California's Green Bounty

Californians have a proud history of showing off the riches from their verdant fields and trees, dating to 1911 with the start of the National Orange Show Festival, in San Bernardino. The state boasts certified farmers' markets in 350-plus towns and cities and offers more than three dozen annual food festivals, including the Gilroy Garlic Festival, Ventura's Lemon Fest, the California Avocado Festival in Carpinteria, and Indio's International Tamale Festival. And while Napa and Sonoma garner much of the spotlight when it comes to wine, the Temecula Valley, about 90 miles southeast of Los Angeles, may have been California's first wine country: The padres at Mission San Juan Capis­trano began winemaking more than 200 years ago. When you're in the Valley, stop by the family-owned Temecula Olive Oil Company and the Rusty Acres Herb Farm in Rainbow for their lavender. San Diego County has a cornucopia of local farmers' markets and roadside produce stands, including the Vegetable Shop at the Chino family farm in Rancho Santa Fe.

The Carneros Inn in Napa Valley is serenely luxe and pays tribute to the bounty of the wine country with its restaurants. The Boon Fly Café (simple, delicious comfort food; don't miss the devil's food cake) and Hilltop Dining Room (French cuisine) offer some of the best fare in the area. Even the inn's spa uses local produce, incorporating crushed olive stones, local olive oil, black perlette grapes, and goat butter into its sybaritic offerings. You'll find the wealth of California's fields in one spot at San Francisco's historic Ferry Building Marketplace. There you'll find, indoors and out, locally made olive oils, cheeses, chocolates (tip: stop by Recchiuti Confections), bakeries, flowers, and even an antiques store, Culinaire, which carries only wares to do with food and cooking. Don't miss Slanted Door and its excellent Vietnamese cuisine. Surrounding the landmark building is the outdoor farmers' market run by CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) on the Ferry Plaza. Bustling Saturdays at the market include the 10 a.m. "meet the farmer," a half-hour interview with a local farmer or artisan followed by a cooking demonstration using in-season foods. For the past three years, late October has brought the Marketplace's annual Harvest Festival, with pumpkin carving, wool spinning, butter churning, olive oil and honey tastings, a petting zoo, and the pièce de résistance: wine and beer tastings with more than two dozen wineries and breweries, all California certified organic. Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is open Tuesdays and Saturdays year-round, and on Sundays and Thursday evenings (inside) May through October.

Natural Wonders | CALIFORNIA

National Orange Show Festival
San Bernardino, May 24 to 28
(909) 888-6788
$7 for adults, $5 for seniors, military, and kids

Gilroy Garlic Festival
July 27 to 29
(408) 842-1625
$12 general admission, $6 for seniors and children

Lemon Fest
Ventura, September 8 and 9
(805) 642-0605
free admission

California Avocado Festival
Carpinteria, October 6 to 8
(805) 684-0038
free admission

Indio International Tamale Festival
December 2 and 3
(760) 391-4175, free admission

Temecula Olive Oil Company
(866) 654-8396

Rusty Acres Herb Farm, Rainbow
(760) 731-7349
open Thursday to Sunday

The Vegetable Shop at the Chino Family Farm
Rancho Santa Fe
(858) 756-3184
closed Mondays

The Carneros Inn
Napa Valley
(888) 400-9000
from $455

Boon Fly Café
Napa Valley
(707) 299-4870

Hilltop Dining Room
Napa Valley
(707) 299-4865

Ferry Building Marketplace
San Francisco
(415) 693-0996
festival takes place October 26 to 29

Ferry Building Marketplace
(415) 576-1700

The Slanted Door
San Francisco
(415) 861-8032