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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.


The Norwalk Certified Farmers' Market has been offering farm fresh produce to the community for over 20 years. The two birds of paradise, Zel and Reuben, share the details of their visit to this unique venue in the following dialog.

Z: You might think of this market as quite intellectual. It's surrounded by all kinds of educational facilities. As we drove to the market, we passed Cerritos College and Norwalk High School. Across from the market is Norwalk-La Mirada Adult School. In fact, the market is held in the parking lot across from the adult school on Alondra Boulevard near Pioneer Boulevard.

R: Not only intellectual but unique because it is operated by senior citizens. Manager Ray Crispi and his Norwalk Committee on Aging are there every Tuesday morning to supervise. But more on this team later. That crisp November morning we were surrounded by persimmons.

Z: I knew persimmons were in season, but I didn't expect seven vendors to show up with them. Both the Fuyu and Hachiya types were available, but Fuyus seemed to dominate. One of the vendors, Willow Creek Ranch from Escondido, sold mostly persimmons, but also offered pineapple guavas, avocados and pomegranates. Guava

R: John Sanderson has been a grower for 15 years on his 26-acre ranch. Although most of his output is Hass avocados, he manages to produce plums, apples, pomegranates, and both Hachiya and Fuyu persimmons. As a member of the Rare Fruit Growers in San Diego, he has taken a special interest in growing tropical fruits like bananas, sapote, cherimoya, and guava.

Z: I enjoyed talking to this smiling Yorkshireman who was planning a trip back to England for Christmas for a family reunion. Besides, his persimmons were truly delicious. Of course, there were other growers with persimmon like Jim Van Foeken from Visalia. He also offered Satsuma tangerines, oranges, limes, avocados, and Pomelos.

R: Those Pomelos weighed 2 1/2 lbs. each with some measuring about 5 inches in diameter. The highlight for me at this table was the Yali or Chinese Pears. Instead of a sliver of a pear, they handed us a whole pear to taste. It was crunchy, really juicy, and much sweeter than the Asian pears I'm used to.

Z: I was surprised by their generosity, but as we walked around the market, vendors were giving us produce. We had to tell them we couldn't accept their gifts because this was their livelihood. Perhaps, we shouldn't wear our Vegetarians in Paradise sweatshirts and hats.

R: Speaking of generosity, Fang Yan and his wife Pang from Clovis gave us two bunches of bok choy and 2 bunches of scallions. We picked out green cabbage, Chinese eggplant, bitter melon, kabocha, daikon, and broccoli, but Zel put her foot down when he didn't want to charge us.

Z: I told him this is his living, his business, and he had to take my money. When we got home, I found he had slipped a few extras into our shopping bag. Theresa at Berumen Farms in Westminster discounted our purchase of cucumbers, white squash, and a huge bunch of radishes.

R: Those weren't ordinary radishes. They were the size of plums. We weighed the bunch at home and it was 2 1/2 lbs. Zel had a tough time resisting the baby squashes sold by Paradise Farm from Carlsbad. They had white zucchini, scallopini, pattipan, gold summer, and green summer, all in diminutive size. Their other baby vegetables were turnips, beets, carrots, and corn.

Z: They displayed their haricot vert and haricot jaune (green and yellow string beans) that we featured in a previous farmers' market visit. I was especially drawn to their gold Roma tomatoes and their white chayote. Roberto extolled the merits of this chayote that is less watery and sweeter than the green variety they grow.

R: Another great stop was Alma Produce from Orosi. Not only did we have an opportunity to purchase Asian vegetables, but we also got recipes for cooking them. They told us they like to combine long green beans, Filipino squash, Chinese okra, and Japanese eggplant together to create a superb dish.

Z: I took their advice and created a soup that was quite tasty. That Filipino squash looked and tasted just like a kabocha. They had Chinese okra they called patula as well as opo squash, bitter melon, pomelo, and grapes.

R: I'm surprised you haven't mentioned flowers. Juan from Riverside must have thought we were inspectors or suspicious characters because he was not anxious to say much about himself or his farm. He did offer attractive bouquets of cut flowers.

Carnations Z: The carnations were spectacular. There were red and white variegated, white, fuschia, and purple varieties. Of course, it's a great time for chrysanthemums and white gladiolas.

R: Lim's of Panorama City always has unusual orchids for sale. That morning it was the yellow blossoms with brown flecks of the oncidium, known as the dancing doll.

Z: Evergreen Nursery from Compton showed an array of potted plants including navel orange, Mexican lime trees, and a Thailand guava plant. The guava plant even came with one piece of fruit hanging from an upper branch.

R: We can't forget Lili of Bih Shan Farm in Riverside. We had met her before at another market where she proudly announced she grew her own mushrooms, bok choy, and snow pea sprouts that were all organic. She reminded us again about everything being organic. As she scooped oyster mushrooms into our bag, she told us how difficult it was to compete with non-organic mushroom growers. We told her that her prices were far more reasonable than her competitors.

Z: What I will probably remember most about this market was the friendliness of the vendors and people who manage it. Ray Crispi, President of the Committee on Aging, at 85 is still active in running this market after 19 years at this task. Dexter Phipps and the other seniors who help him each Tuesday from 6:30 a.m.to 2:00 p.m. find time to work at the market and operate the Lunch with a Friend Program delivering meals to seniors once each week.

R: One special thing I noticed about this market was the goodwill the management creates with the vendors by providing sandwiches, coffee, and soft drinks for them. Their Norwalk Committee on Aging has 21 members who participate in the activities of the group. All the profits from their efforts at the market are donated to charities.

Z: The Norwalk Certified Farmers' Market is a relatively small market averaging between 18 to 20 vendors. What it lacks in size, it makes up in warmth toward the 2000 to 3000 people who visit each week.

Norwalk Certified Farmers' Market
Alondra Boulevard at Pioneer Boulevard
Tuesdays 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Reviewed December 2000

Click here for past Farmers' Market Reviews

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