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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.


The Warner Center Farmers' Market at the Promenade Mall, one of the newest in the Los Angeles area, is a gathering place for San Fernando Valley folks who want to purchase fresh produce, dine informally, and/or shop for crafts. What follows is a dialogue of what the two birds of paradise, Zel and Reuben, discovered on their visit.

Z: This market wins the contest for having one of the longest names: Warner Center Farmers' Market at the Promenade Mall. The market is quite visible on the corner of Erwin Street and Topanga Canyon Boulevard in the mall parking lot facing Macy's.

R: On that cool Friday afternoon in October we noticed the canopies that seem to announce a farmers' market. There was ample parking in the mall lot. As we looked around, we noticed an almost equal mix of produce, crafts, and prepared foods.

Z: This month stone fruits seemed to be winding down while a variety of apples were available. Rosendahl Farms showed a selection of plums and hybrids. The yellow pluots (apricot plums) were quite tasty. They offered Flavor Rich and Flavor Queen plums as well as red and green grapes. Their apple selection included Pink Lady and Fuji. Fuyu persimmons and pomegranates, and a large selection of dried fruits and nuts filled their tables.

R: Scattaglia Farms in Littlerock displayed peaches, plums, and apples. Melissa Reyes explained that the Last Chance peaches would be available until mid November. By the time our readers see this report at the beginning of November, the LaRoda plums will be gone. They also offered Fuji apples.

Apple Z: Speaking of apples, Ha's Apple Farm from Tehachapi had a number of varieties plus two kinds of pears. I counted six kinds of Snow Mountain apples: Winesap, Fuji, Mutsu, Empire, Granny Smith, and Red Delicious. In addition to Bartlett pears, there were the Hosui (small Asian pears). They displayed their usual array of dried apples, apple butter, jellies, syrups, and apple cider vinegar.

R: MB Farms from Raisin City near Fresno had a large selection of dried fruits and nuts, including their best selling trail mix. Their table featured grapes galore. There were Green Giant, Red Globe, black, and crimson. Pomegranates, Fuji apples, and green figs completed their offerings.

Z: Bernard Ranches in Riverside sold Valencia oranges and Blush Pink and white grapefruit. In addition to buying by the pound, you could pick a 5, 10 or 20 lb. bag. Speaking about the 20 lb. size, Vicki Bernard told us about one of her patrons, a raw foodist who consumes a 20 lb. bag of oranges every day.

R: Nakamura Farm from Oxnard can be counted on for fresh organic produce. We were surprised to find that they still had strawberries. They had their usual large selection of vegetables. The artichokes at 50 cents were an exceptional value. Zel loaded our shopping bags with red and green cabbages, romaine, red beets, scallions, cauliflower, spinach, carrots, and bok choy.

Z: Brenda Gama of Gama Farms near Bakersfield told us about her 80-acre farm operated by her husband Gerardo. That afternoon they were selling yellow and white onions, red and russet potatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, garlic, bay leaves, and giant limes.

R: Kerry Clasby of Sunshine Farms in San Luis Obispo was quite informative in her answers to questions about the mushrooms on her table. In addition to the portabellas and shiitake mushrooms we frequently see at farmers' markets, she had chanterelles and brown and yellow oyster mushrooms. Kerry gathered up a handful of each mushroom variety and encouraged us to smell them. There certainly were differences. The yellow oysters smelled sweet, the white oysters mild. The prize for earthiness goes to the chanterelles.

Z: I was disappointed that there were no pink salmon oyster mushrooms that day. She explained it was too cold for them. All of the mushrooms are organically grown in a big barn. You're right about the sweet aroma of the mushrooms. I became so involved with the mushrooms I almost forgot to mention their Hass avocados.

Bitter Melon R: Our stop at the table of Andres Farm of Fresno turned out to be the highlight of the afternoon. They're Filipinos who grow a variety of fruits and Asian vegetables. Along with their fruits and vegetables we ended up with Asian philosophy, cooking advice, and nutritional information. It all started with bitter melon.

Z: You must mean the woman from Sri Lanka who says she eats bitter melon four times a week. She even gave me tips about cooking it. After hearing her, I knew we had to buy some.

R: When we got home, Zel did just fine with that vile stuff. My first taste ended up in the wastebasket. The woman from Sri Lanka also raved about Chinese okra.

Z: She said it was great for cleansing the blood. I won't forget what she said. "All illness can be cured with great food." In addition to the okra and bitter melon, they had other Asian greens including rapini (Chinese broccoli), opo (Chinese squash), and bok choy (Chinese cabbage).

R: Don't forget the kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) and their fruits like Fuji apples, Fuyu persimmons, yellow peaches, white nectarines, red plums, and red and green grapes.

Celosia Z: This market had a plethora of cut flowers and plants. The fiery red celosia blossoms were a highlight at Skyline Flowers. They had the cutest bouquets of red and orange chile peppers. The yellow and orange aquatic lily bouquets at Casitas Floral Farm were a knockout. And those white gerbera daisies with the black centers! Wow! You might think of belladonna as pure poison. But those blue and purple flowers at Lord Nursery of Carpinteria were too beautiful to be thought of as poisonous.

R: We can't forget Lim's of Panorama City. They always show up with unique orchids. The zygo petalum from Brazil had two different color blossoms. And what a fragrance!

Z: The craft area had a diverse group of vendors, everything from Japanese kites to jewelry and clothing. There was even a psychic reader. The most unusual was Nature Secret with dried flower displays and gem trees. They also featured attractive display bottles filled with gorgeous fruits and vegetables preserved in oil. They looked at our business card and told us they were vegetarians, too.

R: The prepared food section featured a unique variety and even included our favorite Corn Maiden tamales.

Z: We had an opportunity to speak to Jennifer McColm who manages the market. This is one of four markets she owns and operates. The others are in Century City, Pacific Palisades, and Westlake Village. This market opened in June of this year. I was surprised to learn she is the mother of three young children. What a busy lady!

R: Because the mall is concerned about weekend shopping during the holidays, this market will move to Tuesday afternoons beginning November 21.

Warner Center Farmers' Market at the Promenade Mall
Fridays 11:30 to Dusk until November 21, 2000
Tuesdays 11:30 to Dusk after November 21, 2000
Phone: 818-807-9266

Reviewed November 2000

Click here for past Farmers' Market Reviews

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