Spring is now in full bloom. The time to freshen up your meals with greens, nuts, cheeses, fruit and other great California products is now. And the farmers market is the best place to ge them.

Start a salad with great greens

Baby salad greens are delicious right now, especially the organic variety from Nuñez Farms. It's a mix of different young salad greens.

Mixes usually include arugula, mizuna, tat soi, frisee, oak leaf, red chard, radicchio and mustard greens. They combine to create a colorful array with different tastes and textures -- some sweet, some bitter, some crunchy, and some smooth.

No matter what lettuce mix you choose for your salad, be sure it is thoroughly rinsed, dried and served chilled.

Sweeten with fruits

Balancing well with tangy vinaigrettes and salty cheeses, sweet fruit really pulls a salad together. Try sliced strawberries or raspberries from Cortez Farms.

As the season progresses, toss in cherries, peaches or apricots.

Add flavor with California cheeses

Cheese from JD Pacheco (Achadinha Cheese) such as feta, blue cheese and Gorgonzola work best crumbled into salads, while others like Brie and goat cheese are best served in slices and rolled in fresh herbs such as parsley or chives.


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These fine cheeses not only taste great but will add to the presentation.

Create texture and crunch with nuts

Nuts can add a great dimension to salads with their texture. Roasting and toasting nuts will really bring out their flavor and crunch.

With a little sugar you can also create candied nuts, which balance wonderfully with a tangy vinaigrette. Pick some out at Fontana Farms.

Get creative with other ingredients

Salads are great because of their versatility. Depending on the ingredients you choose, they can work well as an appetizer, side dish, or as the main course.

If you want to keep it light but add some extra flavors to the mix, use red onion, celery or shallots.

To make your salad suitable for the main course, add creamy avocado, marinated shrimp or grilled chicken.

Spring farmers market salad

2 to 3 ounces pea shoots

2 pounds asparagus (blanched, cut in 1/4 inch discs)

3 pounds fava beans (shelled, blanched, peeled)

2 to 3 ounces pecorino cheese (coarsely grated)

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper

Squeeze of lemon

Blanch asparagus until bright green, then plunge into ice water bath to shock it and prevent further cooking. Drain well: use towels if needed to dry the stems. Cut stems into 1/4" pieces, leaving tips intact. Set aside

Shell the fava beans, and blanch them for 2-3 minutes. Cool quickly in ice water, and drain well and set aside

Coarsely chop the pea shoots into thirds and put them on a platter. Add the extra virgin olive oil and the grated Pecorino and toss ingredients to together in a small bowl. Add a small amount of cracked pepper, and the dressed vegetables on top of the pea shoots on the plate.

-- Recipe: Chef Mario Hernandez, PCFMA

Farmers markets are open rain or shine.

  • The Concord farmers market is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays, year-round; and from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursdays, April 24-Oct. 23, at Todos Santos Plaza, at Willow Pass Road and Grant Street.

  • The Clayton seasonal farmers market will return from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays, May 10-Oct. 25, on Diablo Street between Main and Center streets.

    Visit www.pcfma.com or call 800-949-FARM (800-949-3276).

    The Time is Ripe is a monthly column written by Debra Morris, promotions coordinator for the Pacific Coast Farmers' Market Association. Contact her at debramorris@pcfma.com.