The summer Downtown Rohnert Park farmers market is every Friday 5:00 to 8:00 pm between June 15 and August 31 (sorry I didn’t mention it earlier). It’s actually pretty big, taking up quite a significant amount of parking lot and side park area of the Sonoma County Library, where I have found some great volumes, including cookbooks, for dirt cheap. Like most farmers markets, it’s a mixture of fresh-cut flowers, fresh produce, local food and health products (vinegars, dips, jams, homemade soaps), crafts (bags, jewelry, scarves, wreathes, birdhouses), hot prepared food and live entertainment, dubbed Party on the Plaza. Not only do they have live bands performing, there are also face painting, bounce house, an inflated slide, a little petting zoo and pony rides for kids. Then there are the other cuddly critters brought by the local ASPCA. After all, who doesn’t like adorable kitties, puppies and bunnies?

The major aspect of the farmers market that did shock me was the sheer number of booths devoted direct sales companies, like Mary Kay, Pampered Chef and Tastefully Simple. Since these businesses are not farm, artisan, craftsman, food, teaching or community based, their presence felt weird to me. I mean I understand promoting your own little business to get new clients and customers, but I don’t think those types of businesses belonged there, not when there are already other actually local gourmet, kitchen tool and spice and herb businesses. For instance, I have seen Kim Cook-Fallon’s booth, Cook’s Spices many of the Santa Rosa and Downtown Windsor farmers markets; the other shop to which I’m referring to is, of course, Savory Spice in Downtown Santa Rosa run by Pat and Cheryl, both of whom I have seen at the Wednesday Night Market with some of the gals from Sur la Table, promoting workshops and cooking classes that they sometimes co-host.

Dahlia 2009.1

At the Rohnert Park market, I was always excited to visit the O’Brien family’s Aztec Dahlias booth, who’s flowers are always a joy to see.  I actually discovered their farm location in Petaluma, which is along my normal route in and out of town. All of their flowers are gorgeous and inspiring. I hope I can visit them sometime soon, plop down on a patch of ground surrounded by a myriad of dahlias in all vivid colors and sizes and just draw, carefully picking out various mediums and colors from my rather extensive collection of colored pencils, crayons and felt tip pens. I expect it will be quite different from the last time I drew dahlias for my dad last summer; those flowers were merely based on pictures I found online. Drawing them up close and in person will be much better.

nana mae's organic

Nana Mae’s was also at this farmers market, which was a nice surprise. They don’t just sell apples. Not only were they selling their apple sauce, apple juice and apples, they also had various stone fruits, which I had never seen before. They had normal plums and plum-cherries, which were so cute, juicy, sweet, and delicious, I once bought two pounds of the little guys. Believe it or not, I ate them all before they went bad, but it was a bit challenging with their different stages of ripening. They also grown black berries, pears, prunes, pluots, lemons, quince and other fruits (I’m sure). They also work with other California farms to make specialty items, like their Spiced Date Apple Sauce (The dates actually come from Flying Disc Farms, from whom I prefer to buy my dates. Remember, I talked about them after I visited them at the Ferry Building farmers market) and Apple Mostarda (made with apples, raisins, figs, white wine, rosemary, cinnamon, coriander, and ginger in cooperation with the Girl & the Fig Restaurant)

Debbie (the head baker) was at the Mama Barretta booth! Yea! On separate trips this summer to the Rohnert Park market, I bought Debbie’s anise and almond biscotti, cinnamon raisin bread, multiseed bread, amaretti cookies and a carrot muffin. Can you tell I’m a fan? Their baked goods are so tasty and comforting. I really miss their chocolate and spice flavored pezzi, which are little raw almond truffle balls made with coconut; unfortunately, they didn’t have them at the markets I attended. Just so you know, their breads can be a bit hard, crumbly and hard to slice, but I discovered a neat trick! You can cut off a hunk to either steam in the oven of microwave with the help of a damp towel, making the bread amazingly soft, easier to slice and less crumby, like it was just freshly baked. I don’t go through bread that quickly, so usually I freeze half to save for later.

I found lots of great fresh produce at the farmers market. As far as stone fruit, the white and yellow peaches, white and yellow nectarines, plums and plum hybrids captivated my attention the most. It’s was great to try all of the samples and see all of the different varieties. I bought several pounds of those, too, and they were scrumptious! I use to love peaches the most, but right now nectarines are my favorite. I found several juicy and lovely kinds of heirloom tomatoes; I particularly enjoyed the multicolored yellow and bright golden ones in my salads and sandwiches. I was also fortunate to find that the Ortiz Brothers’ booth was selling cilantro and Italian sweet basil, which I like mixing in with my salad greens to bring in more flavor, and depending on the other flavors, sometimes I like to add these herbs to my sandwiches and lettuce wraps.

Pluots

Pluots (Photo credit: oceanaris)

I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to tell you about this great local farmers market until after it was over for the year. The downtown location also provides a great meetup location for me to see some of my friends, who I went to school with. Besides with my old farmers market haunts so far away now, the Rohnert Park farmers market makes me feel like I’m not missing out on as much by living all the way down in Petaluma. Michele Anna Jordan of the Press Democrat also wrote a review in the “Eat This Now” section, which goes into more detail about some of the merchants at the farmers market in case you are interested.

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