Time Is Ripe: East Bay holiday food traditions reflect area’s diversity

Holiday customs in California are as diverse as its population. Many wonderful and eclectic food traditions have been brought to our shores and incorporated into our everyday lives from people around the world.

We’re fortunate to have a climate that lets fruits and vegetables be grown and harvested throughout the year and has allowed these new inhabitants to easily grow their distinct and varied produce in a new country. We’re also lucky to be the recipients of their hard work and delicious produce!

Favorite foods mentioned most this time of year consist of recipes featuring winter squash, persimmons, pomegranates, Brussels sprouts, citrus and potatoes. Ashley Olivera-Cortez, a direct marketing coordinator on our staff at the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association (PCFMA) in Concord, says her family’s favorite thing to do is, “Watch football, drinking mulled cider and watch movies. We make our traditional roasted garlicky Brussels sprouts with bacon and pecans.”

Another member of our staff, Mia Simmans, a market manager, says she and her family, “light the candles for Hanukkah and make latkes.” Her favorite thing about working at the farmers’ markets this time of year is the festive feel they have.

Market Manager Jason Rodriguez says, “My family gets together to make the traditional tamales at Christmas — and I get to taste-test them!” He also loves all the winter squash available during December.

Regional Manager Lis Garon mentions that “My family and I typically make pancakes the day of Christmas and drink mimosas, Irish coffee, eggnog or hot toddies. I love my mom’s prime rib recipe, and I love the beautiful wreaths sold at farmers’ markets.

Dimitri Hagnéré, a market manager, says his family piles in the car, tours their local “Candy Cane Lane” and looks at holiday lights. “We have Dungeness crab and hot cider for the holidays, and I make cannoli from scratch, a family tradition.”

Others enjoy seeing their family, having cookie baking sessions, playing Santa for the kids and savoring the holiday atmosphere that permeates the air.

There are as many different traditions as there are families, each one unique, and each one familiar. We hope you hold on to your traditions and enjoy this holiday season with the ones you love. Happy holidays from all of us at PCFMA!

Debra Morris is a promotions coordinator for the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association and writes the Time Is Ripe column. Contact her at debramorris@pcfma.com.

Recipe: Ashley’s Garlicky Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Pecans


  • about 2 pounds of fresh Brussels sprouts halved, with stems and outer leaves removed
  • 6 to 7 slices of bacon, thick-cut
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 to 5 cloves of garlic
  • ¼ cup of pecans
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of pepper
  • 3 teaspoons of dried thyme
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons of dried oregano
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar
  • 3 to 4 teaspoons maple syrup
  • grated or shaved Parmesan cheese for serving (optional)


Preheat oven to 350°F on middle rack. Use a baking pan or casserole dish to roast. Cut stems off and remove outer excess leaves on Brussels sprouts; cut in half. Mince garlic and rough-chop pecans. Coat everything with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt, pepper, thyme and oregano. Transfer to baking pan/casserole dish and roast for 17 to 20 minutes.

Cook bacon in a frying pan, just enough so it’s still flaccid but fully cooked through. Rough-chop bacon into pieces and transfer to pan with sprouts. Toss in the bacon and drizzle balsamic vinegar. Roast for another 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from oven and drizzle on maple syrup and toss. Add grated or shaved Parmesan cheese to serve over the Brussels sprouts, if desired.

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Author: Debra Morris