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Vegan for the Holidays

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All the world is nuts about

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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 a warm Friday evening in August the two birds of paradise, Zel and Reuben, journeyed to the Eagle Rock Farmers' Market to give our readers a special bird's eye view. What follows is their dialogue of that experience.

Z: My first impression of the Eagle Rock Farmers' Market was that it was small compared to some of the others we have visited, but it certainly was a bustling market that brought many families out to shop. There were thick crowds of people around each of the tables offering fresh fruits and vegetables.

R: Those farmers sure had a busy four hours selling at a rather brisk pace. The market is in the form of a square donut and is sandwiched between the local branch of the public library and the Department of Transportation building. A section of Merton Avenue between Caspar Avenue and Eagle Rock Boulevard is closed off to accommodate the vendors' tables. The parking lot of the Department of Transportation building is the locale for the Food Court and the craft sellers' wares.

Z: We learned this market had vendors who catered to the large Filipino population in the area. Alma Produce from the Orosi, near Fresno, offered items not often found at other markets. The most unusual was the taro plant, not just the root but the whole plant which was at least five feet tall, all of it edible. Reuben wanted to hold one up to see if was taller than me.

Taro R: We didn't buy one, but Zel couldn't resist the Chinese eggplant and those little green and white globular Philippine eggplants. I knew I was in for it when Zel selected a bunch of okra leaves. According to Michael from Alma, they cook up a bit slimy like okra. That didn't stop Zel, though. There was also quite a selection of Chinese greens, Chinese sinqua squash, opo squash, fresh peanuts, chiles, grapes, and haricot vert (those long string beans that look like miniature clotheslines).

Z: Close by was Lili of Bih Shan Farm Co. from Riverside who proudly announced she grew everything herself, and it was all organic. The baskets of fresh shiitake and oyster mushrooms were an exceptional buy. Others were aware of Lili's reasonable prices and were snapping up the mushrooms, on choy leaves, bok choy greens, and the snow pea sprouts. By the end of the market, there wasn't much left on her table.

R: We had an opportunity to speak to Riva of Riva's Farm. Riva has a 40 acre farm in Somis with 15 acres of avocado trees and a 20,000 foot greenhouse where she raises hydroponic lettuces. Her table featured avocados, limestone lettuce, arugula, and bags of mixed greens. By the time we came back to make our lettuce purchase, she was sold out.

Z: The community sure patronizes this market with enthusiasm. Stone fruits were in abundance, and there were plenty of samples for tasting. Twin Girls Farm from Reedley displayed Santa Rosa plums, white and yellow peaches, white nectarines, and pluots (an apricot plum combination). Scattaglia Farms from Littlerock had the same varieties of plums, peaches, and nectarines along with Sharlyn melons, black figs, and packaged dried fruits. It seems that this year's stone fruits are the sweetest I've ever tasted.

Pepper R: I agree, and those samples the vendors were offering certainly were effective selling techniques. Vegetable shopping needs could be easily satisfied by Underwood Farms from Moorpark and Somis. What a selection of bell peppers! In addition to the familiar green, yellow, and red, they sold purple peppers and an unusual chocolate variety we hadn't seen before. I was immediately drawn to their bicolored corn, while Zel cruised around to find the lemon cucumbers, radishes, carrots, green beans, and yellow beets. We both bumped into each other looking at the tomatoes: Cherokee, Celebrity, and Pineapple Pie. The Pineapple Pie were beefsteak-size yellow tomatoes with a red bottom and red streaks throughout, quite unusual and quite delicious.

Z: Like other markets there were cut flowers and plants, but this one had some unusual varieties. Dell, who also sells at the Encino Market, brought her exceptional South African plants including her claradendrom with its clusters of pink and red blossoms. She also featured a passion flower plant and desert solanum with its purple and yellow flowers. Most of her plants produce spectacular blossoms.

R: In speaking to Bill Guthrie of Casitas Floral Farms in Carpinteria, I was surprised to learn that he has only been in business for ten months and is already represented at 28 farmers markets. He displayed a colorful array of bouquets that included variegated gerbera daisies, multicolored zinnias, pastel peach roses, lilies, and sunflowers. His stand was so popular that by 8:30 he was nearly sold out.

Zinnias Z: Kiriya Hirunpokul, a diminutive, zesty Philippine woman with a quick sense of humor, sells some uncommon plant items. In addition to her attractively potted lucky bamboo, oriental jasmine, and dramatic spider orchids, there were water hyacinths, water lilies, and water lettuces.

R: Those water lettuces that were as big as my whole hand reminded me of some of the succulents we grow in our own backyard, the light green, wide open multi-petaled plants.

Z: The pleasing musical sounds emanating from the food court were provided by the lovely, red-headed, straw-hatted Fur Dixon and her guitar. Each week different musicians are featured, lending a festive flavor to the shopping experience.

R: Among the craft items were pencils made by Christopher Nyerges, an environmentalist and wild foods specialist. His pencils are made from wood branches carefully trimmed to preserve the trees' ecology. Creations by Dea Allen featured recycled ceramic tile bases decorated with completely organic items including moss, wood, and stones. Other craft items displayed were jewelry, candles, and soaps.

Z: The market has been in operation for a little over a year, but judging from that Friday evening, it is obviously a Friday night attraction for a number of people in the community. That evening Ken and Doreen Arno, the market managers, arrived late because they were rear-ended on the way to the market. We were relieved to hear they were not injured, but the sink they were hauling to the market needed some medical attention.

R: The Arnos, Doreen and Ken, operate the market in conjunction with the Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce. They are operators of Kendor Farms in Van Nuys where they raise hens. They sell eggs at a number of markets including this one. Ken, who calls himself the "Edge Doctor," sells and sharpens knives and scissors and has a table of knives and scissors for sale in the craft area of the market.

Z: As we spoke to Ken and Doreen, an agricultural inspector for Los Angeles County delivered her quarterly report. Of course, it was a positive and very complimentary report.

Eagle Rock Farmers' Market
Merton Avenue between Caspar Avenue and Eagle Rock Blvd.
Fridays 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Phone: 818-774-0755

Reviewed September 2000

Click here for past Farmers' Market Reviews

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