Today, we are delighted to welcome Romney Steele into the Berkeleyside fold. Romney will be writing a regular report for us all on what’s fresh, in season, and available at our local farmers’ markets and grocers — she will also throw in some suggestions on what we might want to do with it.

Early March teases with the heralds of spring — artichokes, mâche, and rhubarb, some of my favorites — and yet remains a notoriously in-between month, keeping us chomping at the bit for the vibrant colors and tastes of what’s to come.

Just last week, lovely Murcott tangerines and other late blooming citrus were at the forefront of the stalls, keeping me ensconced in a winter mood with marmalade making on my to-do list (June Taylor is offering classes through April).

This week, along with piles of gorgeous greens, and the mise en place of any good cook — onions, potatoes, leeks, carrots and celery — California artichokes were the produce du jour, arriving just in time for their place in the holiday line-up. Think green for St. Patty’s day, accompanying lamb at Easter, or as part of an equinox feast.

What to look for: When buying artichokes, look for dark green, heavy globes that have tight (not open) leaves — the bigger the globe, the larger the interior heart. Excellent for steaming or blanching, served with a dipping sauce, or deep-fried whole “alla giudia,” as celebrated by the Romans.

Baby artichokes take minimal preparation; after peeling the outermost leaves, you can eat the whole thing. Try shaved raw as a salad, sautéed, or braised in olive oil.

Romney Steele is a freelance writer, cook, and artist and the author of My Nepenthe. She grew up at her family’s home in beautiful Big Sur, which also doubled as a restaurant and community gathering place. Her favorite foods include good toast and orange marmalade, and anything from the farmers market or plucked off a tree. She lives in the East Bay with two children and a curious cat. Watch this video, produced by John Ray at Kepler’s bookstore, as an introduction to Romney.

Berkeley Farmers Markets take place on Tuesdays, 2-6pm, at Derby Street @ MLK Jr. Way; Thursdays, 2-6pm, at Shattuck @ Rose Street; and on Saturdays, 10am-3pm, at Center Street @ MLK Jr. Way.

Photo: Romney Steele.

Guest contributor

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