''They were picked this morning," said Renee Kiff, of Ridgeview Farm, of her delicate little lettuces, still damp with dew, and her diminutive French breakfast radishes.
"And the strawberries are really sweet," she added.
Near Ridgeview Farm's stall was a fisherman, Mike Barats, of Fresh Off The Boat.
"This salmon came out of the water yesterday," he said, as he lifted the lid of a large cooler to reveal the silvery wild Pacific King salmon he caught out of Bodega Bay to sell both whole and pan-ready.
On a Wednesday morning there was a leisurely feel to the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market. Midweek markets are great for re-stocking and for discovering treasures like Barats, who attends only the Wednesday market because the Saturday market already had a fish vendor when he applied.
At Beet Generation's booth, farmer Libby Batzel talked with a couple picking up their weekly CSA bag of produce.
"The young kale leaves are so tender," Batzel said, adding that she makes a salad with them almost every day.
"Add some apples, a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil," she encouraged as the couple moved along, visibly excited about getting home and cooking.
Batzel's Romanesco zucchini were already mature, their ridges firm. Unlike smooth-skinned zucchini, this variety holds up during cooking, retaining both its flavor and texture without going mushy.
Her face beamed as she talked about the plump squash and nibbled on a crisp cucumber.
Whether cooking is a passion or a chore, shopping at a farmers market makes it both easier and better on every level.
Produce is fresh and local, by definition in season and you can talk with the farmers who tend the crops and raise the hens, chickens, game birds, ducks, rabbits, lambs, goats and steers that make up a locally based diet.
If you want to know, say, how the olive oil you are about to buy was pressed or where exactly that cheese was made, just ask.
On a Sunday morning in Sebastopol, there was a line at Earthworker Farm's booth long before the official opening time of 10 a.m. George Macros' lovingly tended microgreens and unique salad mixes have been discovered, but his popularity has not eclipsed the precision with which he works.
For each customer, he used tongs to gently move young leaves, sprouts and flower petals from their bins to a bag, answering questions all the while.
"Are these sunflower shoots?" a customers asked.
"Yes and they were grown in the ground," he responded as he turned to another customer to explain that this week's spicy salad mix is not the same as last week's, and handed out tiny new leaves for eager shoppers to taste.
At Dave Legro's booth, presided over by his daughter Ashely, there was no fresh local salmon.
"My dad is working on the boat," she said and suggested smoked salmon. Whatever doesn't sell at the market is smoked for the following week's markets.
Dennis Dunn sat at One World Sausage's stall with an engaging enthusiasm. He assured customers who began to frown with disappoint that his brother, Franco Dunn, would be arriving soon with a fresh supply of just-made sausages, including his popular chorizo.