All the world is nuts about
Z: Media Park, the site of the market, is a triangular shaped lot where Culver Boulevard and Venice Boulevard intersect. At the apex of the triangle is Ivy Station, a power plant for the old electric trains that are no more. Pity, that whole network of trains could be the basis for a light rail system the community so desperately needs. The station was built in 1907, but has been remodeled about seven years ago and is now used as a community building. I remember fondly that we saw a play performed there a few years ago.
R: Your digressing from the issue just a bit. Let's tell our readers about this lively Culver City Farmers' Market. All the vendors are lined up on both sides of an access road that parallels Culver Boulevard. At one entrance along Ince Road, the base of the triangle, we heard the sounds of Spreadin' Rhythm Around, a jazz trio. On that warm September afternoon the trio of keyboard, bass, and drums was augmented by two friends who dropped in, a saxophonist and a trombone player. We later learned this group is the "house band" playing at the market three times a month.
Z: What gives this market special appeal are the great big shade trees that line the path of the farm stands.
R: Those trees are a real benefit to the farmers. It was beginning to get pretty warm that afternoon, but under the trees it was quite pleasant. It also kept the produce such as lettuces from wilting.
Z: Stone fruits were king at this market. If I were to select the farmers who had the special varieties, I would choose Tenerelli Farms from Littlerock and Rosendahl from Caruthers. Tenerelli farms specializes in late season varieties. As Howard Eckert, John Tenerelli's brother-in-law explained, "We're still picking fresh fruit each day. The stone fruit you'll find in grocery stores has been in storage." He proudly showed us the Sugar Lady white peaches, his first crop ever.
R: He was enthusiastic about the bright red-orange O'Henry peach that he called "the peach of the year." He also showed us the Ryan Sun yellow peach that was almost as good as the O'Henry. His other offerings included September Red nectarines, Simka Rosa plums, and Bartlett pears.
Z: Rosendahl, represented at a number of markets, displayed both green and red grapes, a variety of nuts, and an assortment of dried fruits. They offered delicious white peaches and nectarines and Flavor Queen green plums, but the highlight on their table was the hybrids. The apriums (2/3 apricot and 1/3 plum) were especially great, but the Dinosaur Egg plucots, a plum-apricot combination, were to die for.
R: Kosmo from Cuyama had peaches, too, Snow White and Ryan Sun yellow. However, the main attractions of their table were the new crop of apples, Red Delicous, Granny Smith, and Royal Gala. The very end of August and throughout September is the best time to enjoy the zesty flavor of freshly picked apples. Granny Smith and Hi Early apples could be purchased from Sherrill Orchards from Arvin. They offered their usual assortment of fresh fruit juices along with first-of-the-season pomegranates and yellow peaches.
Z: Anyone seeking out baby vegetables would have a great experience shopping at Valdivia Farm from Carlsbad. They specialize in baby vegetables including beets, carrots, turnips, corn, cucumbers, and baby squash and squash blossoms. Roberto was happy to tell us about the 152-acre farm in Carlsbad that can grow produce year around. Along with baby squash, we filled our bag with haricot vert, but passed up the haricot jaune, though they were tempting, too.
R: When you use the French word for green beans and yellow beans you can ask higher prices, but I must admit these tasted different than Kentucky string beans. Zel steamed them briefly and we both savored those succulent French beans for dinner that night. Anyone looking for greens would have to stop and shop at the Culinary Farms table. Their gorgeous lettuces, spinach, mesclun, and arugala, are all hydroponically grown.
Z: I simply lifted the green leaf lettuce out of the water and put it into a plastic bag. Because all their lettuces still have the roots on and are kept fresh in a water bath they were plump and crisp in spite of the hot weather. At their table they also had some special yellow Brandywine heirloom tomatoes and irresistible pear tomatoes. We sampled and both concluded that nothing can compare to the taste of an heirloom tomato.
R: Even Zel's blouse got a sample of a juicy heirloom tomato. Munak Ranch from Paso Robles had a variety of organic produce including Brandywine heirlooms, Zebra, and Celebrity tomatoes. After a taste of their delicate, small, green Mickey Lee variety watermelon, we had to buy one.
Z: You were trying to come up with a word to describe its skin color, but I solved your problem by using the word "celadon." We've come a long way without talking about the cut flowers. Three growers were represented with a colorful array of bouquets. Lori Hurbel from Fallbrook showed the bansia variety of protea along with almost any color zinnia you can imagine. The deep red and dark purple were especially striking nestled among the bright yellow and orange ones. She also sold organic limes, tangelos, and avocados.
R: Two other growers represented at other markets were Casitas Floral and Skyline Flowers. Both had spectacular bunches of bright red feathery celosia. Dan from Skyline showed us the globe amaranth, the striking Snow Berry with its profuse white blossoms, the unusual brownish red echinacea "buttons," and the deep red hibiscus pods with burgundy stems.
Z: We can't forget the veggies, especially the Asian ones from Mua Farm in Fresno. This was eggplant heaven with colors ranging from deep purple to pale orchid. Indian, Thai, Chinese, and Japanese were all available along with cinqua, opo squash, bitter melon, and lemon grass.
R: Nakamura and Tomai, both from Oxnard, provided their usual wide variety of vegetables they bring to many markets. We never think about strawberries this time of year, but Nakamura still had some to sell.
Z: We both were pleasantly surprised by the offerings of Environmental Arts from Gardena. Peter Lee, accompanied by his dog Layka, had a vast assortment of herbs and vegetables in four-inch containers. We were taken aback by the inexpensive prices. Many were $.50 and $.75. Peter leases an acre of land under the power lines, but he only manages to use half of that for his nursery. He's been growing and selling plants for the last 16 years.
R: He grows enough plants to take to seven farmers' markets each week. Why are his plants so inexpensive? "I'm it," he explains. "I do it all myself," Zel had to have a stevia plant. It turned out to be the most expensive plant he had, a whopping $1.50. Try chewing on a leaf sometime. What a sweet surprise to the taste buds!
Z: J.A.C.K.'s Gourmet Snacks really appealed to me. They're labeled as the "Healthy Alternative to Junk Food." We didn't speak to Jack; we talked to George Kamon, the owner. J.A.C.K. is an acronym for the names of his four kids. George and his wife have been making the chips for the last ten years. The brown rice, garlic rice, sweet potato, and taro chips are all baked. He offers a number of dried fruits including Fuji and Granny Smith apple rings, persimmons, cherries, mangos, and apricots.
R: We had an opportunity to speak to Stephen Whipple who has managed the market for four years. The market, sponsored by the Culver City Redevelopment Agency, is in its fifth year. There are approximately 23 farmers and 15 non-agricultural vendors. Stephen, who spends about 20 hours a week working on the market, is also assistant manager of the Westwood Farmers' Market.
Z: He took pride in announcing that this was the first summer the city had concerts in the park on Tuesday evenings. "The concerts made the market a more vibrant place," he says. At 6:00 p.m. Spreadin Rhythm Around completed its jazz set as attention shifted to the outdoor stage where the blues rock group began its performance.
R: As we crossed the street with our purchases, two Culver City police officers were acting as crossing guards on the busy thoroughfare. The parking lot was filled. The bustling market averages about 1000 shoppers each week. It seemed like most of them were in the park that evening.
Culver City Farmers' Market
Reviewed October 2000