Blog – Slo County Farmers’ Markets San Luis Obispo County Wed, 31 Aug 2016 15:56:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 With Autumn approaching, you’ll fall for butternut apple soup Tue, 30 Aug 2016 22:21:52 +0000 While John Chapman is perhaps the best known ambassador of the apple — a folk hero with an eye for orchards — the fruits that Johnny “Appleseed” brought to the frontier at that time weren’t usually grown for eating or baking pies. In fact, they were called “spitters,” because that was usually what someone would do if they ate one of Johnny’s apples.

applesJohnny Appleseed’s apples typically were used to make hard cider – or booze, which might give his folk status a bit of an edge.

While alcoholic cider has made a big comeback in recent years, there are, of course, many other uses for the apple. (And if you need a list, Food Network lays out 50 examples here.) But Stephanie Nye (formerly Burchiel), a farmers’ market favorite, has a unique soup that uses apples as an ingredient. With September now upon us, we figure this is a good time to dig into fall recipes, and butternut apple soup is the first mentioned in Nye’s book, Central Coast Farmers Market Soups. While fall is the best time for a variety of apples, Nye (pictured above, far right) recommends Granny Smith, Fuji and Gala apples for this one, along with a choice of squash.

“Each year, I see new varieties of hard shell squashes in the markets, each a little different in flavor and texture but all with the ability to create an aroma in the oven that announces the fall harvest is upon us,” she writes.

Farmers’ market squashes — be they butternut, pumpkins or kabochas — are best, she writes, because they are so fresh. Here’s the recipe:


1 large butternut squash (or other large, winter squash), roasted and skinned.

1 yellow onion, chopped

3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole

1 each Granny Smith apple and Fuji or Gala apple

1 cup unfiltered apple juice of apple cider

1/3 cup Arborio rice

1 cup celery, chopped

1 tsp. each, nutmeg and cinnamon, freshly ground

2 tablespoons ginger, fresh, peeled and chopped

1 cup of walnuts, roasted lightly and pureed into a cream

7-8 cups of autmn stock

1/4 cups of grape seed oil

sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Begin the soup, in a large heavy-bottomed stockpot, she recommends, by heating grape seed oil on medium high heat, then add onions and saute until golden brown.

Find Nye’s soups at the Morro Bay farmers’ market (in the Spencer’s parking lot), Thursdays, from 2:30-5 p.m.



Juicing on the Mend Mon, 01 Aug 2016 19:18:36 +0000 Fifteen minutes before the farmers’ market begins in downtown San Luis Obispo, passersby are already asking Julia Gomez for samples — and she’s not even finished setting up her booth. It shouldn’t be a surprise, though: Her containers full of colorful juices, stacked on ice, represent a refreshing treat on a warm day.

But they’re not just refreshing — these raw, cold-pressed juices provide the body with instant nutrition, the juices packed with fruits and vegetables.

Juices2Her business, Julia’s Juices, began — you might say — by pure accident. Gomez’s husband, Javier Magana, was sidelined from his job as a restaurant cook after a car collision. As he was mending, he began planting a garden containing a variety of produce, including kale, celery, beets, tomatoes, cilantro and blueberries. To help her injured husband mend heal, Gomez started juicing the items from the garden. The idea worked, and soon the couple started both Julia’s Juices and Red Barn Farms.

Using local fruits and vegetables, Gomez, a former Tribune press worker, constantly tries different combinations.  Her juicing process — crushing the fruits and veggies instead of using blades or graters, then pressing the crushed product — ensures that the nutrients remain in the juices. To ensure the juices are fresh, the produce is picked the day before juicing, which happens the day of each farmers’ market.

Some of Julia’s favorites include the 3 Berry Kale smoothie, Tropic Kale, Gingy Beet and Veggie Blast. Most of her juices and smoothies focus on kale, which she calls a “superfood.” Known for its health benefits, kale was recently featured in a healthy eating contest.


Find Julia’s Juices at farmers’ markets in Arroyo Grande (Wednesday, Smart & Final lot, and Saturday, the Village), San Luis Obispo (Thursday, downtown, and Saturday, World Market lot) and Morro Bay (Thursday, Spencer’s Fresh Market lot).








What Is Cooking From Scratch? Fri, 22 Jul 2016 19:00:44 +0000 Good Tides Organic Bistro is so serious about making food from scratch, even their ketchup is made from scratch.

Now that’s some serious scratch.

But what does “cooking from scratch” even mean?

By most accounts, the term originated with sporting events. Some say it dates to competitive races in the 1800s, referring to a starting point, which was scratched into the ground. In cooking, making things from scratch suggests things are made with only the basic ingredients and nothing that has been prepared ahead or processed. So instead of using a boxed mixture, someone baking cookies will start from the beginning with flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda and baking powder.

There are many benefits to making food from scratch. For one thing, the food is healthier because it doesn’t include chemicals, preservatives, additives or other unknown ingredients. By using seasonal fruits and vegetables, chefs often use produce from local farmers’ markets. And many say food from scratch simply tastes better with more basic ingredients.

Good Tides 4Because Good Tides chef Alyx Gille knows every ingredient in her food, she can help customers with allergies know what dishes to avoid.

(Are you motivated yet? Check out some “from scratch” recipes here.)

Adding to the knowledge, all of the produce in Good Tides food is locally grown and organic.  Meanwhile, eggs come from Cal Poly, grass-fed beef comes from Hearst Ranch and chicken comes from Mary’s Free-Range Organic Chicken.

At a recent farmers’ market in Morro Bay, assistant Allison Harris (pictured above) sold a variety of goodies made from scratch, including brownies, oatmeal coconut cookies, fresh peach muffins, and peach tarts with blackberries.

You can find Good Tides at farmers markets in Arryo Grande (Wednesdays, 8:30-11 a.m., Smart & Final lot), Morro Bay (Thursdays, 2:30-5 p.m., Spencer’s Fresh Market lot) and San Luis Obispo (Saturdays, 8-10:45 a.m., World Market lot).

Try olive oil to enhance any food Tue, 19 Jul 2016 19:06:07 +0000 Olive oil can be used on just about anything you eat, says Mari Lenci, of Oliveto Ranch in Templeton.

“You can cook with it. You can dip it . . . Anything you make with butter, you can replace with olive oil,” she said.

Olive bottlesOlive oil is the oil obtained from the fruit of olive trees. Offering a fruity-bitter taste, olive oil enhances salads, sandwiches, pasta, rice and more. And, Lenci says, it’s healthier than butter.

She knows a thing or two about olive oil: Oliveto was actually the name of the olive orchard her great-grandfather farmed in Tuscany. The orchard was still operating when Lenci grew up there.

A Californian the past 30 years, Lenci once worked in sales and marketing for a major airline company, and she’s a culinary chef. She planted olive trees in 2000, and she began selling olive oil eight years ago.

The Oliveto  Ranch has 13 varieties of Tuscan olives, plus California Mission olives, Lenci said. When growing, Oliveto follows organic rules, she added, and the olives are all hand picked.  Oliveto olive oil is considered “extra virgin,” which means it is produced by a simple pressing of the olives (no chemicals used), it meets certain laboratory tests on things like acidity, and it doesn’t have negative tastes that professionals would consider a defect.

Consumers can tell if olive oil is fresh, Lenci said, if it’s a little bitter. But there’s also variety in flavors.

“What people don’t know is, not all olive oil is alike,” she said.


Find Oliveto olive oil at farmers’ markets in Morro Bay (Thursday, 2:30-5 p.m., Spencers Fresh Market lot) and San Luis Obispo (Thursday, 6:10-9 p.m., downtown).


Memories of summer Tue, 05 Jul 2016 22:15:43 +0000 Summer began with a blaze of heat in San Luis Obispo County this year, with parts of the county seeing temperatures warm up to 100 degrees or more. Yet, with school out and the vacation season in full swing, there was still plenty of activity in San Luis Obispo County.

SurferWith summer on everyone’s minds, we asked some of the vendors at the Arroyo Grande farmers’ market about their favorite summer memories — and spent a little time capturing some of the summer fun.

Remember to check out the expanded growers section of the downtown farmers’ market in San Luis Obispo on Thursday nights, from 6:10-9 p.m. Other farmers’ markets include:

  • Wednesday, Arroyo Grande (Smart & Final lot), 8:30-11 a.m.
  • Thursday, Morro Bay (Spencer’s Fresh Market lot), 2:30-5 p.m.
  • Saturday, San Luis Obispo (World Market lot), 8:10-10:45 a.m.
  • Saturday, Arroyo Grande (the Village, Olohan Alley), 12-2:30 p.m.





Now They’re Making Real Dough Tue, 05 Jul 2016 18:01:57 +0000 SignGlenna and Mark Evans have come a long way to bake bread for you.

The couple were living in New England when they decided to embark on “encore careers” and move across the country.  But it took decades of life experience to get here.

Glenna, who grew up on a farm in Southern Illinois, had studied photography at DePaul University in Chicago before embarking on a career as a hairstylist on Michigan Avenue, the heart of Chicago’s “Magnificent Mile.” (She continued to create great photos, which have been exhibited in numerous venues.) Mark, who has architecture degrees from the University of Illinois, had a 34-year career in software and product management. But while working their other careers, they started getting serious about baking, which led to baking classes, which led to a major life change.

With a spreadsheet in hand, they set out to determine which area of the country would be a good fit for them — and their new business plan — and they decided on San Luis Obispo.

In 2012, they opened Baking Bread Bakery in the restaurant of the County Government Center on Higuera Street. They have also branched out to farmers’ markets.

Breaking Bread offers a variety of muffins, including pineapple coconut, blueberry cornmeal and peanut butter chocolate chip. Artisan breads include French baguettes, six grain and cinnamon raisin. Looking for something even more different? How about a bag of apple walnut granola?

PlateAfter living in Chicago and the East Coast, Glenna said during a recent farmers’ market in Arroyo Grande, she has returned to her farming roots.

“That’s what got me started with all of the cooking,” she said.

Her hometown didn’t have farmers’ markets, she said. And while Chicago did, they were limited by those chilly Midwestern winters.

“You only had from the end of May until the middle of October,” she said. “So the blessing here is that you have farmers’ markets all year round.”


Still, she’s come full circle — from baking pies in 4-H as a child in the Midwest to baking bread as an adult. But, she said, she prefers baking in SLO County.

“There’s no humidity,” she said. “And no mosquitoes.”

Glenna Evans helps a customer Some of the goodies offered by Breaking Bread Breaking Bread Fresh arrivals Some of the many artisan breads offered by Breaking Bread Glenna Evans grew up on a farm in Illinois The view from the back of the Breaking Bread van Glenna Evans is also a photographer



Dairy Sheeps Provide Ewe-unique Cheese Tue, 21 Jun 2016 15:56:49 +0000 Marie Abuhilal offers a sample of sheep cheese at the SLO downtown farmers' market.

Marie Abuhilal offers a sample of sheep cheese at the SLO downtown farmers’ market.

As patrons walk by her booth at the Thursday night farmers’ market in San Luis Obispo, Marie Abuhilal calls out to them like a carnival barker, offering free shaved samples of sheep’s milk cheese.

“We make it lactose-free!” she tells each person as she grinds samples of cheese into their hands. If her words don’t drive the point home, there’s a wooden cutout of a cartoon sheep propped up in front of her booth, a sign around its neck declaring, “Lactose Free.”

It’s still early so Abuhilal continues to set up her booth, placing photos of her sheep on her table near a feature published in the Fresno Bee about her farm, Chateau Fresno Organics.

French words and Fresno are associated even less frequently than sheep and milk. But Abuhilal’s not sheepish about her cheese — and how it can help the lactose intolerant.

“I have a lot of followers,” she says. “They can’t digest.”

Abuhilal, new to the Thursday night farmers’ market in San Luis Obispo, promises to help.

Her outgoing husband, Abe, who can often be seen at local farmers’ markets wearing a cheese head hat, is an agriculture consultant, who grew up in the Middle East and studied cheeses in Italy.

As the sign says, sheep cheese is easier to digest.

As the sign says, sheep cheese is easier to digest.

Sales of dairy sheep are less common than cows, largely because lambing requires more work than calving or kidding. And sheep yield less milk. Yet, sheep have actually been milked longer than cows.

Popular cheese made from sheep’s milk includes feta, ricotta and roquefort.

Still, you won’t see a lot of dairy sheep farms in the U.S. despite the benefits of sheep cheese: It’s highly nutritious and richer in certain vitamins and calcium than cow’s milk. It also has a higher proportion of short- and medium-chain fatty acids, which helps make them easier to digest.

With hundreds of sheep at the Chateau Fresno, there will be plenty of cheese to go around. And Marie Abuhilal will remain actively involved in the process.

“I milk the sheep myself,” she said.



When in Drought, There’s No Doubt: Succulents Conserve Tue, 14 Jun 2016 19:25:15 +0000 You’ve probably heard that the state lifted restrictions on water use in urban areas. Yet that doesn’t mean Californians don’t need to conserve water: Nearly 60 percent of the state remains in “severe drought,” and certain parts of San Luis Obispo County are still bound to significant water use restrictions.

Another words, we still need to cut back on water — and anyone with a lush green lawn probably isn’t on board yet.

SucculentOf course, conserving water doesn’t mean your lawn has to look barren and ugly. And this is where Dennis Dobler can help.

For more than 20 years, Dobler has sold a variety of plants. But in recent years, his succulents — plants that require much less water — have done especially well.

“The drought has dictated sales,” he said. “I’ve had succulents all along. Then all of the sudden they got real popular.”

Succulent plants comes in all sorts of colors — blue-green, pink, red, yellow, chartreause, etc. And the leaves can be rounded, needlelike, ruffled or spiky. What they have in common is what makes them desirable in a drought: Becase they evolved with special water-storage tissues, they can survive in environments that are too dry for most other plants.

Translation: You don’t have to water them as much.

The amount of water a succulent uses depends on its size and the type of soil, Dobler said. Succulents planted in heavy clay will use less water, he said, while those planted in sand will require more because the sand doesn’t retain as much.

Check out ways to conserve water while gardening here.

Dobler has plenty of succulents available, some of which — like the one above, photographed at the Arroyo Grande farmer’s market — look like art pieces.  But Dobler, who once owned a retail nursery, doesn’t just offer succulents; He specializes in hundreds of varieties, including monkey puzzles, kangaroo paws and Alstroemerias.

“Mostly unusual plants,” he says. “‘Less common’ would be a good way to put it.'”



June’s peaches and basil make for a delicious summer salad Mon, 13 Jun 2016 21:58:15 +0000 peaches
  • 3 peaches, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1/4 red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil (leaves torn if large)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Toss peaches with red onion, basil, lemon juice, salt, and some pepper. Drizzle with olive oil.

 Recipe courtesy of MARTHA STEWART LIVING, JUNE 2011
Finding Room for Mushrooms Fri, 10 Jun 2016 20:24:16 +0000 Branden Janikowskioffers a variety of mushrooms.

Branden Janikowskioffers a variety of mushrooms.

Standing behind baskets of gourmet mushrooms, Branden Janikowski briefly reflects on his 8-year career as a bookkeeper.

“I wasn’t digging that,” he says.

He’d always wanted to be a farmer, but he didn’t have enough land for vegetables. Then he discovered he could grow mushrooms in a greenhouse, which requires much less space.

“I was initially doing it as a hobby,” he said.

Noticing a dearth of mushroom growers, he decided to leave his job as a bookkeeper and go full bore into spores.

Branden’s Gourmet Mushrooms offers a variety of edibles, including  king oyster, maitake and pioppino mushrooms. He charges $5 per basket.

“Each one has its own flavor,” Janikowski said.

Grown in sterilized sawdust in Janikowski’s greenhouse, the mushrooms originate from different countries.

The pioppino mushroom (pictured with Janikowski above) is known for its intense forest flavor, and it features a soft, silky texture. (The stems have a texture similar to asparagus, Janikowski notes.) The pioppino can be cooked in almost any method, though he recommends sauteing, broiling or baking. The mushrooms are excellent on their own, with pastas or red meats.

Janikoski sells his mushrooms at the Arroyo Grande farmers’ market (Wednesday, 8:30-11 a.m., at the Smart & Final lot) and the Saturday morning farmers’ market in San Luis Obispo (8:10-10:45 a.m.l, outside World Market). In July, he will begin selling at the Downtown San Luis Obispo farmers’ market (6:10-9 p.m.)