Shopping for Swiss chard with chef Evan Funke amid the spring vegetable bounty

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Chef Evan Funke blends Swiss chard from three farms, grown in different regions and types of soil. Photo by Gillian Ferguson/KCRW

"There's only one place to get vegetables," chef Evan Funke tells market correspondent Gillian Ferguson while shopping at the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmer's Market. Funke operates Felix in Venice, Mother Wolf in Hollywood, and his latest venture, Funke, in Beverly Hills. 

While fava beans and asparagus are still at stands, Funke is most excited by the Swiss chard, which is available in the fall and spring. He says the vegetable acts as a filter for salinity in the soil, so he buys chard from three different farms, including Flora Bella Farm, where all of their irrigation is from melting snowcaps. Their chard has a high mineral content and salinity. 

He also shops at Jimenez and Schaner Family Farms, blending the chards, which have different geographic specificities and terroirs, to get "a better version" with nuances that are tangible in the final dish, a puff pastry inspired by his travels in Italy. 

Dawn Birch of Flora Bella Farm brings her Swiss chard down from Three Rivers. She says the soil is what makes her chard so special. Certified organic for 31 years, the farm was a former horse pasture, so there have never been chemicals on the land. The farm is irrigated from snow melt that is run through sand filters and out into drip lines, enabling them to cut their water use by 60%. Cherries, heirloom tomatoes, and peppers are around the corner for the summer harvest.