Fresh sweet table grapes are now at your farmers market, a sign that autumn is creeping up on us. For more than two centuries, Californians have been cultivating grapes.

The tradition of viticulture began in 1769 when Spanish friars established missions throughout the region. The padres planted a European grape variety, known as the mission, in order to make sacramental wine.

Visit some of our grape purveyors such as Cipponeri Farms, Diaz Farms, and J&J Ramos Farm.

Pears are coming into season as well. Rich and creamy, pears come to us from Alhambra Pears in Martinez. Poach for a special dessert, add to salads for a fresh fall taste, or eat out of hand for lunches.

Called "a gift of the gods" by the Greek poet Homer, pears have been praised since ancient times. The early Romans developed more than 50 pear varieties and spread them far and wide throughout Europe. Since then, hundreds more varieties have been introduced, the most popular being the Bartlett.

And of course, there are apples galore! There are an amazing variety of America's favorite fruit, so visit Rainbow Orchards at the market and try some gala, Fuji, and other special varieties of apples.

The apple tree originated in an area between the Caspian and the Black Sea. And the pilgrims planted the first United States apple trees in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Apple Brie Bruscetta

1 4½-ounce round chilled Brie cheese

16 ¼-inch-thick slices French bread baguette

1 tablespoon butter, melted

4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut in 2-inch pieces

1 medium Fuji or Granny Smith apple, cut into 16 slices*

2 teaspoons finely snipped fresh rosemary

Cut chilled Brie into eight wedges; halve wedges. Place bread slices on a baking sheet; broil about 6 inches from heat for 1 to 2 minutes or until lightly toasted. Turn slices; brush top sides lightly with melted butter. Broil 1 to 2 minutes more or until lightly toasted. Remove from oven.

Divide prosciutto, apple, and Brie among toasted bread. Sprinkle with rosemary. Broil 2 minutes more or until cheese begins to soften. Serve warm. Makes 16 servings.

Smoked Salmon & Grapes

6 ounces smoked salmon slices

6 ounces grapes

6 ounces prawns

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Lime slices

Fresh dill

Line four ramekins with the slices of smoked salmon, leaving the edges hanging over the sides. Cut each grape in four pieces.

Mix the seedless grapes, prawns with the mayonnaise. Season if desired with salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture into the ramekins, and fold the flaps of smoked salmon over the top. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Run a knife round the inside of each ramekin and carefully turn the molds onto individual plates. Garnish with a wedge of lime and a sprig of dill.

Farmers markets are open rain or shine.

  • The Lafayette Farmers Market is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays through October at the BART station parking lot on the north side of Highway 24.

  • The Moraga Farmers Market is open Sundays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. year-round at the Moraga Center and Moraga Way.

  • The Orinda Farmers Market at Orinda Village, 250 Village Square, Orinda Saturdays until Nov. 23.

    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.