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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 LaVerne Certified Farmers' Market, in its second year of operation, is a small market with big plans. On a cool Saturday morning in November the two birds of paradise, Zel and Reuben, journeyed to the eastern region of Los Angeles County to investigate and report back to their eager and curious fans.

Z: When we parked along Bonita Street just before it reaches D Street I looked across to the parking lot behind the University of Laverne's book store. I turned to Reuben and said, "This is a small farmers'market." Reuben responded with, " I didn't realize they had special markets for short farmers." That line had me giggling all day.

R: It reminds me my youth when we talked about "Two-ton truck drivers." I knew you meant that there were not many farmers, but I couldn't resist that comeback. There weren't many farmers; there were actually five if you counted the cut flowers and the plants. We did, however, find some unique items there among the produce, crafts, and food.

Z: For me the Cinderella squash, sometimes called Fairy Tale Squash was the highlight of that morning. From Valley Heights Farm in Oceanside, this pinkish beige squash was deeply fluted and had mottled green sections at the top. I felt that the fairy godmother would wave her wand and presto it would turn into Cindarella's carriage.

R: To me it looked like a pumpkin someone had sat on. You liked it so much we had to take it home with us. David was eager to show us his other wares that included green beans, red and green peppers, tomatoes, green tomatoes, okra, eggplants, cantaloupes, seedless watermelon and white corn. The corn was the sweetest I've tasted this season. Another exceptional item was the Japanese tomatoes with unmatched richness of flavor. We took some of those home, too.

Persimmon Z: Andres/Jones Produce from Orosi displayed cucumbers and Chinese eggplant along with a variety of fruits that included Fuyu persimmons, black plums, pomelo, Satsuma tangerines, pomegranates, and Clemson grapes.

R: The ubiquitous Rosendahl Farms participated with the last of the stone fruits, dried fruits, nuts, apples, and pears. That morning they were selling Fuji, Gala, and Pink Lady apples as well as Asian pears. They were one of the three vendors that displayed Fuyu persimmons. They also had the last pluots of the season along with some Asian pears.

Z: Citrus was featured at the table of Akins Nursery from Fallbrook. Their stock included Valencia oranges, ruby red grapefruit, and Meyer and Eureka lemons. I find it difficult to forget the Bearss limes because of the double "s" in Bearss. It almost looks like a misprint. They also sold giant Fuyu persimmons and Haas avocados. At one end of their table was a large box filled with macadamia nuts in the shell, a unique item seldom found at farmers markets.

Guava R: You had to have some, but you get the job of smashing them with a hammer. Those have to be the hardest shells of any nut in existence. You didn't mention the Jambu Bata guava. It has an exotic, sweet perfume-like fragrance with a greenish-yellow skin and red pulp inside. Unfortunately, they looked and smelled better than they tasted, and the hard, tiny seeds inside were quite a challenge.

Z: This market didn't have anyone selling the greens, the lettuces, cabbages, and cooking and salad vegetables, but there were two vendors featuring plants and cut flowers. Sophia Nursery from Duarte showed some small fruit trees like apricot, fig, Jona Gold apple, papaya, and strawberry guava. We learned that the chili pepper plant would produce an abundant crop that could be eaten. Cho's Flowers from Somis had an unusual assortment of pompon daisies.

R: Their colors seemed too electric to be real. They were fluorescent pink, purple, and blue, with white and combinations of these colors. The flowers were real, but the colors were not. After asking a few questions, we learned they had been dyed. There was nothing artificial about the sunflowers, though, or the Oriental lilies, or those attractive Bells of Ireland.

Z: As we strolled through the market, we could hear the pleasant sounds of Brad Annan on his acoustic guitar and harmonica. He has a great voice. At times he reminded me of James Taylor. He's there every week, lending pleasant background sounds to the market experience.

R: We made a quick survey of the craft area that featured clothing, jewelry, and knickknacks.

Z: Cicely Bovell who comes from Guyana invited us to look at her boutique of clothes she makes herself. She wanted us to come closer and "fatten your eyes." Her repertoire featured jewelry and clothing she fashions from fabrics from all over the world. Cicely escaped the cold winters of Washington, DC to reside in Southern California for the last three years. I was especially drawn to her unusual scarves and her swing jackets.

R: We spoke to market manager Linh Nguyen who has been on the job for three months. Linh operates the Carbon Grill, serving food at 15 farmers' markets. That day his sister Lisa was at the grill as he took care of market business.

Z: They did serve one vegetarian entrée that included beans, rice, carmelized onions, avocado, salsa, and guacamole. Unfortunately for us, it contained eggs. Linh admitted that this Saturday was a slow day for the market. Attendance is currently about 500 or less each week.

R: He did share some of his ideas about increasing interest and attendance at the market. He would like to see the market move to D Street (the city's main thoroughfare). He is also seeking corporate sponsors to promote a more expanded farmers' market.

Z: If he can negotiate the move to D Street, that would mean closing the street for a few hours, bringing the market more visibility. Linh is anxious to make the market a success and see it grow. "This market is my resume," he says. His plans also include possibly changing the time to Saturday afternoon, after the local soccer and little league games, to encourage families to come for an afternoon of shopping and entertainment.

R: Hopefully, we'll be able to return sometime next year to find a bustling market. With more community support it could happen.

LaVerne Certified Farmers' Market
Bonita Avenue and D Street
Saturdays 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Phone: 310-993-8003

Reviewed December 2001

Click here for past Farmers' Market Reviews

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