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Vegan for the Holidays

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All the world is nuts about

    What's in The Nut Gourmet

The Nutty Gourmet

Vegetarians in Paradise
The Great Produce Hunt

For a complete current list of farmers' markets click on Certified Farmers Markets in Los Angeles County.


One Sunday morning in September the two birds of paradise, Zel and Reuben, cruised east down Wilshire Boulevard to the heart of Beverly Hills. Instead of stopping off at Rodeo Drive for some upscale clothes or jewelry shopping, they went a few blocks further to the Beverly Hills Farmers' Market. What follows is their experience at this unique market.

R: My first impression was "Wow! what flowers!" Usually it's Zel who quickly tunes in on the flowers offered at the market.

Z: We were both surprised at the multitude of vendors who were offering flowers. We counted eleven which was almost one-fourth of the sellers. And what variety! There were gorgeous cut flower bouquets. The West Flower Growers had all kinds of mums, stargazer lilies, and sunflowers.

R: I noticed the orchids galore from Lin of Panorama City. The striking appearance of the Dancing Lady blooms certainly caught my eye. C Stars Nursery in Gardena had a tremendous variety of sun and shade plants including tree roses, angel's trumpets, and yellow and orange hibiscus. And you simply couldn't walk by without noticing the red plumeria and the princess flower tree.

Rose Z: The floral highlight for me was the giant dahlias from Lai in Alhambra. I held my outstretched hand over one of the bright yellow flowers. Those gorgeous blossoms were almost six inches in diameter. When we asked where they grew them, we learned that they were grown in their yard at home. I could easily visualize either the pink or yellow variety growing in our own yard, but I found yet another temptation.

R: The one Zel went home with was the water hyacinth from Forcefield of Santa Paula. They just happen to be Star Wars fans and snagged a catchy name. This unique looking plant with its large, clover green leaves doesn't need soil to grow, just water and plenty of room for the roots.

Z: I couldn't resist those luscious lavender blossoms and can hardly wait for spring when my hyacinth will bloom. Another of the unusual displays was at the bonsai table. We've seen water bamboo at other markets, but this construction was unique. About 40 pieces of bamboo of different heights were fastened together to create a structure that looked like a temple. I've never seen anything like it. I know we're rambling excessively about the flowers, but there were an exceptional number of flower vendors as well as people purchasing the colorful bouquets. It was not unusual to see someone carrying two or three flower bouquets home.

R: From what we've said so far our readers will think that this market is all flowers. There's plenty of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables and stuff you're not likely to find all over. For example, I was surprised to see bags of sapote and passion fruit.

Half Tomato Z: And heirloom tomatoes. Lore's Herb Farm from Camarillo had some I had never seen before like zebra, brandywine, cherokee purple, white beauty, pineapple, and black varieties. She also displayed garlic braids in three sizes and all kinds of fresh herbs to season or garnish your favorite foods.

R: The information booth had a colorful flyer announcing that "September is Apple Month. We noticed that a number of vendors specialized in growing apples and offered an impressive selection. We picked up some Fujis, but we could have chosen Gala, Granny Smith, Honeygold, Crispin, Dixie Red, or Hi Early.

Z: Other summer fruits were still available. Summer Harvest Farms from Dinuba had white and yellow peaches, nectarines, plums, and red and green grapes. Tenerelli Orchards had both Asian and Bartlett pears, Macintosh apples, Simka Rosa plums, and O.Henry peaches.

R: Pudwill's Raspberries had more than just raspberries. They were selling little baskets of blueberries and black figs as well as baby summer squash, tiny cherry tomatoes, and bags of walnuts in the shell.

Z: I was delighted at the selection of organically grown vegetables and, as usual, at very reasonable prices. The Nakamura Registered Organic Farm people are in a number of markets and offer robust looking produce at great prices. They were out of broccoli, but we managed to find white corn, carrots, beets, red cabbage, three kinds of lettuce, and teardrop cherry tomatoes in red and yellow.

Dragon Bean R: Zel couldn't resist the plethora of string bean varieties at Valdivia Farms from Carlsbad. She filled her bag with a colorful array that included plump green ones, skinny green ones, yellow wax beans, long, deep purple ones, purple and green speckled beans, and traditional broad bean. And it was hard for her to pass up the giant artichokes and asparagus from Green Farms as well as those sweet Japanese tomatoes from Tamai Farms from Oxnard.

Z: In addition to the excellent produce, there were vendors offering some tasty food products such as Adam's Olives. We talked to Alicia who showed us some of their the new items that included pickled green beans and pickled asparagus. We bought their jar of dried Italian style olives.There were Pasta Concerto's sauces, salsas, marinades, and dipping sauces, all made without preservatives. Then we tasted a sample of whole grain Herb Garden bread from Brentwood Bakery. We were both licking our fingers as we devoured the last tidbit. We've enjoyed several varieties of their breads before and consider them to be of excellent quality, wholesome, and completely natural.

R: At each market we encounter new vendors and new products. Today we were introduced to The Ladybug Families, a company that sells ladybugs, lacewings, decollate snails (snails that eat destructive snails), and diatomaceous earth, all to benefit those of us who dabble in organic gardening. You can visit their web site at http://www.ladybugfamilies.com

Z: We did have an opportunity to talk to Donna Fisher who has been market manager since December. She has two part-time assistants, Cece Bradley and Marian Strause, and a group of volunteers who help her. We learned the market is sponsored by Recreation and Parks Department City of Beverly Hills and has about 35 farmers and 12 non farm vendors.

R: The market just celebrated its fifth anniversary drawing a crowd of 10,000, but the regular attendance each Sunday morning averages between 2000 and 3000 busy shoppers. A chili cook-off last month featured 14 contestants. Planning ahead, one of October's events will be a Pie Bake-off. Available at their table is a booklet of recipes from the pie bake and chili cook-off held in 1998. Each month the market publishes a Healthy Habit Report newsletter with a listing of the farmers and vendors, recipes, information about upcoming events, produce of the month, and shopper coupons.

Z: They do a great job of promoting the market in the community. They also present an opportunity for local restaurants to promote their businesses by giving out samples of their food at the market. That morning four chefs from Trader Vics were offering tastes to the huge crowd that had gathered. Unfortunately, there were no vegan morsels for us to sample.

R: Fortunately for us, we spotted the Corn Maiden stand and snapped up their last two vegan tamales. An extra added attraction to the market was the music provided by Tom Ferari and Friends. This engaging group included three singers, a saxophone player, and a guitarist whose versatile repertoire included songs from the thirties to the nineties. It definitely added a uplifting flair to the shopping experience.

Z: We concluded that this bustling market is definitely a happening place. We recognized this aura of success when we found ourselves having to wait our turn while the farmers helped two or three people ahead of us.

Beverly Hills Farmers' Market
200 Block of North Canon Drive between Clifton and Dayton Way
Sundays 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Reviewed October 1999

Click here for past Farmers' Market Reviews

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