, whole foods in a mass market setting.

Where to Shop: For a Healthy Garden, It’s Common Ground in Palo Alto

San Marzano and a dozen or more varieties of tomatoes


This is not a riddle–or maybe it is!  The answer is when it is Common Ground Garden Supply, the store which is also an advocacy and teaching center as well as a great place to shop.  And shop you will!  You’ll find seeds and starter plants, organic composts, fertilizers and mulches, tools, natural disease and pest control products, books, cards and magazines.  And most of all a friendly and knowledgeable staff, augmented by community volunteers and headed by center manager, Patricia Becker. Common Ground is a nonprofit project associated with Ecology Action, founded by gardening legend, John Jeavons.  They really do think that many of us could grow far more of our own vegetables than we ever imagined possible and they are ready to teach us how, with classes nearly every Saturday. Site for many of the classes is an 1,800 square foot, 17-bed demonstration garden where the principles of the Grow Biointensive method are practiced. If you are interested in these activities or in volunteering, give Patricia a call at 650-493-6072. (Details and more photos after the jump)

Continue reading

Locavore: What’s Fresh, Local and In Season


At a time when it seems like everything is shipped in from China, it’s such a relief to shop where nearly everything is locally sourced, your nearby certified farmer’s market. And if you’re a foodie, or even just mildly interested in food, you are missing out if you haven’t been to San Francisco’s Ferry Building lately.  Inside, you’ll find more than 40 food-related businesses, outside on Saturdays a hundred or more additional vendors set up one of America’s most celebrated farmer’s markets.  As a cook, there’s no better way to find out what is local and seasonal than to shop at a farmer’s market, and as far as I’m concerned, nothing stimulates my creativity more than a trip to a great farmer’s market. While the Ferry Building market is the most well-known, there are, of course, highly regarded farm markets in Berkeley, San Rafael, Palo Alto, Mountain View and in most every city and town in the Bay Area (click here for farmer’s market locations in the nine-county Bay Area). One of the great perks of the Saturday Ferry Building market are the free food demonstrations given by top (and often famous) San Francisco chefs. Lots more photos of my discoveries this past Saturday, after the jump…

Buckwheat sprouts, one of hundreds of unusual items at the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market

Continue reading

Where to Shop: For Produce, It’s the Monterey Market

Satsuma mandarins at  Monterey Market.  View a photo essay here, and click on individual photos to enlarge them.


While there is a plentitude of produce markets in the Bay Area, and quite a few very good ones, there are only a few great ones. And the Monterey Market in Berkeley is one of those. The Monterey Market scores high in all the essential qualities I look for  in a produce market: quality, variety,  value and an attention to organics. To visit the Monterey Market is  to be inspired to cook, and as far as I’m concerned, worth a considerable journey. That it is low on upscale amenities only adds to it’s charm. Naturally, a store as legendary as this has a huge, devoted following, so parking can be tight and the store tricky to navigate, but the checkout lines move fast and most shoppers are friendly and cheerful. Operated  by the Fujimoto  family since 1961, it is a wonderful amenity in North Berkeley.  I deeply wish there were  a Monterey Market in my neighborhood.

Details: Located at  1550 Hopkins St., Berkeley 94707. 510 526-6042. Open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed on Sundays. An adjoining block of Hopkins St. is chock full of food  stores: a bakery, pizzeria, fish market, liquor store, etc. for one-stop shopping.

Where to Shop: In San Francisco There’s Only One Rainbow

Being a  cook and cooking teacher, people often ask where I like to shop. While there are hundreds of good natural, ethnic and produce markets in the Bay Area, for me one stands  out far above the others, and that is  the Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco.  Although it  has great organic produce, cheeses, and natural health and beauty products, I love Rainbow most for it’s phenomenal bulk foods department.

Rainbow claims they offer over 800 food items in bulk, and I can  well  believe it.  They make the selection  offered in even the largest and best-stocked Whole Foods Market look  puny in comparison. You will find sea vegetables, dozens of kinds of beans, thirty kinds of flour, not only brown quinoa, but black and red as well–all in bulk–even esoteric items such as brown rice syrup, Lima sea salt, umeboshi plums, kuzu and twig tea. I find the herb and spice area especially useful because you can buy only what you need and at fair prices.

Rainbow was born in 1975 as part of the  “People’s Food System” cooperative movement, and is still collectively owned by the now more than 200 workers. As such it’s a uniquely San Francisco kind of place  and may not be to everyone’s taste, although I  appreciate it’s colorful workers and quirky politics (they’re open on the Fourth of July, but close for Gay Pride Sunday). A few of the 771 Yelp reviews complain that the worker-owners are less than friendly and helpful, however in 23 years of shopping there I’ve found  that only rarely to be true. If you live outside San Francisco I’m not suggesting you drive into the City solely  to  shop at Rainbow, but if you’re coming in anyway, you foodies will find Rainbow to be a stimulating stop.

The details: Rainbow is located at 1745 Folsom Street (at 13th Street),  at the border of the South of Market and Mission Districts and is open daily 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Somewhat tight on-site parking. Seniors 60 and over receive a 10% discount. (415) 863-0620.