Picture this: you just completed a scenic hike in the Marin Headlands. The sun is shining over the Bay, your legs are sore from the strenuous activity, and that North California energy is flowing. If you’re heading back to San Francisco, you’ll spot a charming, magical produce stand in Mill Valley at the intersection of Tennessee Valley and Highway 1. It’s cute, it’s quaint, and it’s brimming with charm. While water is essential, if you’ve ever gone on a hike and craved something to wet your whistle afterwards, nothing tastes quite as revitalizing and satisfying as some fresh, local, and beautiful produce.
Ceceilia’s Garden and Fruit Stand is a mecca of local, sustainable, high-quality fruits and vegetables, canned products, and unequivocally the best-tasting pickles in all the land. Michael and Ceceilia Rickett opened the fruit stand in 1982 and their son, Josh, is the current owner. Josh took over in 2009 after he developed a new vision for what this iconic fruit stand could become.He became deeply committed to doing his small, yet important part in supporting an ethical produce supply chain by partnering with local organic farmers in California. Ceceilia’s exclusively sells organic, delicious produce from small farms, and Josh has personally cultivated relationships with each one of their fruit and vegetable suppliers to ensure that Ceceilia’s is able to provide customers with seasonal, freshly-picked produce and artfully pickled products. It’s clear that Josh has developed a deep love for the work he does. He beams when he talks about his products, like a proud but humble artist showing off his work. “First of all, I love people, and the stand has allowed me to interact with folks I would never have met otherwise. I feel connected to the community that I serve and to the people that live throughout California,” he says.
Inspired by his passion for food and appetite to preserve the best seasonal flavors, Josh began perfecting the art of making his own jam and pickles. The stand sells preserves, fruit butters, kimchi, and a variety of pickles including Garlic Dill Cucumber, Spicy Cardamom Cucumber, and Heirloom Pickled Beets to name a few. When asked what goes into making the most epic jar of pickled veggies, Josh says “Time, the freshest ingredients available, and not being afraid to try a new flavor or vegetable. Most of my best batches of pickles were from something unexpected.”
These pickles are unlike anything you can get in a store, or any farmers market I’ve been to, for that matter. They’re crunchy, juicy, and erupting with flavor. Crafted with organic apple cider vinegar from a farmer down the road, fresh vegetables, herbs, and spices, all of Ceceilia’s pickles are created with unique and flavorful blends, giving them the most interesting and heavenly essence. When the crunchy sound of a pickle bite is as good as its taste, you know you have a good product.
Perfection takes practice. “I’ve been making pickles for about six years. The first few batches were pretty awful, but I adapted and learned from my mistakes. It was only a matter of time before I was selling them at the stand. When we won two Good Food Awards in 2015, one of which was for our Spicy Cardamom Pickles, I felt like we were beginning to hit our stride. We just won another award this year.”
The lost art of crafting homemade jam and other canned goods is brought to life at Ceceilia’s. Josh uses a multitude of ripe, local produce to create an abundance of options and preserve the season’s flavors in a jar. A few of their jams include: boysenberry, maple bourbon peach, white nectarine and elderflower, and vanilla fig. If you’re not in the area, don’t fear. Ceceilia’s sells some of their preserves on Etsy. Grab a jar of jam, a loaf of bread, some pickles, and man-oh-man, you’ll have yourself a day.
Ceceilia’s doesn’t stop at canning, though. Their collection of fruits and vegetables, which changes with seasons, is delicious. Right now they have eight types of citrus and winter veggies and, in three months, they will begin selling cherries, apricots, and strawberries.
When you drive outside of San Francisco, it’s common to see roadside fruit stands offering locally harvested goods that tantalize your taste buds. In the Bay Area, however, Josh said this culture has somewhat disappeared. “Most of the farm stands are gone, and we are one of the few left. The only places you can find stands are out in farm country. But I do feel like people are craving these kinds of experiences—a real connection to a farm, real products from the field, to get back to our roots. There is a reason why farmers markets are everywhere these days; it’s because you can’t get that experience at a grocery store or a mall.”
“We are proud to be part of that old country tradition of produce from the farm, not a broker. We want people to come to the stand and have the best berries they’ve ever had,” he adds.
If you find yourself in Mill Valley, stop by Ceceilia’s Garden and Fruit Stand and say hello to Josh. Take a spin around the stand and find some products that will transform your idea of how produce should taste. Sweet, tangy, vibrant, and incredibly good for your mind, body, and soul.
“I am constantly inspired by all that is grown and produced here in California,” Josh says. “And I get to enjoy it and bring it to other people, every day.”
Pearl Plotkin is a Chicago-based writer, soon to be San Francisco resident, who loves Half Baked ice cream, hearts of palm, and meandering through local farmer's markets. In her free time, Pearl loves going for long walks, and creating whimsical, black and white illustrations of creatures, people, and imaginative curiosities. Check out her artwork at https://www.instagram.com/peppatterns.