Z: I couldn't believe the size of the market, four city blocks in the heart of Hollywood. We walked Ivar between Sunset and Hollywood Boulevard and Selma between Cahuenga and Vine. The market had farmers who travel from as far north as Stockton and as far south as San Diego. Some of these people got up in the middle of the night and drove for hours to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to their fans in Southern California.
R: Bustling is the only way to describe this market that brings together six to eight thousand shoppers and 80 to 90 vendors every Sunday morning, rain or shine. If we'd been sent on a treasure hunt to find unusual fresh edibles, we would have been quite successful here. Imagine satsuma imo, the Japanese name for chestnut flavored yams. Try tasting fresh, ripe dates on a stem or some beautiful plump, oval, red jujubes, which are Chinese dates.
Z: For fruit lovers like me there were all kinds of apples, strawberries, cantaloupes and honeydews, pomegranates, persimmons, pineapple guavas, as well as oranges, lemons, and limes. There was even a late-maturing variety of peaches called autumn gem. These peaches inspired the delicious dessert we enjoyed that night. We simply sliced them, laid them on a barbeque basket, and put them on the grill for eight minutes, turning the basket every two minutes. Yum!
R: Double yum! There were so many leafy and root vegetables to choose. Three types of beets were available: red, red and white striped, and golden. Huge daikon radishes were on a table next to a variety of lettuces and cabbages. If you wanted to try something different in the lettuce world, you could buy a copius hydroponic type along with other hydroponically grown vegetables. Searching for the unusual would lead you to zebra tomatoes, fresh soy beans, and green olives right from the tree.
Z: Herbs, sprouts, and mushrooms were available at more than one stand. The sprout vendors had tables filled with seeds, grains, and beans of every variety and color, all sprouted and ready to eat. The sprout stands also sold wheat grass for those who like to juice or provide their pets with greens. The herb stands were a visual joy, with fresh herbs to enhance any meal or to enjoy steeped as a hot beverage. One herbsman specialized in basil with its multitude of different colors and leaf sizes. The mushroom man had shitake, portobello, and oyster varieties. He told us about porcini, chanterelles, lobster, morels, cauliflower, black trumpets, and chicken of the woods that would be available in the coming months. For the real gourmets he'll have black and white truffles available soon, if you're willing to part with $15 to $20 an ounce. There were all kinds of dried fruits and nuts, including flavored pistachios in snack packs or one pound bags.
R: Plant and flower stands were interspersed with vegetable stands, their brilliant colors beckoning customers to bring them home. Beautiful orange sunflowers, orchids, landscaping plants, and bouquets of flowers made the market a visual delight. Zel succumbed and brought home some giant orange sunflowers that added a touch of sunshine to our table. While Ivar Street featured farm produce, vendors on Selma Street focused on their own creations. Selma was like a swap meet. You could buy all kinds of clothing, dolls, purses, jewelry, cosmetics, candles, and kaleidescopes. Didn't get your flu shots yet? Not to worry, they were available here for $10. If you had a stiff neck or any uncomfortable aches, you could have a chair massage for $1.00 a minute (minimum 10 minutes). A demonstrator pitched a vegetable chopper that he enthusiastically touted was a must in everyone's kitchen.
Z: If we had a dog we could have made him very happy with any one of fifteen varieties of uniquely different dog biscuits. These were healthy dog biscuits without sugar, salt, or preservatives. Fortunately or unfortunately, we have a cat.
R: If you were not a dog or cat, you could find plenty to eat. You could take home a bag of bagels, a giant bag of popcorn, some almond butter or brittle, marinated vegetables or olives, or some delicious baked goods. If you had allergies or wanted something vegan, you could purchase one of Alaine's wheat free, gluten free, no dairy pastries as well as other wheat free bakery items.
Z: For more serious eating there were Corn Maiden Tamales. Since we were seriously hungry, we sampled two of their four vegetarian varieties. We had #4 and #10 both vegan. Potatoes, green beans, and olives were stuffed inside #4 while #10 had green and yellow corn. Both were delicious. We won't even talk about the carnivores and what they were devouring.
R: We had a chance to talk to Pompea Smith who helped to start the market 7 1/2 years ago and is now in charge of the operation. She told us the farmer's market project was initially funded by the city, but is now self sustaining. Money paid to the market by the vendors is used to maintain the project, while any surplus money is donated to community projects. Pompea's dedication to the farmer's market brings her there every Sunday morning where she happily answers questions at the information stand. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce awarded Pompea Smith a deserving commendation when they voted her the Hollywood Woman of Distinction.
Z: I was impressed with the UC Cooperative Extension table where Haven Lin-Kirk, a master gardener, and Mary Jane Loper, a master food preserver, were distributing information on food growing techniques and food preserving by canning and drying. Mary Jane comes every week to share her expertise and offer free recipes.
R: I enjoyed talking to some of the farm vendors like Connie Peterson who gave us information about Silveira Farm which is not organic but boasts about practicing pesticide-free farming. They've been at the market for seven years. Connie told us they grow about thirty different items throughout the year.
Z: And how about Tracie Tenerelli from Tenerelli Orchards? She married into the family that markets apples and stone fruits from June through November. Their busy schedule brings them from their 75-acre orchard in Littlerock to thirty different farmer's markets each week.
R: We learned about registered and certified organic farms from John Thogmartin who raises potatoes, onions, shallots, and squash on his 6 1/2 acres in Riverside County. All of the farmers were great about taking the time to talk to us. I should also mention the musicians. There were two bands as well as individual musicians who filled the street with some great sounds.
Z: We went home with so many bags of fresh produce that we had to make two trips to the car. Next time we'll park for free in the lot on Vine instead of walking two blocks.
The Hollywood Farmers Market is open each Sunday from 8:00 a.m.to 1:00 p.m.
Reviewed January 1999