When you can't get to a farmers market, there are several local farm stands that provide excellent alternatives to supermarkets. Tierra Vegetables is one of the best for anyone who lives in northern Santa Rosa, Windsor or Healdsburg and for anyone who passes along the Highway 101 corridor.
Produce sold at the farm stand is grown on site, within just a few few feet or few yards of the stand itself. Prepared foods are made in a nearby kitchen in southern Windsor, shared by such other producers as Dominique's Sweets and Not Yer Momma's Granola.
Currently, the stand has both produce you would expect at this time of year and a few surprises. You'll find several types of winter squash, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, Romanesco broccoli, escarole, cabbage, celery, celery root, sunchokes, carrots, beets, leeks, radicchio, endive, yellow onions, chard, cilantro with its roots and garlic. There are three varieties of potatoes and several varieties of kale.
Tierra Vegetables is also one of the only local sources for puntarella, a type of chicory native to the Catalan region of Spain and perhaps most widely used in Italy. (For ways to prepare puntarella, visit Eat This Now at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.)
The farm also has nearly 30 varieties of heirloom dried beans, including the familiar Black Turtle, Flageolet and Cranberry, and many unfamiliar varieties, such as Sicilian Badda, Hutterite, Jacob's Cattle, Petaluma Gold Rush and Sangre de Toro.
Tierra Vegetables also has a range of estate-grown corn products, including several varieties of dried cornmeal, Bloody Butcher, Oaxacan Green, Northstine Dent and Hopi Blue, which all sell for $7 a pound. Soon, Hickory King will be added to the selections. These cornmeals can be used as polenta and for cornbread, pancakes and such. Fresh hominy -- also known as posole -- is $7 a pound, too.
There are two varieties of popcorn, Ruby Red and Sherman Blue, both $6 a pound, along with dried and smoked onions; vinegar-based hot sauces; kits for making mole, enchilada sauces and salsa and a selection of dried and smoked chiles, including their famous chipolte powder, the first of its kind on the market.
The farm makes a selection of sweet and spicy jams that sell for $10 per eight-ounce jar. Currently, you'll find a very hot version, made with a chile similar to haba?ros; a farm blend of both red and green chiles; a smoky hot blend made with chipotles; a verde, with green jalape?s, and a rojo, made with red jalape?s.
Fairly new are two seasoned salts, one made with smoked onions and a blend called Taste of Tierra Salt.
Tierra Vegetables also operates a CSA -- community supported agriculture -- program year round. The farm's winter season began Jan. 5 and continues through May, with options for weekly boxes, bi-weekly boxes, farm pick-up and drop-off destinations. Even though the season has already started, you can join at any time. To learn more, visit tierravegetablse.com/csa.