You know spring is officially here when buckets full of lilacs appear at Esther Rigoni’s booth at Cambria Farmers Market. And it’s the savvy lilac lover who arrives early for first pick of the fragrant blooms. Experience has shown that Esther’s lilacs are sure to sell out.
Lilacs, as Esther explained, have a very short blooming period — about two weeks for each variety — or a total of only four to five weeks for the ones she sells. She grows a coastal variety and a few old-fashioned ones at her farm, Esther’s Garden, in Arroyo Grande.
“The coastal lilacs are not quite as fragrant, but they do real well here,” she said, adding that her lilac bushes are going on 20 years old.
Right now, Esther also has a bright assortment of ranunculus, stalks of golden-yellow iris and some deep purple long-stemmed dianthus. Her edible offerings include artichokes, broccoli, mild sweet green garlic, butternut squash and white rhubarb, a variety that grows well on the coast.
Visiting with Esther is one of the best things about shopping at farmers market. There’s always the opportunity to meet with farmers and find out more about the crops they grow.
And, while Esther’s lilacs make a brief appearance each year, Esther and a handful of other vendors have been around since the market opened more than three decades ago.
Linda de la Cruz has been selling all manner of vegetables at the Cambria market since 1988.
“I don’t like to ever miss this one,” she said. “I love it. Cambria is the best.”
Planting at her family farm in Morro Bay was a little late this spring because of the wet weather, she said. So, some crops are arriving a little later than usual.
“Right now, we are planting green beans,” she said, “and they will be coming in May.”
Other crops will typically take their time, as well, she said.
“Near the coast, things just don’t get ripe fast.”
Right now, Linda has beets, carrots and other veggies. Later in spring, she will have plenty of peppers, tomatoes, squash, lettuce and more.
“I get a lot of shoppers,” she said. “People really like my stuff.”
Santa Rosa Creek farmer Michael Limacher is another staple of the Cambria market. On a recent Friday, he was exchanging quips with regular customers and extolling the virtues of some dark green arugula and a basket of lolla rossa lettuce, an Italian heirloom variety with dark red leaves. At the same time, he was trying to interest a shopper in cartons of gleaming red-brown eggs.
“Aren’t these beautiful?” he asked.
Michael said he is looking forward to warmer weather and an improved tomato crop this year.
“We had no tomatoes last year, none at all,” he said. “But now we’re coming back stronger and better than before.”
Susan McDonald’s column appears quarterly and is special to The Cambrian.
Spring special events at Cambria Farmers Market:
▪ April 14: Easter egg hunt and Easter basket giveaway
▪ April 28: Arbor Day celebration with Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve and Greenspace — The Cambria Land Trust
▪ May 12: Mother’s Day Celebration
▪ May 26: Memorial Day Weekend Beach Party
Cambria Farmers Market, sponsored by the Cambria Lions Club, is held every Friday afternoon in the Cambria Veterans Memorial Building parking lot, 1000 Main St. Current winter hours are 2:30 to 5 p.m. Summer hours begin in May, with the market staying open until 5:30 p.m.