Cornucopia

Here in San Francisco I’m perfectly positioned at the lower lip of a cornucopia. Ummm, make that a safe distance back from the lower lip so as not to get buried alive. That’s all year ’round but especially during the summer and fall. And most especially right now since in my farmers’ markets I’m overwhelmed by a tsunami of my favorite fruits.

It starts with the first cherry varieties, then the blackberries, raspberries, apricots, and peaches (which I don’t eat because the nectarines are nipping at their heels). They are followed by more varieties of cherries and the queen of the berries, Yerena’s tayberries.

I do a lot of my shopping now at the Alemany Farmers’ Market because it’s the second-closest market to me and most definitely has the best bargains like that rather unfriendly woman who insists that you buy the cherries that she’s pre-bagged for you. That would normally be a deal breaker except that she gives good weight; and, more importantly, the bagged cherries are not only every bit as good as the loose ones on display but also less than half the price you see at upscale markets. My second favorite is the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market because it’s also full of good buys as well as hosting some of my favorite vendors.

I went there last Sunday and had a remarkable visit. I stopped first at Yerena’s for my second flat of tayberries. I missed the entire tayberry season last year owing to breaking my back, so i’m determined to make as much tayberry jelly this year as possible. Poli (short for Apolinar) Yerena has been my main berry man for decades, ever since my previous sole supplier’s tenure at the market ended simultaneously with the cessation of his under-the-counter sales of an unauthorized dried leafy green.

Yerena is right next door to the guy who’s my primary source for cranberry beans, but they’re still a month out; so then I went to Alfieri’s, dear to me for a couple of reasons. I discovered Gary Alfieri many years ago because of his almond butter. I mean, how hard is it to make almond butter? You just grind your good almonds up into a paste. Right? Well, some folks slip other ingredients in, primarily sugar and/or salt, but the product needs neither. But even the almond butters claiming to consist of nothing but almonds can taste radically different. I can only speculate as to the answer; but, for whatever reason, Alfieri’s almond butter is the most delicious I’ve tasted.Once I became his regular customer after he got my attention with his almond butter and delicious almond candies, I noticed that he’s obviously a very nice guy because his operation is big enough to employ lots of workers, and the turnover is downright glacial. I also couldn’t help noticing that during cherry season, he brings a lot of ’em to market. All of highest quality, and a great many varieties, some of which, like the Black Tartarians, I don’t see elsewhere. Alas, there was a deleterious effect from those wonderful winter deluges that thankfully filled almost all of our reservoirs: one of ’em stripped every single blossom off his Black Tartarian trees. Maybe next year.

All was not lost, though, because he had three other varieties: Rainier and Brooks (from which I’d already made batches of jam) and another variety I’d never heard of. First I tasted the Brooks for comparison. Then I tasted one of the new variety and nearly fainted from the pain of every taste bud in my mouth saluting simultaneously. So astonishingly delicious, in fact, that I forgot their name and for now am just calling the jam I made from them “Astonishing Cherry Jam”.

Meanwhile, in the next stall over was Rogelio Martinez of Rancho Azul (and what a great name for a blueberry farm!). He joined in on my conversation with the cherry guy (whose name I’m now blanking on even though he remembers mine). I told him that his blueberries looked real good but that what with the tayberries and the cherries, I already had as much fruit as I could deal with today. Maybe next week.

Alas, it turned out to be his last day in the market for the season, so he gave me six pounds of the Star variety that he’d put aside because he felt they were getting overripe. I saw nothing at all wrong with them, especially for the price. At that point I had only two jars of jam left, but I gave him both of them.

Rode home with extra caution since a fall would strew the whole street with berries and cherries and me, creating a road hazard. Arrived at Coleridge Park totally chuffed to find Joanne basking on her bench in front. Perfect. The hunter cannot be more pleased than when he returns home and finds someone before whom he can proudly display his catch.

And then I staggered upstairs laden with three kinds of fruit, none of which has a long shelf life. So I threw the blueberries and the cherries into the refrigerator and made tayberry jelly that afternoon, blueberry jam the next day, and cherry jam the following day. I sit back in smug satisfaction.

Meanwhile here’s some cherries at the market, just a shot I snapped in passing rather than the bin of Alfieri’s “Astonishing” variety.

cherries
cherries


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2 Comments

  1. David Ogden
    Posted 29 June 2019 at 11:16 | Permalink

    Ours have not been sweet so far this year. Eager to try that new batch of tayberry jelly, And cherry jam.

    • Posted 29 June 2019 at 11:37 | Permalink

      I’ll put ’em back in anticipation of our next meeting. And also a Nectarine Jalapeño Jam that has a delicious chile flavor with very very little piquancy.

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