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Vegan for the Holidays

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All the world is nuts about

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Vegetarians in Paradise
The Great Produce Hunt

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


On a chilly Sunday morning in January the two birds of paradise, Zel and Reuben, donned their colorful VIP sweatshirts and headed for the south end of the San Fernando Valley to learn about the Studio City Certified Farmers' Market and share their findings with their readers.

Z: When we looked back through our past farmers' market reports, we realized we had first visited this market in May 1999. Vegetarians in Paradise was five months old and this market had been in existence for only eight months. Instead of a market struggling in its first year to find farmers and patrons, this one had become a Sunday morning must visit for so many people in the community. Studio City Farmers' Market

R: And the success continues. Tired of circling the filled parking lot, we settled for a spot on the street a block away. Entering Ventura Place that is blocked off from Laurel Canyon to Radford Avenue, we saw a street clogged with shoppers, produce tables, food stands, and kiddie attractions.

Z: Studio City is what I would think of as a farmers' market combined with a craft fair, and children's carnival. It is truly a family event with the kids able to take a ride on the Seaboard Railroad, experience a pony ride, pet a pig, goat, rabbit, or chicken, and jump to their hearts content on Moon Bounce, one of those inflated attractions kids love.

R: With the spurred interest in organic fruits and vegetables, this market has become a desired destination for people seeking pesticide-free and chemical-free fruits and vegetables. Although not all the produce in this market is totally organic, there are plenty of organic choices for shoppers.

Z: Givens Farms from Goleta has been selling at this market since its inception is one of those great organic choices. A number of farmers were selling cauliflower, but Givens was the only one to feature plump, intensely purple heads. I was surprised to see their giant mustard greens with red-tinged veins. Daniel, a knowledgeable Givens worker, explained that he was selling fennel, not anise. Fennel is often mislabeled as anise. Studio City Farmers' Market

R: We rarely encounter bunches of carrots surrounded with crushed ice to keep them from drying out. Their selection of lettuces included romaine, red leaf, and a crisp looking red butter lettuce that we have not seen locally. Other offerings were red and gold beets, broccoli, spinach, sugar snap peas, red bell peppers, dandelion greens, hothouse tomatoes, and Satsuma tangerines.

Z: As long as we're talking about farmers who were here in 1999, we have to mention Culinary Farms from Reseda who sell "hydroponic living lettuce." Along with the lettuce and lettuce mixes, they feature baby greens, fresh herbs, and edible flowers. A few years ago we had an opportunity to visit the Culinary Farms hydroponic operation and share information with our readers.

R: Gama, although not organic, was another grower who was here on our first visit in 1999. They sold onions, turnips, carrots, shallots, garlic, mandarins, and six varieties of potatoes: russets, red rose, white rose, baby reds, baby purples, and yams. Zel was so drawn to the giant red radishes she couldn't leave them behind. Once home she measured them at nine inches from end to end.

Tangerine Z: Those interested in organic citrus and avocados had three surrounded choices: Etheridge Farms from Orosi, Nicholas Family Farms from Orange Cove, and The Grove from Riverside. Etheridge grows six varieties of tangerines. For sale that morning were Shasta Gold, Dancy, and Wase, and a Satsuma type. Other citrus included navels, lemons, blood oranges, Cara Cara oranges, pomelos, and hybrid grapefruits like Oro Blancos, and Melo Golds. They also displayed Fuyu persimmons, both fresh and dried.

R: Nicholas Famiy Farms mirrored the citrus display of Etheridge with Melo Golds, pomelos, navels, blood oranges, Cara Caras, and Satsuma tangerines. But they added sweet limes and Paige tangerines to their selection. On their table were Hachiya persimmons, pomegranates, and two kinds of apples: Fujis and Granny Smiths. The big surprise was to find grapes in January. The ones in the supermarkets this time of year are imported from Chile. Thompson seedless, black Autumn Royal, and crimson grapes were the offerings. Unfortunately, they didn't have that fresh taste.

Z: The Grove raises avocados and citrus on 10 acres in the Riverside area. Their five varieties of avocados include Bacon, Jim Bacon, Fuerte, Hass, and Zutano. Their table displayed Bacon and Zutano that morning. Before Zel asks about the difference, Jim Bacon is more frost resistant than Bacon. Both are named for James Bacon, a California avocado pioneer who developed this variety.

R: Not organic but worth mention, was a pink navel grown by Valley Center Orchards from San Diego. Their citrus supply also included Mineola tangelos and Clementines along with Bacon and Hass avocados.

Z: But you digressed from organic. We need to mention the great organic crops from ZRanch. I love their cute baby eggplants, but I ended up buying their gorgeous, bright green broccoli crowns. Completing the ZRanch display were cauliflower, asparagus, zucchini, carrots, and artichokes

Tomato R: As long as we're discussing organic, we need to mention Ha's from Tehachapi who seem to be in almost every farmers' market in Los Angeles County. That day they sold their plump Fuji, Granny Smith, and Red Delicious apples as well as their Asian pears, dried apples, and syrups.

Z: Now that we have exhausted the organic, I thought I'd mention a few unique items even though they were not organic. J & J Farmer from Santa Maria sold stalks of Brussels sprouts and a strawberry cultivar we had never seen before: Albion, a variety developed at UC Davis to replace Seascape. Studio City Farmers' Market

R: Present with a unique tomato variety was Scott Shacklett who bills himself as "Tomato Man." Shacklett imports his seeds from the Netherlands. His beefsteak size "Blitz" tomatoes and "Cherista" cherry tomatoes are greenhouse grown in Ridgecrest, a community Shacklett boasts is blessed with 350 days of sunshine annually.

Z: Beylik Family Farm won the tomato variety contest with a selection that featured Big Beef, cluster, Japanese, yellow, plum and green tomatoes, an awesome display for this time of year. At the end of their table was a sign that announced, "Cosmetically damaged tomatoes" at a reduced price. Offered at a reduced price, these were ideal for cooking. For me, the greatest tomato excitement were the almost black heirloom Purple Cherokees sold by Venegas Creek Roses from San Diego, probably one of the tastiest tomatoes I've ever bitten into.

R: Trevino Farms from Lompoc was the only vendor with rhubarb, but their emphasis was a selection of squash. Lucio Trevino was eager to tell us the differences between Tahitian, butternut, and kabocha grown on his father's farm. Of their squash varieties, Kabocha is the sweetest, then Tahitian, and lastly butternut. His table also displayed acorn and spaghetti squashes as well as colossal winter melons. I was surprised when he told us that some people made candy from winter melon. I always think bitter when it comes to winter melon.

Z: Anyone looking for giant artichokes would have paused in amazement at the Suncoast Farms table displaying a mountain of chokes. Along with the humongous sized ones, they had offered medium and baby artichokes. They also showed broccoli, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and bags of dried beans with recipes included. Studio City Farmers' Market

R: I'm surprised that Zel didn't chime in earlier with information about the great flower and plant selection at this market. Skyline Flowers from Oxnard has been with this market from the very beginning. Their bright red, pink, and coral gerbera daisies almost looked like an artist had splashed bright paint over them. Zel had to keep assuring me that was their natural color.

Z: They were quite spectacular. I was drawn to the extensive lily display by Excel Roses. Hector Venegas who will be branching out to launch V Floral gave us a lily tour of their impressive stock that included a very fragrant Casa Blanca, a white Siberia, a deep pink Star Fighter, a deep red Cobra, a pink Mancha, a yellow Queen, a pink Broadway, and a Sorbone, pink with white tips. He plans to grow and market between 10 and 15 different varieties of Oriental lilies and a similar number of Asiatic lilies.

R: No problem if you wanted to purchase a plant to take home. Ipatzi Nursery from Moorpark had everything from corkscrew bamboo to birds of paradise. When I asked how many different plants they grow, Tomas Ipatzi responded, "a 1000." All of that production is accomplished on his two acres of growing space.

Z: We have to take our hats off to Carole Gallegos for her great job of managing this bustling market. That morning she was so busy she had only enough time to greet us. We caught up with her later in the week to ask some questions about her and the market. Studio City Farmers' Market

R: Carole was a shopper at the market when she heard there was an opening for market manager. Although she had experience in sales management, she knew very little about farmers' market operation. What she knows now evolved from her on-the-job learning over the last 3 1/2 years.

Z: As it was from the very beginning, the market is a joint venture of the Studio City Residents Association and the Chamber of Commerce. In the fall and winter season there are approximately 37 vendors, increasing from 42 to 45 in the summer stone fruit season. Adding crafts, food vendors, and kiddie attractions brings the vendor total to about 75 and makes the market one of the largest in Los Angeles County.

R: When we asked Carole to tell us what made the market unique, she responded, "People like the way the market is set up on one long street. People like to come and hang out." She told us that visitors even come here from Hollywood because of the kiddie attractions. "It's a community event. People call this a stroller market."

Z: One delight for us that day was meeting one our readers who came over to us when she spotted our yellow VIP sweatshirts. Heather Fabrow, now Heather Trappler, introduced us to her husband Tom and her baby son Finley. She proudly told us that Finley, a healthy looking little boy, was being raised vegan.

Studio City Farmers' Market
Ventura Place between Laurel Canyon and Radford
Sundays 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Phone: 818-655-7744

Reviewed January 2008

Click here for past Farmers' Market Reviews

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