How You Like Dem Apples?

Perhaps one of the best things about this Summer-Fall hybrid season is apples! As many MCM shoppers know, everything you thought you knew about apples before is probably not even half the story. With over 30 years of experience, Dave Read more

What did the Mission say?

As I approached the youth surveyor’s booth at MCM last Thursday, all six surveyors were engaged in conversation with a passer-by. They looked relaxed and in charge, fielding questions about where to use the bathroom even as they explained Read more

La Cocina Entrepreneurs Hit the Streets

Over the past six years, La Cocina’s Street Food Festival has become a San Francisco staple. The festival features innovative food, education and discussion, and a chance for the SF community to share experience and taste with each other. At the Read more

Mercado Kitchen: Quick Persian Pickles

Posted on by Kaiya Gordon in Blog | Leave a comment

If you haven’t picked up cucumbers from Blue House Farms yet, now is the time. Quick pickling the cucumbers is simple and results in sweet, tangy pickles that are perfect on kabobs, in burgers, or thrown on salads. They’re easy to store and look great in jars––give them as a gift for your next breezy summer picnic or dinner party!

Photo by Emily Nathon.

Photo by Emily Nathon.

This recipe adapted from Canning & Preserving by Ashley English.

3 pounds pickling cucumbers from Blue House Farms

2 cups distilled white vinegar

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons pickling or kosher salt

6 whole garlic cloves, peeled

1 tablespoon fennel seed from Happy Boy Farms

1 tablespoon cumin seed

1 tablespoon corinder seed

1 tablespoon mustard seed

2 teaspoons whole cloves

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

1 tablespoon star anise

Sanitize the containers that you will use to store your pickles. A glass mason jar works great, but any glass or ceramic dcontainer will work. Then, wash and scrub your cucumbers. Cut about 1/4 inch from each end, then cut each cucumber in half and place in a bowl. Combine 2 1/2 cups water with vinegar, sugar, salt, garlic, and spices in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. English’s original recipe excludes apple cider vinegar and star anise, but adding those ingredients will increase the sweetness of your pickles.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer. After five minutes, remove from heat. After the mixture has cooled for fifteen minutes, pour  over the cucumbers. Cover the bowl with a cloth, and allow to cool for an hour. Transfer to container and refrigerate.

 

Youth Surveyors Making Sure Mission Community Is Heard

Posted on by Kaiya Gordon in Blog, Mercado Plaza | 1 Comment

Community is more than just part of Mission Community Market’s name. And right now, the organization is making sure that the community is heard. A new survey project, funded by the San Francisco Foundation’s Great Communities Collaborative and organized by MCM in partnership with MEDA seeks to include the perspective of Mission residents in programming for the future Mercado Plaza, to be built on Bartlett Street between 21st and 22nd Streets. With the plaza, MCM hopes to transform the space into a flexible, family-friendly area with overhead protection and permanent lighting fixtures that will help to brighten the street and make it safer. Located at what is, in many ways, the crossroads of the Mission District, MCM’s survey can serve another purpose too––engaging a historic Latin@ population that traditionally doesn’t participate in City-led community workshops.

The survey project is focusing on getting feedback for future programming options at the Mercado Plaza, currently slated to be completed in the Spring of 2015. And the survey is intended for “those who live, work or go to school starting in (1) a 2-3 block radius around the future Mercado Plaza site and (2) historical Mission residents who usually don’t participate in other community feedback opportunities,” said Rosi Bustamante, executive director of MCM.  Focusing on both of these populations is important — on one side the Plaza site is an affordable housing project and parking garage, and on the other a future mixed-use, condominium project.  Seeking feedback from diverse sides will ensure Plaza programming will meet the needs of the community.

The local youth that MCM has hired to implement the surveys might hold the key to engaging all parts of the Mission District and ensuring that the Mercado Plaza is a space that benefits all. “We wanted to provide job and training opportunities to local youth, which is why we hired our surveyors,“ said Bustamante. Six bilingual, youth surveyors were hired, and MCM hopes that with the addition of these surveyors, they can include the voices of those in the community that are hardest to reach.

“We wanted to provide job and training opportunities to local youth, which is why we hired our surveyors.”

Before they hit the streets, however, the surveyors sat in on a two week training organized by MCM and MEDA. The training centered around teaching the youth about the Mercado Plaza project, what kind of questions to expect from those surveyed, and how to approach community members for surveying. “The training was cool,” said Giovanni Carreño, one of the six surveyors. “I learned how to approach people. I learned how to not take no for an answer––but not in a rude way.”

From left to right: Daniel Cortes, Giovanni Carreño, Daniel Mendoza, Ivan Castro. Not pictured: Nathaly De Leon, Susy Rojas.

From left to right: Daniel Cortes, Giovanni Carreño, Daniel Mendoza, Ivan Castro. Not pictured: Nathaly De Leon, Susy Rojas.

MCM hopes that the youth surveyors can help to get the community involved and excited about the Mercado Plaza, as well as answer any questions that they might have. So far, said Carreño, the surveyors have had some mixed reactions––especially about the length of the survey, which takes about 20 minutes to complete. “A lot of people ask, is there any way to make it shorter?” he said, laughing. “But when someone starts asking questions,” he continued, “you know that they’re interested.”

The survey, which is multiple-choice and hosted on tablets used by each of the surveyors, was created by Angela Gallegos-Castillo with feedback from MCM advisory board members. Gallegos-Castillo conducted two focus groups, one at Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 School food bank and another at The Women’s Building preschool “to get a better sense of what kinds of options to provide for the multiple choice questions,” Bustamante said. Those options include questions about what kind of programming Mission residents would like to see at the Mercado Plaza. “For example,” Bustamante said, “do they want to see more markets, cultural events, play streets? Classes, family activities, concerts?”

Mercado Plaza - Courtesy of Rebar

The anticipated design for The Mercado Plaza, opening March 2015.

The anticipated date to open the Mercado Plaza is March 2015. MCM describes the Plaza, which is being built by the City of San Francisco, as “a new public space [which will] provide a beautiful, safe and much needed open space in the heart of the Mission for a wide variety of community programs that support family health, promote small businesses, create new local art and bring diverse communities together.”

Last week, the survey team joined the market for the first time. “Two of us are here,” said Carreño, “and three more are going to houses in a two-block radius of the market.” The team will continue the survey process for about three more weeks, and hopes to administer at least 200 surveys in that time. “We needed to define a number that was attainable within our time and number of youth,” Bustamante said. And the team is hopeful. “I’d like to reach––or even exceed––the quota,” Carreño said.

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Nathaly De Leon conducts a survey at the Mission Community Market

Carreño agreed that some residents see Bartlett as a border between two populations. But he thinks that the Mercado Plaza will aid all. “The main goal is to bring more lighting,” to make it safer, he said. “They’re trying to make the street more family-oriented.”

“They’re trying to make the street more family-oriented.”

Not all that he has surveyed see it that way. “Yesterday,” said Carreño, “was the first day [of surveying]. At the first house [the resident] said he didn’t have time to take the survey but kept offering suggestions, including removing the neighboring affordable housing. It’s not all that motivating to meet people like that.”

But when I asked him whether others have been motivating, Carreño lit up. “Yes, yes. I’ve met so many motivating people,” Carreño said. He described surveying Jennifer Kindell, a vendor at the market. “She’s really passionate,” he said, “on the survey, she kept picking ‘other’ because she wanted to write what she thought.”

And for Carreño, the surveys are a chance to get in touch with the Mission District. “I want to know what people think,” he said. “I like learning about people.” When I asked him more about his surveying technique, Carreño admitted that he didn’t like to stick to the questions. “I try to just get an opinion,” he said. “I let them talk. You learn so much from people. Today [while surveying] I met a Peruvian lady at the laundromat, and she taught me about Machu Picchu. It takes a 5 hour train ride and 1 hour bus ride to get there!” said Carreño.

“I want to know what people think. I like learning about people.”

Perhaps the trick to getting responses from all of the residents of the Mission District is to think like Carreño. “A lot of Latin@s are interested in the project,” he said,” and “when I think of the Mission I think of Latin@s.”

The survey project offers a unique opportunity for MCM to connect with all residents of the Mission––and for those residents to influence the future of the district. And with their ability to connect with Mission residents from all walks of life, perhaps the youth surveyors, working in the heart of the Mission, are truly at the heart of it all.

A Happy Farm Makes Happy Produce: Farm Profile Featuring Happy Boy Farms

Posted on by Kaiya Gordon in Blog, Happy Boy Farms, Vendor of the Week | Leave a comment

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Happy Boy Farms returned to Mission Community Market two weeks ago, bringing their bags of lettuce, buckets of tomatoes, and fresh stance on organic produce with them. The farm is remarkable because of its variety––in the summertime, Happy Boy sells from over 200 acres worth of production. These acres vary in climate and geography; because the farm grows on multiple fields in multiple counties, some of Happy Boy’s fields are hot and dry, while others get coastal breezes even in the summertime. The result is a a varied landscape for produce.

Drivers at Happy Boy's MCM stall.

Staff at Happy Boy’s MCM stall.

Working for the farm means variation, too. Iva, a driver with Happy Boy, tells me that drivers “play with a lot of different skill-sets,” including interacting with customers, handling produce, navigating markets, and driving long distances. Happy Boy’s drivers start their journeys from the farms packing sheds, where Happy Boy houses seedlings. Before the drivers even arrive at a market, they start out by checking in on the farm’s teeny plants. That initial interaction fosters an intimate relationship between the drivers and Happy Boy’s crops, beneficial for shoppers browsing at Happy Boy’s stalls.

At their MCM stall, the mounds of tomatoes crowding their front tables are framed by the bunches of herbs and barrels of greens behind them. The stall hosts zucchinis, summer squashes, and bagged salad. A few customers in line are clutching finger-fulls of carrots, and some other are cradling bags of Happy Boy’s heirloom tomatoes. In addition to the vegetables, basil and fennel leaves are fanned out on Happy Boy’s tables. While most are likely familiar with basil, fennel’s bulbous white bottom and sprawling top is alien to many shoppers. Fennel has a taste similar to licorice and anise, though it is described as sweeter.

“I’m a really big fennel fan,” Iva tells me. “I feel like every year I work farmer’s markets people get more and more excited about fennel.” Iva suggests getting the most out of fennel by using the stems in pesto. Other recipe suggestions include caramelizing fennel in a salad, baking it with fish, or incorporating the seeds into biscuits.

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During the summertime, Happy Boy has San Marzano, Earl Girl, cherry, and heirloom tomatoes. Iva’s favorites are the purple heirlooms, which she suggests slicing and placing on top of a cooked dish, dicing for salsa, or eating them on their own for a snack. Earlygirl tomatoes are often prepared with mozzarella and basil, and San Marzanos make excellent sauces.

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After customers have come and picked through Happy Boy’s stalls, the farm donates all of its leftover produce. “Personally, one of my favorite things is knowing that everything we have is going to be eaten and enjoyed,” Iva says.

“Personally, one of my favorite things is knowing that everything we have is going to be eaten and enjoyed.”

At MCM, Iva notes, Happy Boy’s customers are variable. And though everyone living in The Mission District is aware of the changes the area has been going through, Iva says that she believes the market has stayed true to the heart and culture of the Mission. “I love the mission,” she says, “and the market is something that feels like it could really build a community. I like the size of it; it feels like people are wandering through.”

“I love the mission, and the market is something that feels like it could really build a community.”

“I love being outside, I love interacting with people––I love people who come from outside California who are surprised by whats possible,” Iva says. “One of the best things is when people are excited when new things come in.”

Mercado Kitchen: Fig-Ginger Chutney

Posted on by Kaiya Gordon in Arata Farm, Blog, Recipes | Leave a comment

I usually say I don’t like nice things––too much pressure, too fancy, makes me feel like a jerk, etc.

But when the nice thing is something that you make for yourself and costs about six dollars, it’s worth it, right?

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As my first spoonful of this chutney made its way towards my mouth, I felt a little bit nervous. I wasn’t sure about how much ginger I had added, I hadn’t made chutney before, and I felt a lot of pressure for this to be really good––when would I have three 1/2 more figs again to use at my leisure? But the first taste was surprising––electric. This chutney is better than good: I want it spread on every slice of bread I have in my house, on the side of every vegetable I eat this week, and over vanilla ice cream for desert.

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This chutney only uses six main ingredients, most of which you will likely already have in your pantry. And it is surprisingly easy to make; I finished the process during the–heartbreaking–United States vs. Portugal soccer game last Sunday. Oh––did I mention that this would make a great dip for a World Cup viewing party? Put it on wheat crackers, toasted slices of baguette with basil, or strips of corn tortilla.

Chutney differs from jam (even savory jam!) because it is made with larger chunks of fruit and is simmered for a shorter length of time, leading to less water evaporating and fruit congealing. To determine whether your chutney is done simmering, draw a line through it with a wooden spoon. If the chutney fills the line back in immediately, it isn’t done. If the line holds, and you can see the bottom of the pot, your chutney is ready to eat.

This Thursday, Arata Farms will be bringing their last batch of Black Mission Figs! Get a basket before they go, and then try this chutney out. Let me know how it goes by tweeting @missionmercado, or leaving a comment below.

I already can’t wait for Arata’s White Kadota Fig season––I’m picturing a sweet chutney with white wine and raisins.

fig chutney

Fig-Ginger Chutney

Recipe adapted from Not Enough CinnamonThe full recipe appears after the jump.

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Not blacksmiths but Tea Smiths

Posted on by Kaiya Gordon in Blog, The Tea Smiths, Vendor of the Week | Leave a comment

The Tea Smiths are Chad Smith and Grace Landsdale––though the two are engaged, and Grace plans to be a Smith soon, too. In one way, she already is. “We’re tea smiths, instead of blacksmiths,” laughs Smith.

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“We focus on herbal medicinal teas,” he continues. “We like teas with a purpose.” The Smith’s collection is expansive, and the couple offer a wide variety of green, black, and yerba mate teas, along with their herbal blends. Their most popular tea, however, is one of those “teas with a purpose:” a tea to aid sleep called “sleep blend.” Landsdale points me to another health tea, her favorite, healthy tummy. It’s made to coat the lining of the stomach and consists of peppermint, calendula flowers, marshmallow root, and chamomile flowers.

Healthy Tummy tea, with marshmallow root and peppermint.

Healthy Tummy tea, with marshmallow root and peppermint.

Along with their stock blends, The Tea Smiths offer custom tea blends. Customers can order online, or they can discuss their desired blend with The Smiths at Mission Community Market and pick it up the next week. And if you’ve got kids––don’t worry. The Smiths are in the process of brewing up a child’s line of teas. They’ll be a little bit sweeter and can help out sleeping problems and tummy issues too.

All of The Smith’s ingredients are ordered from certified organic distributers, and The Smiths are in the process of getting certified organic themselves. “A lot of people seem to dismiss the importance of organic teas,” says Smith. But for The Smiths, it’s all about the quality and safety of ingredients. In addition to their own tests, they work with master herbalists to create teas that are effective and safe. Some of their ingredients I had never heard of before, like marshmallow roots–used as a throat coat–and kava kava roots. Kava kava has an earthy taste, and is used as a muscle relaxer. In recent years, it’s gotten a bad reputation for liver problems associated with using the entirety of the root, but Smith assures me that if you use water to extract the root, like The Smiths do, it’s safe.

Smith has been making tea for about a year. He calls it “total tea immersion.” In addition to his daytime tea brews, however, Smith works with other brews at night––beer. A bartender in San Francisco, Smith says that he “destroys livers at night and repairs them in the morning.” But tea brewing and bartending actually have more in common than livers; as a bartender, Smith works to create new drinks. Now, at The Tea Smiths, he matches herbs and flavors to create the best teas. “It’s an ongoing process,” Smith says. “There are trials on a daily basis.”

“It’s an ongoing process. There are trials on a daily basis.”

The Tea Smiths have a large stock of green, black, yerba mate, and herbal teas. All ingredients are organic.

The Tea Smiths have a large stock of green, black, yerba mate, and herbal teas. All ingredients are organic.

Perhaps one reason why The Smith’s teas are doing so well is that process. The couple is in the middle of a wide rebrand, and before setting any new tea on the table, the two undergo tastings and testings to be sure that every recipe is perfect. One way that The Tea Smiths address customer satisfaction is by speaking to the customers about what they do and don’t like. “If we hear a complaint 3 or 4 times, we start to think that maybe we should change something,” Smith says. On the contrary, if they “get a lot of requests for one herb,” they’ll add it to the list. Often, The Smiths say that they’re swamped with requests for one sort of tea––the craze of the day, so to speak.

“We’ve always wanted to focus our teas within San Francisco.”

For The Tea Smiths, working at Mission Community Market is a realized dream. “We fell in love with the city and wanted to move to San Francisco,” Smith says. “We’ve always wanted to focus our teas within San Francisco.”