Marin’s Best Summer Greens


It may not be a taste profile like a wine’s terroir, but Marin’s coastal fog is highly conducive for growing outstanding leafy greens and brassicas. A great example is the salad greens grown on the 50-acre Bolinas farm that makes up Paradise Valley Produce. This year, the farm has expanded varieties to make room for the hottest salad trends such as Salanova, a new breed of leafy green lettuce that grows like head lettuce but one cut turns it into a consistently shaped leaf for a salad mix.

“Soil in Bolinas is really different from anywhere on the Pacific Plate because of the marine deposits, and that has a lot to do with the quality of the produce that comes out of here including the nearby farms of Peter (Martinelli, Fresh Run Farms) and Warren (Weber, Star Route Farms),” comments Dennis Dierks of Paradise Valley Produce.  “Our focus is on feeding the soil. Many conventional growers focus on feeding water and nitrogen but not nutrients. The diversity of the microbial community improves flavor and nutrients of the leafy greens we sell. Dirt is life.”

Dierks has been pioneering best practices in organic growing techniques since 1972. He produces all soil mixes, composts, compost teas, plant extracts, and fish and kelp extract on the farm or within five miles of their land, which also has a tributary with wild Coho Salmon running through it.  For example, Dierks collects kelp off of the beach and from his son, who is a fisherman, to create his own microbial extract of kelp and fish and also collects live microbes out of the local environment for propagating on the farm. The benefit in the field of a microbial diverse soil is increased nutrients and natural defense against pathogens.

Paradise Valley Produce baby spinach is an ever-popular summer salad choice since the tender baby leaves have less oxalic acid so it is less bitter than the more mature leaf. Great salad additions from the farm include Walla Walla sweet onions, the fresh and mild red Torpedo Onions, Tuscany’s favorite Dinosaur Kale and the tender leaves of Red Russian Kale.

PC: Jeffrey Westman, marin organic

Dennis Dierks

Dierks’ Tip:  Don’t through out the greens on the top of fresh onions because they have 10x more phytonutrients than an onion bulb itself and they make delicious additions to salads and potato salads, or can be used garnish when sautéed or barbecued.

There are many great Marin County farmers growing excellent greens and some additional examples include Fresh Run Farms, Star Route Farms, Green Gulch Farm and County Line Harvest. Some markets that sell their greens include Mill Valley Market, Driver’s Market, Good Earth, and Palace Market. Paradise Valley Produce can be found at many local markets and Marin farmer’s market on Sunday, grocers like Good Earth and Veritable Vegetable, and restaurants like Manka’s, NOPA, Stellina, Sir and Star, Sweetwater, Beerworks, and M.H. Bread and Butter.

Always shop for local and organic lettuce to avoid pesticides. Head salad is generally less expensive to buy than mixes so this variety offers the best of everything. Look for dense heads that aren’t browning at the core. Once home, soak the head in a sink of cold water with ice cubes for 10 minutes to rehydrate, then spin off extra moisture before storing in a zip lock bags and seal it. The off gasses will escape but the bag protects the leaves against oxidizing. The goal is to hydrate but get rid of too much moisture. Store in crisper drawer in fridge on a medium setting – about 36 degrees.

Dennis Dierks favorite way to prepare a basic salad dressing:  Measure out good quality olive oil and either apple cider vinegar or wine vinegar with a ratio of 2/3 oil to 1/3 vinegar, add a dash of Braggs Liquid Amino, salt, garlic, and 1 tbs. mustard. He suggests searching out olive oils at the Sunday Farmer’s Market to find an interesting variety and some flavors like citrus infused.

What are your favorite dressings recipes?

Feature image: PC Jeffrey Westman, Marin Organic