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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 exceptionally warm Wednesday evening in October the two birds of paradise, Zel and Reuben, journeyed out the 118 to the San Fernando Valley to the Northridge Fashion Center. Their mission was to explore and report on one of the newest farmers' markets in Southern California. What follows is their experience at Northridge Farmers' Market.

Z: We were curious about the Northridge Market because we had heard it was operated by the same people who manage the Montrose Thursday evening event which we reported on in July. The Montrose market was quite a family event.

R: This market had the same feeling as Montrose. There was something for everyone in the family. The kids could have their faces painted or go to the petting zoo. And, of course, there were pony rides and the spaceship ride. The weather couldn't have been better. It was a balmy evening with the Santa Ana wind blowing warm air off the desert.

Z: The petting zoo had a darling baby pink and gray pig and goats of every color and size. If the kids didn't want to pet the animals, they could see action in those inflated jumping booths or the obstacle course.

R: After that they could get into that long line waiting for Kettle Kooked Popcorn. But the highlight for me was the table where kids could create sandwich faces using fruits and vegetables sold at the market. It's amazing how kids placed items like wheat grass, black-eyed peas, carrots, and refried beans on sesame buns to create some very unique and expressive faces.

Grapes Z: Along with entertainment for the kids, the market featured plenty of fresh produce and a variety of unique crafts. Some of the farmers we had seen represented at other markets. Others were new to us like the Bautista family from Mecca, California, that had a display of organic dates including Medjool, Khadrawy, Deglet Noor, Halawy and Zahidi.

R: Wylie Farms came down from Tulare with a variety of grapes. There were old fashioned Muscats, Red Globe, Thompson, Crimson Seedless, and Flame Seedless. The Muscats were exceptionally large and actually had seeds, somewhat of a rarity in today's market. Grapes are more commonly hybridized to eliminate the seeds. They also had kiwis at five for a dollar, a very good buy.

Z: We had an opportunity to talk to Norma Ortiz from Ojai Valley Sprouts. Her dad grows sprouts in his greenhouse and sells them at 12 farmers' markets. Norma told us he started growing sprouts four years ago for his own health, which improved considerably. He then began selling sprouts to others. What a variety he had! This was the first time I had seen cashew sprouts. His sprouted legume mix was a terrific buy at only $3.

R: When you saw the Pudwill's Raspberries display, it was not the raspberries that caught your attention. You kept saying the yellow crookneck squash was so beautiful it should be photographed for a food magazine. In addition to the raspberries, they offered plump cherry tomatoes, walnuts in the shell, and little boxes of mission figs.

Apple Z: As usual the Nakamura Berry Farms had an impressive selection of certified organic vegetables. Lettuces of all kinds were surrounded by tomatoes, cauliflower, bok choy, corn, beets, cilantro, red and green chard, red and green cabbages, and mountains of kale. In fruits they featured strawberries and cantaloupes. It was easy to fill our bags here.

R: Apples were in great supply at this market. The Kosmo Ranch brought Jona Gold, Fuji, Granny Smith, and Golden Delicious as well as packages of dried apples. The Sherrell Orchards featured all kinds of apple and fruit juice combinations and fresh Fuji and Granny Smith apples.

Z: If you wanted citrus Polito Family Farms from Valley Center (near San Diego) had bags of Valencia oranges and red grapefruit. We couldn't resist buying a $2 bag of grapefruits which were quite tasty, very juicy, and held up well for several days until we finished them.

R: You also couldn't pass up those unusual looking melons from Tanaka Farms. They certainly tasted much better than they looked. A variety of cantaloupe, their skins were mottled with unattractive dark areas. Zel loves to try new produce items and bought two of these. Inside they were a pale orange, but juicy and as sweet as the best cantaloupe I had ever eaten. The Tanaka people also had pumpkins so large we wondered how they could carry them here. Their mini pumpkins, squash, corn, beans, and cherry tomatoes, were all at very reasonable prices.

Z: When I spotted those cute fingerling potatoes from Weiser Family Farms in Lucerne Valley I had to bring some home and chose some of each of three varieties. They also offered purple potaoes, French Gourmet, and Rose Finn fingerlings as well as sweet onions and Heart of Gold Squash.

R: I'm surprised you haven't mentioned the flowers. Vargas Ranch displayed all kinds of cut flower bouquets, most between three and five dollars. There were mums, Shasta daisies, sunflowers, lisianthus in three colors (pink, lavender, and white), and those gladiolas. You couldn't stop talking about how gorgeous they were.

Mum Z: Truly gorgeous! But so were the hanging orchids from Lin of Panorama City. That spider orchid was indescribably beautiful. And that lavender Madame Rattana with purple and white speckles was truly amazing.

R: We both were impressed with the crafts, not only the number of crafters present but the quality of their creations. Those Chinese snuff bottles, a 300-year old art form, were spectacular. How anyone could get inside those narrow bottles and paint on the inside was mind boggling. And those wood bowls made by Bruce Owens and his handmade wooden pens and bottle stoppers were exceptional quality craftsmanship.

Z: I got a kick out of those Henna Temporary Tattoos. Tattoo expert Lynn Burtnett and I knew each other from a ceramics class where we had met. Her tattoos are all natural and organic. They're made from henna powder, eucalyptus oil, clove oil, and tea and sealed with lemon and sugar to last between seven and twelve days.

R: There were many items that could be placed into Christmas stockings. Malachite jewelry, dreamcatchers, aromatherapy products, natural soaps, children's and ladies' clothing, and potpourri assortments of your choice.

Z: We had an opportunity to talk to Dave Gayman who operates the market he refers to as the Northridge Family Festival and Certified Farmers' Market. He also runs the Montrose and Monrovia markets. He and his wife, Maria, have operated a hardware store in Monrovia for the last 11 years. Running farmers' markets is one of his extracurricular activities.

R: He started in Monrovia in 1992 when he began running the market for the city. His Montrose effort began a year and a half ago. With the Montrose market successfully launched, he began scouting the West Valley for a market location when he was contacted by the Northridge Mall management. Planning began a year ago for the big June opening this year.

Z: The market was an instant success, attracting up to 5500 people on a summer night. The market runs 50 weeks a year. "We've been getting rave reviews," Dave says. "The market is a definite benefit to the mall."

R: The Northridge Farmers' Market averages 24 farmers, 8 to 12 non agricultural vendors, and 26 to 28 crafters.

Z: All the effort examining the market made us quite hungry. As is the case with most of the markets, the carnivores dominate. We did find some tasty roasted white corn in the husk. We completed our market research by dining on our corn at one of the picnic tables as we listened to the music of Smith and James, a trio playing country music.

Northridge Family Festival and Certified Farmers' Market
Northridge Fashion Center
Parking Lot facing Borders and Macy's at Tampa and Plummer
Wednesdays 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Reviewed November 1999

Click here for past Farmers' Market Reviews

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