Passion Fruit
By Melissa Petitto   |   June 11, 2024

I remember when I first moved to Santa Barbara and I saw the exquisite flower of the passion fruit vine, I was mesmerized. This tropical vine that thrives in our Central Coast climate can be found on a leisurely walk through your neighborhood, and at the delightful Frecker Farms stand in the farmers market. The thick-skinned, […]

Nasturtium Flowers
By Melissa Petitto   |   June 4, 2024

Nasturtium, the beautiful red, yellow, and orange flower that we get to witness bloom wild every April and May here on the Central Coast, is an herbaceous plant that has been used in traditional medicinal practices since the early 1500s. Ojai Microgreens has some featured at the farmers market right now and they make a […]

Fava Beans
By Melissa Petitto   |   May 21, 2024

Fava beans are one of my favorite things to find in the farmers market and Ebby’s Organics has some absolutely gorgeous ones right now! They are a little time consuming but are truly worth the effort. Fava beans, also known as broad beans, are a legume. They are a rich source of plant protein, folate, […]

Turmeric Root
By Melissa Petitto   |   May 14, 2024

Turmeric root has a short season and Her Produce has some beautiful turmeric showcased at the farmers market right now! Run don’t walk to get some of the most effective nutritional supplement in existence. The main component or active ingredient in turmeric that has medicinal benefits is curcumin, and it has had its time in […]

Dried Dates
By Melissa Petitto   |   April 16, 2024

This week I am showcasing the insanely delicious dried dates at Flying Disc Farms. These things taste like candy and yet they have so many health benefits! This fruit from the date palm tree is awesome both fresh and dried. These sweet fruits are high in fiber, providing 7 grams in a 3.5 ounce serving. […]

By Melissa Petitto   |   March 26, 2024

To me there are a few vegetables that I will wait all year for, and some of them happen to be arriving in the market right now! Walking through the market this week I spotted artichokes at Mendoza Family Farms. Artichokes are by far my favorite and have been since I was a little girl. […]

Radicchio Rosso di Treviso / Tardivo
By Melissa Petitto   |   March 19, 2024

Radicchio Rosso di Treviso – or Tardivo – is an Italian heirloom belonging to the Asteraceae family. The name translates to ‘late’ or ‘tardy’ and is a type of Treviso grown as a late harvest crop. This vegetable has tightly clustered bunches of long and slender leaves and is part of the radicchio family. Treviso […]

Blood Oranges
By Melissa Petitto   |   March 5, 2024

Blood orange season! This breathtaking citrus fruit – first cultivated in Italy – has circled the world, and today comes in three main varietals: the Moro, the Sanguinelli, and the Tarocco. Rancho Vista Del Mundo at the farmers market has some gorgeous and super tasty ones right now. The natural color mutation comes from the […]

Kabocha Squash
By Melissa Petitto   |   February 20, 2024

The kabocha squash is one of my favorite squashes, creamy, nutty, and sweet – this squash has an edible thick green skin, a low glycemic index, is super low calorie, and contains a plethora of vitamins and minerals. I found some gorgeous ones at the market this week at Jimenez Family Farms.  The kabocha squash […]

By Melissa Petitto   |   February 6, 2024

Garlic, part of the Allium family and closely related to the onion, chive, leek, shallot, and scallion, has been used in daily cooking in all parts of the world throughout history. It has not only been used as a flavor enhancer, but also to prevent and treat a variety of diseases and conditions. I know […]

By Melissa Petitto   |   January 23, 2024

Is there a more exquisite vegetable than the Romanesco? Its geometric patterns are whimsical and, dare I say, too pretty to eat? Milliken Family Farms has this cauliflower-broccoli hybrid, and it is not only beautiful, but it is tasty and full of vitamins and nutrients. This Roman cauliflower hails from Northern Italy and has a […]

By Melissa Petitto   |   January 9, 2024

The apple is a food synonymous with health: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!” There are so many varietals now that I have truly lost count, but what I do know is that the apple in all its many forms and varieties is delicious. Crisp, tart, sweet, sour, juicy, red, green, yellow, pink, […]

Brussels Sprouts
By Melissa Petitto   |   January 2, 2024

The Brussels sprout, such a unique vegetable that many have a love/hate relationship with, even appearing on the ‘most hated vegetable list’ year after year. Brussels sprouts are a bitter vegetable in the cruciferous family. Named after Brussels, Belgium, where they were first thought to be cultivated in the 16th century. The very thing that […]

Sweet Potatoes
By Melissa Petitto   |   December 19, 2023

The sweet potato is one of my favorite fall finds. I adore all varieties, but right now in the farmers market, there is a particularly sweet one called ‘Bonita Sweet’ and Chavez Family Farms has them! This varietal of the Japanese sweet potato is so sweet – like its name suggests – and oh so […]

By Melissa Petitto   |   November 28, 2023

This nutty little tuber may be small, but she makes up for it in personality and flavor! I found some gorgeous sunchokes this week at Mt. Olive Farm. The sunchoke or Jerusalem artichoke is nothing like the globe artichoke and is in fact a member of the sunflower family. The root is the edible part […]

By Melissa Petitto   |   November 21, 2023

The holidays are upon us and I for one am all for the sides, give me all the sides! I tend to make plant-based sides that everyone can enjoy and just not tell people that they are in fact eating vegan. It helps to serve incredibly delicious sides that surpass all your guests’ wildest dreams. […]

Wild Mushrooms
By Melissa Petitto   |   November 7, 2023

The mushroom is getting its due time in the spotlight right now and with just cause. This miraculous fungi, which is more of a fruit than a vegetable, is one of the coolest things we consume from nature. Not only is the mushroom incredibly nutritious, but it also plays a vital role in plant health […]

Honeynut Squash
By Melissa Petitto   |   October 24, 2023

Meet the honeynut squash – the newer, cuter, more nutrient and vitamin packed cousin of the butternut squash. This squash was a creation of Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Michael Mazourek, a plant breeder at Cornell University. This honey-colored squash is easier to manage than the larger butternut, has more […]

By Melissa Petitto   |   October 10, 2023

The beet, such a unique vegetable in both flavor and its vibrant colors. I’ve noticed over the many years that I have been a chef, that you either love or hate beets, and there is not much in between. For the lovers, this week is for you. I originally created this recipe for Rosh Hashanah […]

By Melissa Petitto   |   September 26, 2023

“Wow!” is all I could say when walking through the farmers market this weekend. Summer is definitely my favorite season of produce and with all of the rain we had last season, the bounty at the market is just breathtaking. Eggplant is on my mind this week… although it was a hard decision to make! […]

Summer Squash
By Melissa Petitto   |   August 22, 2023

Zucchini, Crookneck, Pattypan, Chayote, Costata Romanesco, melons, and cucumbers… there are so many varietals of the summer squash and when they arrive, they arrive with gusto! I often find I must be so creative to use them all up. The squash family, often mistaken for a vegetable, is classified as a fruit because they have […]

By Melissa Petitto   |   August 1, 2023

I will wait all year for the perfect tomato, the not-flawless, stunning, smells-like-summer-and-tastes-like-heaven tomato. Sure you can find them year round in the grocery store, but the ones that look perfectly red and round and taste like water – why waste your time? Tomatoes, in all their summer glory, are in the farmers market as […]

By Melissa Petitto   |   July 18, 2023

The apricot tree in my neighbor’s yard is just busting with these beautiful blushing gems and I could not be more excited! My daughter and I went and harvested a bunch the other day and are so excited to take them back into the kitchen. I love using them in both sweet and savory ways […]

The Cucumber
By Melissa Petitto   |   July 4, 2023

Santa Barbara, it’s sunny and finally summer and all I want are cooling foods. The Farmers Market is bursting with produce, but what jumped out this week is the cucumber. Its many varietals with English, Kirby, and Persian being the ones easiest to find. They each have their specific usage but can easily be substituted […]

By Melissa Petitto   |   June 20, 2023

The Farmers Market colors are saving me during this rainy, overcast, gray June. Walking through and looking at all the bountiful produce, envisioning what I will make once I take them back to my kitchen, is saving me from a major case of June Gloom. This week my daughter and I were drawn to the […]

By Melissa Petitto   |   June 6, 2023

Broccolini – a gorgeous green hybrid blend of traditional Asian vegetable gai lan and broccoli – was created in Japan in 1993. What once was hard to come by is now a staple in the United States, and loved for its tender and sweet flavor. The long succulent stems of broccolini, along with its sweet […]

By Melissa Petitto   |   May 23, 2023

So many incredible things to taste, smell, and explore at the Farmers Market this week. I honestly had a hard time deciding what to write about, but I chose herbs because we often overlook the medicinal properties of these intriguing flavorful add-ons that tend to take a back seat to the main ingredients in recipes. […]

The Princess and the English Pea
By Melissa Petitto   |   May 9, 2023

The English pea is popping up at the farmers market and I made the most divine soup out of them… I even tricked some clients by making it vegan and they were amazed! The English or garden pea is a shell pea, meaning the pod is too fibrous to eat. These gorgeous pods are not […]

Spring Asparagus
By Melissa Petitto   |   April 25, 2023

Warm weather is trickling in slowly, Santa Barbara – and I am here for it! Spring in the farmers’ market is such a glorious time, crowded as it is with all the vegetables that begin popping up after our rainy months… artichokes, snap peas, fava beans, arugula, and asparagus… just to name a few. This […]

Strawberry Fields
By Melissa Petitto   |   April 11, 2023

The Central Coast has some of the most amazing strawberries I have ever tasted. They are beginning to make an appearance again and I for one am so thrilled. At one of my favorite Farmers Market vendors, I asked about the crop this year and was told that many of the fields were flooded with […]

Eat the Rainbow
By Melissa Petitto   |   March 28, 2023

Well, it’s raining again, and all I keep thinking about is spring and all the veggies that this amazing rain will bring. I am quite ready for spring salads and color and fresh, vibrant kitchen creations. So, that’s what I am going to do this week! The soggy Farmers Market and I are on the […]

Inconspicuous Beauty
By Melissa Petitto   |   March 14, 2023

What a couple of weeks it has been in our beautiful town – rain, snow, and high winds! With the weather, I am still in the winter mode of craving warming and comforting foods and was drawn to the inconspicuous beauty of the celery root, bulbous on the bottom with bright greens on top. The […]

Winter Whites
By Melissa Petitto   |   February 28, 2023

Well, readers, it’s still cold outside and a nourishing soup is on my mind. This week, I was pondering the white vegetables in the farmers market and their often overlooked brilliance. These vegetables, which are lacking in pigment, have a phytonutrient, or plant chemical, known as anthoxanthin.  Vegetables such as garlic, onion, fennel, potato, turnip, […]

An Ode to the Carrot
By Melissa Petitto   |   February 14, 2023

Walking through the Santa Barbara farmers market this week, I keep coming back to the carrot. This often-overlooked vegetable is one that when at its peak, is so utterly sweet and delicious that it can be eaten without adornment.  I love the colors of the heirloom carrots – bright purple with an orange center, radiant […]

Foraging Thyme: The Dance from Ballerina to Chef
By Melissa Petitto   |   January 31, 2023

Little did I know that my life would take the turn from young ballerina to celebrity personal chef in NYC or later that I would end up as Executive Chef and partner in a meal delivery start up in Santa Barbara. And now, I get to write to you, the readers of the Montecito Journal, […]