Time Is Ripe: Pick up all your Lunar New Year supplies in the East Bay

It’s the Year of the Dragon! On Feb. 10, the Chinese (Lunar) New Year begins and is celebrated for 14 days, a time to welcome longevity, wealth and prosperity and to eliminate any negative “chi” (vital bodily energy).

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Make a trip to the farmers’ market to pick up the ingredients that dispel the negative and turn 2024 into positive energy! Food traditions are important to the overall festivities of the Lunar New Year, such as the customary eating of jioazi, or dumplings, at midnight as a symbol of wealth and prosperity in the new year.

The seventh day of the festivities is reserved especially for farmers and is also considered the birthday of mankind. People generally eat noodles on this day to ensure a long life.

Tangerines and oranges are a big part of the celebration and represent happiness and abundance. These are displayed in the home and given as hostess gifts. Giving tangerines with intact stems and leaves represents lasting friendship. Giving a whole tree in a pot to display at your front door is even better! Beautiful citrus can be found from Fresno’s Diaz Farms or Hughson’s J&J Ramos Farms.

Candied fruit is displayed in homes as a “Tray of Togetherness” and promises a sweet new year. After enjoying several pieces of candy the adults place red envelopes called lai see in Cantonese in the center of the tray. The envelopes contain money and signify luck. Each of the candied fruits has meaning. For example, kumquats are for prosperity.

Other traditional Lunar New Year foods include eight treasures rice, a mixture of rice, fruits and nuts; won ton soup; song gao, a cake made from loosely ground rice; jiu niang tang, sweet wine-rice soup with small rice balls; mustard greens, often eaten on one of the last days of the celebration to cleanse the body; and long noodles, to ensure a long life. Chicken, pork and spring rolls are also important.

Food isn’t all that’s significant during Lunar New Year celebrations. Flowers play a meaningful role as well. Plum tree buds are bought the day before the new year and are hoped to blossom on New Year’s Day. Chrysanthemums symbolize longevity while narcissus represents prosperity and sunflowers mean the wish to “have a good year.”

Bringing together family and friends is also an important part of the celebrations. They help to clear out the bad energy and bring in the good. So gather everyone around you and celebrate good luck and prosperity this year with lucky foods from the farmers’ market.

Debra Morris is a promotions coordinator for the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association. Contact her at debramorris@pcfma.org.

Recipe: Candied Sour Citrus Peels

ingredients

four large oranges, three grapefruits and six lemons or limes, halved through stem ends

three cups of sugar, divided

eight to 10 tablespoons of lemon juice

instructions

Tear out flesh from orange halves, being careful not to create holes in peels. It’s OK if you can’t remove all of the pith. Save flesh for another use; cut peels into quarter-inch strips.

Bring orange peels and four cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan, and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and return peels to pan. Repeat process twice more, using fresh water each time. Return peels to pan; add two cups of sugar and two cups of water.

Bring to a boil and cook until peels are soft, translucent and look vibrant, approximately 30 to 40 minutes (about 10 minutes longer for grapefruit or 10 fewer minutes for lemons or limes).

Drain and transfer peels to a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet; chill until cool, about 15 minutes. Whisk lemon juice and remaining cup of sugar in a medium bowl. Add peels; toss to coat. Return to rack; let sit at room temperature for an hour. Toss peels again in the sugar mixture. Return to rack and let sit four to 12 hours to dry out.

For a do-ahead, citrus peels can be candied 1 month beforehand. Store airtight at room temperature.

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