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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.

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The Pomona Valley Certified Farmers' Market is one of the longest running markets in Los Angeles County. On a warm Saturday morning in July the two birds of paradise, Zel and Reuben, decided to investigate the Pomona market and report back to their eager and curious fans.

Z: As we drove along Holt Avenue on our way to the Pomona Valley Certified Market, we were well aware that this market was not located in an affluent community. At the edge of the huge parking lot of the First Baptist Church at Garey and Pearl was the farmers' market where it was easy to spot the familiar rows of shade canopies and a bustle of people carrying bags of produce brimming over the tops.

R: Obviously, the church has ample parking for all of the people who attend its functions. There was no problem finding parking in the remainder of the lot adjacent to the farmers' sales booths. As we learned later, our visit occurred in between two celebrations. The week before was the 20th anniversary of the founding of the original market that took place on July 4, 1981. Next week is the Peaches and Cream gala event.

Z: We did our own celebrating by loading our bags with farm-fresh produce. The stone fruits were in abundance. Shoppers could purchase these fruits at prices ranging from $1 to $2.50 a pound. The top price was for yellow and white nectarines, white peaches, black plums and green pluots offered by Twin Girls Farms from Reedley. All of their plump, bright-colored stone fruits are certified organic.

Plum R: Pluots, a cross between plums and apricots are beginning to show up in the supermarkets, but they are readily found at most farmers' markets during the stone fruit season. The pluot has more plum than apricot while the plucot has more apricot than plum. Occasionally, we run across apriums that are another variation of the combination.

Z: Rosendahl Farms from Caruthers offered yellow peaches, yellow and white nectarines, pluots, Santa Rosa plums, Gala apples, red flame and Thompson seedless grapes, tiny and tightly-compacted champagne grapes, and their usual assortment of dried fruits and nuts. Their most unusual offering was the donut peaches. They look like someone compressed them by putting them in a vice or perhaps sitting on them.

R: The $1 buys-you-any-stone-fruit price was being offered by Windham Farms from Exeter. They showed yellow and white peaches, white and yellow nectarines, Santa Rosa plums, and Dapple Dandy pluots. Biting into one of the pluots is quite dangerous. The red juice inevitably runs down the front of your shirt. It did on mine, and Zel couldn't escape the inevitable either. We actually didn't mind too much. Those pluots were so sweet we wore our stains proudly.

Z: The Dapple Dandies will be around until September. It's one of 6 varieties grown by Windham. We learned that they have 3 acres devoted to pluot trees. Seong Lee Farms from Redlands and San Bernardino offered stone fruits including yellow nectarines, white peaches, and Santa Rosa plums, but they also had some giant Fuji apples, and I do mean giant. Each apple weighed between one and 11/2 pounds.

R: They also displayed a wide assortment of vegetables including snow and sugar peas, eggplant, cucumbers, okra, red potatoes, scallions, celery, and zucchini. A few zucchinis looked like they had run amok. They were the size of small baseball bats. Bright red vine-ripened cluster tomatoes and Haas avocados were also in evidence.

Z: A selection of certified organic produce was available from Smith Farms from Irvine. If you wanted to spice up your life, you could do it easily with their selection of hot chile peppers. Jalapenos, pasillas, serrano, Fresno, Anaheim, and yellows were grouped in mounds on their tables. Chiles, by the way, are not vegetables; they're classified as a fruit. So are the bell peppers they had in green, yellow and red.

R: Along with Roma and beefsteak tomatoes and tomatillos, they showed zucchini, yellow and red onions, okra, Blue Lake string beans, Italian eggplant, and tomatillos. Since we're distinguishing between fruits and vegetables, I should mention that eggplant, tomatoes, and tomatillos are fruits, even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that tomatoes are a vegetable. See http://www.vegparadise.com/highestperch8.html for a history of the tomato.

Watermelon Z: Does it really matter to most of us? Not a bit, but what does matter is that we get our five servings of fruits and veggies every day. Smith Farms also offered cantaloupes and Sweet Baby watermelons. They're the cutest little round, seedless watermelons about the size of a large cantaloupe. We asked farmer Angelo from Hinckley to help us select a Persian melon. He was eager to offer his help and talked about his other melon varieties. He had bright yellow canary melons, cantaloupe and watermelons. Though he wasn't certified organic, he proudly told us he grows his fruits naturally with no spray.

R: We both stopped to look at the basil from Berumen Farm in Westminster. The bunches they displayed stretched across the width of the table. We guessed they were about 30 inches in length, the tallest basil we had ever seen. Unusual squashes were sold by Cervantes from Santa Ana and Cabral Farm in Chino. Cervantes had "boletas," appealing little pale green, striped squashes in the shape of two-inch balls. Cabral displayed "Claremont squash," a long, white squash that was a cross between a zucchini and a patty pan.

Rose Z: No farmers' market visit would be complete without focusing on the cut flowers available. Venegas Nursery from Vista had those giant sunflower bouquets, some were all yellow with large brown centers, and some were yellow, tinged with bright orange at the tips. Those brilliant sunflowers were about 5 inches in diameter. Their hot pink gladiolas with the red stems were spectacular. So were their striking pink, white, and red rose bouquets and their mixed bouquets with gerbera daisies.

R: In our market visit we had an opportunity to speak to Harry Brown-Hiegel who has been manager for 14 years. An ex-priest who is now married, Harry currently is a social worker along with market managing here and at the Covina Farmers' Market established in May of this year.

Z: We watched as he inserted wads of WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) vouchers into a counting machine. WIC is a program created by the County Health Department for low-income residents as part of their nutrition program. Seeing the stacks of $2 vouchers on the table, we asked how many he collects each week from the poor who are able to present these to the farmers to purchase food. We were surprised when he answered with $5,000.

R: Harry was able to tell us the history of the origin of the farmers' markets. The irony is that the organization that did the most to establish the markets, the Interfaith Hunger Coalition, is no longer in existence. But their work still lives on.

Z: The Pomona Valley Certified Farmers' Market was the sixth to be established in Los Angeles County. With its 23 farmers and 6 non-farm vendors, it is beginning its 21st year of serving the community. It is one of five markets sponsored by the Inland Valley Council of Churches.

R: As we were leaving with our bags full of produce, we stopped to watch Tropical Island patrons purchasing fruit smoothies served in fresh pineapples or foot-long vases with tall straws. Since we were planning to stop for a vegetarian lunch, we just watched.

Pomona Valley Certified Farmers' Market
Garey Ave. and Pearl St. (one block north of Holt Ave.)
Saturdays 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Phone: 323-735-2586

Reviewed August 2001


Click here for past Farmers' Market Reviews


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