During a recent trip to the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, I was flabbergasted when I cheerfully walked up to my favorite carrot purveyor, Weiser Family Farms, only to be told that, “Carrots are out of season.” Really? I truly had no idea. I don’t buy carrots every week, but I honestly don’t recall there being a lull in my carrot purchasing habit over the past six years since I moved to town. Perhaps that’s because in the past I had often bought those 5-pound bags of carrots at the grocery store.

As much as I, as a health educator, try to encourage people to eat seasonally, that’s sometimes easier said than done. If you walk into any grocery store, the first thing you see is the produce section. And most people think, “If it’s there and it’s fresh, it must be in season, right?”

Don’t be fooled by appearances. You may find bright shiny red apples aplenty at your favorite grocery store but alas, they are there under false pretenses for their season is July through November, according to the “What’s in season?” section of the Southland Farmers’ Market Association website (www.sfma.net). SFMA is a collaboration of farmers who sell their goods at local markets.

So if you decide to make an apple pie this weekend and plan to get your apples at the market, you might want to turn to plan B or even C, and opt for a fresh cherry pie. According to the Market Report with Laura Avery on KCRW’s “Good Food” show, cherry season is now, and it’s short; May through July and that’s it.

During Laura’s recent interview with Mark Peel, executive chef and owner of Campanille restaurant and The Tar Pit, he described how he takes advantage of cherry season by “preserving” his cherries in a heated mixture of alcohol and sugar. Yes, that will certainly “preserve” those dark red, antioxidant rich beauties. But why not simply eat as much as you can while the season is here and freeze any extras to snack on later. Frozen cherries make a wonderful substitute for black cherry ice cream and can even be thrown into your favorite smoothie, blended with yogurt, tofu or even cottage cheese for a more physique-friendly sweet fix.

Aside from cherries, Avery, who manages Santa Monica’s Farmers’ Markets, also touted the season of corn. It’s sweet white corn we seek for now, the kind that can be simply shucked and cut right from the cob and tossed into a salad or used to make my favorite corn relish which goes great with steamed fish or atop any leafy greens you choose. Of course there is also creamed corn and corn chowder, but again, when it’s fresh and in season, why not eat it as is?

The list of seasonal produce goes on and on and changes practically daily depending on which market and what farmers you frequent. So to really take advantage of the ever changing seasonal produce, I suggest you visit the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market on Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday or check out the Southland Farmers’ Market Association website for markets in your area. www.sfma.net

Elizabeth Brown is a registered dietitian and certified holistic chef and writer for Oxygen magazine. She can be seen at any one of the four Santa Monica Farmers’ Markets. You can recognize her by her bright blue boots. For more information, please visit her website: www.TheKitchenVixen.com

Corn Chowder

1 cup sliced leeks or onion

1 cup sliced carrots

1 small baked potato, cubed

1 cup vegetable broth

2 cups milk or your choice

2 cups whole kernel corn, fresh or frozen

1 roasted red pepper, chopped

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

In medium saucepan, combine leek, carrot and potato with chicken broth. Cover and simmer 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add one cup of corn. Puree then add milk and the other cup of corn. Heat through but do not boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with a sprinkle of chopped parsley and roasted red pepper.

Corn & Pepper Relish

1-2 ears fresh corn, cooked, cooled and cut from husk or 1 cup frozen corn, cooked and cooled (cook corn and place in freezer to cool while you prepare other ingredients)

1/2 each, chopped green and red pepper or pimiento (roasted red pepper)

1/4 red or white onion or 1 shallot, diced

2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar (or any vinegar you have on hand)

2 teaspoons honey

Fresh ground black pepper

Dash sea salt

In a medium size mixing bowl, combine all chopped ingredients plus liquids, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate in the fridge for one to two hours or overnight for best flavor.

Corn & Arugula salad

2 ears corn, cooked, cooled and cut from the cob

4 cups arugula or green of your choice

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or whatever vinegar you have

4 sprigs thyme, remove leaves and set aside

Dash sea salt and pepper to taste

Toss all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Adjust flavors as needed.

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