It’s 85 degrees and not even noon, welcome to the Sacramento Valley summer. After two decades of living in this region, as a coastal native, our summer heat still jolts me. The remedy? Lean into it and take advantage of what these hot days yield: sweet stone fruit, tasty tomatoes, and beautiful blooms. I encountered all three at the Davis Farmer’s Market on a recent Saturday. My only tip: get there early to beat the heat.
An icon of the valley, this is the tomato’s time to shine. Shine they do. From cherry tomatoes to Romas to heirlooms with fantastic names like Shady Lady, Cherokee Purple, and Early Girl, these red and yellow numbers are as sweet as candy.
“They have a very good flavor,” explained Micaela Toledo, who along with husband Federico of Toledo Farms grows a variety of tomatoes.
Grower’s Guide: Get to any farmer’s market by morning for the best selections. Those heirlooms are very popular and go quickly. Once you get home, forget the fridge. Store them on the counter at room temperature; the cool refrigerator depletes a tomato’s flavor.
Peaches, plums, apricots, and nectarines are hitting their stride about now. Sacramento Valley’s rich soil, coupled with a perfect microclimate for stone fruit means there’s a bounty of fresh, local fruit come high summer.
Grower’s Guide: Smell them. Sweet and flowery scents mean they are ripe and ready to eat. Bought too many? Remove the pit, cut, and freeze for later. Stone fruit season comes and goes quickly; throwing some frozen peaches, plums, or nectarines into a smoothie will remind you of those sweet summer days.
Sunflowers and Gladiolus
Sunflowers and summer go hand in hand. “Most sunflower varieties need long days,” explained Lauren McNees of Rainwater Ranch, who grows both ornamental sunflowers and gladiolus in the town of Winters. Both flowers like the heat and are colorful market mainstays until early fall.
Growers Guide: You can eat flowers too! According to McNees who grows and sells an edible bouquet, things like marigold petals, echinacea pedals, snapdragon, dill seed, basil, and sage are not only beautiful but delicious too.