Visitors and shoppers at San Francisco's Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market now have another great source for figuring out what's for dinner tonight: The new, improved CUESA website. CUESA is the organization that runs the year-round, thrice-weekly market located on the San Francisco Bay. They've recently revamped their website and have added a number of new features that are a real help to the home cook — whether they shop at this particular market or not.
Going to the Farmers' Market has an adventuresome quality to it. You never know what new item or returning favorite you'll stumble on as you wander through. This treasure-trove aspect is one of my favorite things about going to the farmers' market.
At the same time, the market is a practical place where time, budget and next week's menu are all in need of consideration. Here's where the CUESA website has done a brilliant job: their recipes, farmer profiles, and availability charts are all linked. So if you are interested cooking nettle soup, for instance, you have not only the recipe (from their popular and extensive recipe section) but also link to the 'nettles' page where you can check its seasonality and a listing of the farms that bring them to the market. These linked pages are really helpful for advanced planning as well as figuring out what to do with that bunch of dandelion greens you've just brought home.
Another fun feature of the new site are the farmer's pages where you can click through to a profile which includes a google earth map allowing you to click down to see the farm. The profile pages also provide extensive information about farming practices, certifications, the farmers and even an occasional slideshow.
If all this is too much, the main page has a weekly shopping list feature which lists ten of the seasonal offerings currently available at the market. It might be fun to see if you can use the list as a source of inspiration for your meal planning.
CUESA is fortunate to have a staff person who spends about half her time updating the website and creating the market's weekly newsletter. While not all farmers' markets have this kind of staffing, a quick look around the web shows that many farmers' markets do have decent websites, full of recipes, profiles and other helpful information.
Does your farmers' market have a good website? Do you use it?
• Visit the CUESA website.
Related: The Farmers' Market: Helpful Hints and Etiquette Tips
(Image: CUESA website)