Fresh juicy cherries are here! May is a fantastic time to visit the farmers market.

In Northern California this is the time of year for plump juicy cherries. California grows sweet cherries, rather than tart, and they are great for making jams and pies with less sugar. They make great snacks, too.

Gotelli & Sons will be bringing to market the best cherries around.

Peak season for cherries in Northern California is usually in May and the first part of June.

The early Burlats (tangy dark red) and the Brooks (sweet medium red) are the first varieties to arrive at market.

The Bing (sweet red) and Rainier (sweet yellow/orange) come later.

Buy them at that time for the best-tasting fruit.

Cherries can be used in salads, made into sauces and jams, as a topping on yogurt, or just eaten by the handful.

They are at their nutritional peak in May as well. They are high in potassium, vitamin C, B complex, and other vitamins and minerals.

When you bring your cherries home, handle them delicately to avoid bruising. Keep them out of the sunlight to avoid softening and stem damage. Refrigerate as soon as possible.

There aren't just cherries at the farmers market this time of year, though.

Also available now are strawberries, raspberries, mushrooms, Asian greens, broccoli, spring lettuce and garlic, blueberries and so much more.

Chachio's Berry Patch and Cortez Farms have wonderful berries.


Advertisement

J&M Farms has a nice selection of mushrooms and leafy greens. J&J Ramos Farms has plump tomatoes and citrus.

And Alpine Blue and Rainbow Orchards will have plump juicy blueberries.

Look for summer fruits and vegetables like peaches, nectarines, tomatoes, peppers and lots more coming soon.

Mache Salad with Cherries, Pancetta

  • Vinaigrette

    1 small shallot, minced

    1 ½ tablespoons Balsamic vinegar

    3½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

    1 tablespoon water

    2-3 sprigs fresh mint, finely chopped (about 1 teaspoon)

    Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Salad

    ¼ pound pancetta (about ½-inch thick slice), diced

    6 cups mache (3.5 oz), rinsed and thoroughly dried

    ½ pound California Bing cherries (about 2 cups), rinsed, pitted and quartered

    1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced or shaved

    4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled

    1/3 cup hazelnuts or almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)

    For the vinaigrette, mix the shallot and vinegar in a small bowl. Whisk in the oil, then the water. Add the mint; season to taste with salt and pepper.

    For the salad, saute the pancetta in a medium skillet over medium-low heat, stirring on occasion, until crisp, 5-8 minutes. Combine the mache, cherries, fennel and warm pancetta in a large bowl. Toss with the dressing. Divide between plates and scatter each salad with goat cheese and nuts, if using.

    Farmers markets are open rain or shine.

  • In Martinez, the Sunday market is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. year-round, at Main and Estudillo streets. The Thursday seasonal market is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Oct. 24, on Court Street between Main and Escobar streets. And the Kaiser Permanente market is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays through Sept. 26, at 200 Muir Road.

  • The Pleasant Hill farmers market is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays through Nov. 16, on Crescent Drive at Monument Plaza.

    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.