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Vegan for the Holidays

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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 an a warm sunny afternoon in October the two birds of paradise, Zel and Reuben, swung down to Sherman Oaks in the south end of the San Fernando Valley. Their mission possible was to explore the Woodman Avenue Farmers' Market and report back to their eager, hungry readers.

Woodman Avenue Farmers' Market Z: By the time our readers access this story in the November 2009 issue, Pd Markets will have established their new Sherman Oaks Farmers' Markets on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the entrance to the Westfield Shopping Mall. The plan is to continue operating the Tuesday afternoon market located in the parking lot behind the defunct Linens and Things store.

R: The Tuesday market can be accessed going south on Woodman Avenue past Riverside Drive and turning into the parking lot before reaching the westbound onramp to the 101 Freeway.

Z: So much for directions. Now for the details. This is not your ordinary farmers' market. It features a carnival approach to lure patrons with crafts, baked goods, dried fruits and nuts, toffee, jewelry, iron-on-patches, clothing, and sunglasses in addition to the fresh produce stands. Anyone who is a hungry non-vegetarian can munch on tamales, Argentinian empanadas, crepes, funnel cakes, baked desserts, or some barbecue.

R: For us there was corn on the cob and Dave's Korean Food. Dave specializes in totally vegan marinated and fermented macrobiotic foods. That afternoon the table was filled with his creations: organic barbecued tofu, shredded daikon, spicy daikon, brown seaweed, marinated garlic stems, and spicy burdock. Tempha is his version of tempeh.

Z: What we haven't seen at any other farmers' markets is a mock climbing wall. This one brought in on a trailer was quite appealing to children who were secured with a rope to prevent falls. When they reached the top, they could squeeze the old fashioned a-ooga horn to announce their accomplishment.

R: Kids could also decorate their own tee shirts at tables provided by Art Rebel while listening to Heavy as Holograms, a duo with pop rock intentions. Heavy as Holograms is one of many groups invited to perform on stage near the market entrance.

South Central Farmers Coop Z: Adult shoppers also had the option of a Tibetan Energy Massage or a psychic reading. But before we get lost in this blizzard of activities, we should focus on what brought us here--the quest for fresh fruits and vegetables. With 15 growers this market had ample produce to satisfy shoppers. We had encountered some of these growers before because they have made an effort to show their produce in a number of farmers' markets. One example is South Central Farmers' Cooperatve. A brief explanation of how the cooperative had to leave the Los Angeles area appears on the LA Farm Girl blog

R: You were excited about their kale and came back to buy both the green and the black dinosaur varieties. I didn't realize that red kidney beans came out of yellow pods until that afternoon when I took a closer look to see what was inside those bean pods. Being a devotee of both winter and summer squash, I was in squash heaven reveling in yellow and green ones as well as the so-called Mexican squash, round zucchini, and the giant Cinderella variety. Also on display were parsley, cilantro, Swiss chard, and basil and another of my favorites--eggplants. These were very firm and plump with an intensely shiny deep purple skin. I had to have one.

Woodman Avenue Farmers' Market Z: As we stood there examining the display, we began talking to Alicia who had come to pick up her weekly box of produce. What we didn't realize was that the Coop also was a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and that many people like her pay in advance and can pick up their produce at drop-off places around the city. She pays $15 for her weekly carton of fresh offerings that she orders online. We asked to peek inside her produce box and were surprised at the generous selection for such a reasonable price.

R: We see Ha's Apple Farm at so many markets we've almost begun taking them for granted. That Tuesday it was almost impossible to ignore them because of Philip Shin who was bouncing around in front of and behind the table as he persuaded people to try samples of his apples, O'Henry peaches, red plums, and Asian and Bartlett pears. Philip has been associated with the Ha family for 11 years. Associated also means marrying one of the Ha girls whose uncle David Ha started the farm.

Z: As he urged us to taste the Mutsu, Golden Delicious, Fuji, and Orin apples, he kept telling us, "We appreciate all of our customers." The Ha's grow 26 types of apples on their 158 acres at three locations. In addition to those I mentioned they displayed Winesaps, Galas, Red Delicious, and Granny Smiths. They had sold out of their Empires, Sommerfelds, and Honeycrisps, but Shin promised they would have Sundowners and Pink Ladies the following week.

R: If you didn't buy your apples and pears from Ha's, you could find some choices that Sang/Park Farm from Riverside. They displayed Honeycrisp and Granny Smith apples along with Bosc, Anjou, Yali, and Asian pears. The stone fruit season was not yet over for them as they showed late varieties of red, black, and dinosaur plums. Their citrus included lemons, red grapefruit, and Valencia oranges. Bright orange persimmons, both Hachiya and Fuyu, added vivid color to their table.

Woodman Avenue Farmers' Market
Z: Their diverse items included Hass avocados, giant pomegranates, champagne and Thompson Seedless grapes, and jujubes, sometimes called Chinese or red dates. When we mention jujubes to people, they think of those packages of fruit-shaped candy first made in the 1920s. Atkins Farm from Fallbrook also displayed some of the pears, apples, persimmons, and citrus available from Ha's and Sang/Park but they had a fruit no other vendor sold that day--passion fruit.

R: The Berumen Boyz Farm from Fountain Valley squeezes quite a bit of produce out of their 12-acre plot. Alex Berumen had a few moments to tell us the difference between poblano and pasilla peppers as we surveyed the cauliflower, broccoli, jicama, carrots celery, zucchini, green beans, onions, watermelons, cantaloupes, beets, and romaine on the table. There were even small decorative pumpkins to lend a festive touch to the holiday dinner table.

Z: I was delighted with the lacy purple basil, dill, mint, and rosemary shown by Arreola Farm in Oxnard. They had a variety of lettuces, arugula, and spinach as well jicama and giant leeks. Their potato selection included red, fingerlings, and creamers. I had to pick up a bunch of plump golden beets to roast for Reuben and a head of the largest romaine I had ever seen.

Woodman Avenue Farmers' Market R: Gutierrez Farm from San Luis Obispo won my berry award for the day with Albion strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. They also won my award for small vegetables like snow peas, sugar peas, baby squashes, and grape tomatoes.

Z: Speaking of awards, Rivadeneira Farm from Tehachapi won our mushroom contest by being the only grower offering oyster, Portobello, cremini, and shiitake varieties all grown in the dark in their greenhouse. They also sold red, brown, and white onions as well as four kinds of potatoes: purple, Russet, Yukon, and red. Fresh heads of garlic, perfect for roasting, were part of their offerings and were reasonably priced at two for a dollar.

Woodman Avenue Farmers' Market R: As we completed our tour we checked out the flowers at Skyline Flowers of Oxnard and PM Orchids of Panorama City. Skyline had attractive cut flower displays of lisianthus, dahlias, roses and lilies. We were both especially drawn to the privet, a shrub with green and yellow variegated leaves. A little research told us that we would never want to plant this shrub in our yard. It's a troublesome plant that's poisonous and highly invasive. One website said that it could "complicate neighbor relations."

Z: Just goes to show that looks aren't everything. But I went gaga over the Vanda orchid hanging above the PM Orchids table. It was stunning. Only a picture could convey its beauty.

R: We had an opportunity to talk to Robert Gallagher who manages this market as well as the Eagle Rock 'N Roll Market, both owned by Phillip Dane, an experienced flea market operator in the Los Angeles area. Gallagher and his assistant, Kevin, are the two-man crew keeping the market running efficiently.

Z: At the time of our visit the market was entering its second year of operation. We wished Gallagher much success in his new Saturday venture and have a feeling it will do even better than the Tuesday market.

Woodman Avenue Certified Farmers' Market
Tuesdays 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
14006 Riverside Dr., Sherman Oaks
In rear parking lot at Riverside Dr. at Woodman Ave.
Phone: 866-966-9495

Reviewed November 2009

Click here for past Farmers' Market Reviews

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