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Patti Bess: Pyramid Farm long time participant at local farmers’ market

Patti Bess

If you’ve been going to the Grass Valley Farmers Market for a number of years, you probably recognize Matt Martin from Pyramid Farm. He has one of the longest records at the market and has been selling produce there since 1997. Matt has gone through multiple moves with the market from the fairgrounds to the North Star House to their current location in the Kmart parking lot.

Matt grew up in Chico. His parents were avid do-it-yourselfers, and he credits them for instilling values of self-reliance. Matt’s first career was as a mechanic which was a skill that came in very handy on the farm.

For nine years Matt farmed as a hobby. Twenty three years ago he made the leap to full time farming and in 1998 was able to buy a farm. “When I started out, I did it all — growing, harvesting and selling at the markets. I had no clue how hard it would be to make enough money. I think I was the first vendor to increase the price of tomatoes from 25 cents to 50 cents.”

Today Pyramid Farm has three full time employees and one part time. “And they all make a living wage,” he added with pride. Matt’s wife, Lisa, also grows flowers which she sells at the farm.

“In the future organic farming is going to be even more important for the survival of our planet.”— Matt MartinPyramid Farm

“In the future organic farming is going to be even more important for the survival of our planet. It improves the soil instead of breaking it down, uses less water, releases fewer toxins into the air and protects our wildlife. In short, organic farming makes a much smaller environmental footprint than corporate farming.”

Pyramid Farms specializes in red peppers, garlic, tomatoes and the sweetest carrots in the north state. They sell at the Chico Farmers Market every weekend. Briar Patch Co-op has been a loyal and regular customer of the farms for eighteen years.

For special orders, you can contact Pyramid Farm by email at pyramidfarms2000@yahoo.com.

Grilled Ratatouille

For best flavor allow this classic summer dish to sit for an hour before serving. Ratatouille never tasted so good as when it is infused with the smoky flavor of the grill. It will keep in the refrigerator for several days.

Three tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

One medium-large eggplant, sliced ½-inch crosswise

One large red onion, sliced ½-inch thick

Three medium-size tomatoes, cut bite-size

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

One red bell pepper

One yellow pepper

One green pepper

One quarter cup chopped fresh basil

Three tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Three tablespoons capers

Salt and fresh ground pepper

One quarter cup chopped Italian parsley

Brush all vegetables except the tomato with olive oil and grill until fork-tender. Set aside to cool.

Place cut up tomatoes in a large bowl. Add the basil, vinegar, capers, salt, pepper, and parsley.

When the grilled vegetables have cooled enough to touch, peel peppers and dice all vegetables into uniform bite-size pieces. Add to the bowl and toss to mix. Set aside for 30 minutes or up to 2 hours to allow flavors to marry. Serve warm or room temperature.

Roasted Peppers and Tomatoes Baked with Herbs and Nicoise Olives

Four big bell peppers, red or yellow

One large beefsteak tomato or one and quarter pounds other ripe tomatoes

Two smaller yellow tomatoes

Six to ten parsley sprigs

One tablespoon fresh marjoram or twelve large basil leaves, chopped

Two garlic cloves

Twelve Nicoise olives, pitted and chopped

Three tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Roast the peppers until charred evenly using the oven or the grill. Drop them into a bowl, cover, and set aside while you prepare everything else.

Pluck the leaves off the parsley stems. You should have about one half cup. Chop them finely with the marjoram and garlic. Then place them in a bowl with the olive oil, Season with ¾ teaspoon salt and some pepper.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a small gratin dish. Cut up tomatoes into bite-size pieces. Gently peel the charred skins from the peppers, core them and chop into bite-size pieces being sure to add their juices as well. Add the herb and olive oil sauce and light toss with your hands.

Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Let cool before serving.

Patti Bess is a freelance writer and cookbook author. Her articles have appeared in more than 20 magazines. She lives in Grass Valley.

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