Cherries, squash and grapes. Melons, green beans and cheeses. Nectarines, tomatoes and almonds. Strawberries, corn and olive oils. Cucumbers, plums and bell peppers. Carrots, peaches and onions.
We're lucky to be living in one of the richest agriculture regions in the world. And now is the perfect time to enjoy nature's bounty of farm-fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts sold at farmers markets, roadside stands and grocery stores.
Those who frequent farmers markets know they offer more than fresh-picked flavor — they offer a sense of community.
At stands with more unusual products — like favas or fresh garbanzos — people will ask the farmer or other shoppers how to prepare the goods. That's part of the fun of the market, though, in theory, it could happen in the produce aisle at Save Mart or Raley's, too.
You'll also see friends on a weekly basis, adding to the community feel of the market.
You might even borrow a few dollars, or loan friends your cell phone so they can call home to see if they need eggs or have a recipe featuring chard or chiogga beets. Growers become friends, too.
The West Modesto Certified Farmers Market kicks off its season this week and will run Thursdays from 3 to 7 p.m. at Mellis Park adjacent to the King Kennedy Memorial Center on South Martin Luther King Drive.
Like most outdoor markets, it will offer fresh fruits and vegetables, along with a variety of other products and merchandise, from breads and baked goods to flowers to arts and crafts. Thursday's event also will feature children's activities, live music and a barbecue.
Most of the area's other certified farmers markets are up and running. They include:
MODESTO: 7 a.m. to noon Thursdays and Saturdays, 16th and H streets.
MODESTO: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays, on McHenry Avenue between Floyd and Bowen avenues, parking lot in front of Rite Aid.
CERES: Noon to 7 p.m Wednesdays, Whitmore Park, corner of North and Third streets.
OAKDALE: 5 to 8 p.m. Thursdays, Third Avenue between E and F streets.
RIVERBANK: 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, Santa Fe and Third streets.
LOS BANOS: 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturdays, Henry Miller Plaza, Sixth and H streets.
MERCED: 7 a.m. to noon Saturdays, 19th and N streets; and Wednesdays, Promenade Shopping Center, Yosemite and Paulson.
SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY
MANTECA: 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Library Park, Center Street and Manteca Avenue.
SONORA: 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturdays, Theall and Stewart streets.
TWAIN HARTE: 4 to 6 p.m. Fridays, Eproson Park.
TUOLUMNE CITY: 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, Tuolumne City Memorial Park, Fir and Main streets.
In addition to those certified farmers markets, there are a number of other farmers markets throughout our region. In Modesto, for example, the Modesto Medical Center Farmers Market runs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays at the new Kaiser Permanente complex on Dale Road.