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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.


The Malibu Certified Farmers' Market in its one year of existence is a blend of three diverse elements: farm-fresh produce, crafts, and environmental activism. On a warm Sunday morning in August the two birds of paradise, Zel and Reuben, journeyed to the beach city of Malibu to investigate and report back to their eager and curious fans.

Z: As we drove along Civic Center Way, we passed a line of cars parked along the street. In the distance we could see the cupolas and tents that announce a farmers' market. We parked on the street and walked to the large city hall parking lot. Approaching the market, we could hear the sounds of smooth jazz. The sign said, "Dark Delishous Music." Musician Robert Kyle was selling CD's featuring his own saxophone and flute work.

R: The Sunday we visited was Environmental Reach-Out Day. Along with farmers' booths filled with all kinds of fruits and vegetables, there were tables with environmental literature and people willing to talk about their ecological projects. Visitors could even go home with pencils made from recycled denim and recycled paper money.

Z: Most exciting for me were the organic farmers with items I had never seen before. I was ecstatic to find the heirloom fruits from Munak Farms from Paso Robles. Their selection of heirloom tomatoes was spectacular, especially their persimmon tomato that was incredibly delicious. Ed Munak says it's the sweetest tomato he grows on his 80-acre farm. He describes it as "robust." Munak, who has been a grower for 25 years, specializes in tomatoes, melons, squashes and cucumbers, all organic.

Tomato R: I was intrigued by those sausage tomatoes that looked like tiny Romas with a teardrop shape. He had other heirloom varieties like peach, tangerine, Cherokee purple, Zebra, Brandywine, and Blancos Aires (tomatoes with an Argentine flavor). For those who just want an "ordinary" tomato, he had Burpee Delicious and Celebrity varieties along with yellow teardrop and cherry tomatoes. The Celebrity is his best seller. Of his heirlooms he notes that the pineapple is the most popular.

Z: We shouldn't forget to mention his sweet melons. Their names perfectly described their flavors: Ambrosia, Honey Loaf and Rocky Sweet. He also offered round lemon cucumbers and Mickey Lee watermelons.

R: Cahuilla Mountain Farm from Aguanga, an organic heirloom grower, also had some unusual items. I never realized there were so many varieties of garlic. On the display table were Siberian, Polish White, German White, and Chinese Pink. They grow 11 kinds of garlic out of a possible 660. Paul Hartmann, the managing director, proudly announced, "We're the only organic farm that tests 100% sulfite free."

Z: I was not aware there were so many types of eggplant. They grow nine kinds out of a possible 600. At other markets we had seen the Chinese variety that they call Ping Tung Lung. They also featured the Asian bride, a long white one, an Egyptian one that was more round and stubby, and a long green Thai eggplant.

R: Cahuilla also displayed sweet peppers and an assortment of summer squashes including yellow crookneck, golden pattypan, and cocozelle zucchini, a long, thin green squash with dark green striations. Their baseball-size Emerald Gold melon could be held in the palm of the hand. Hartmann told us it was originally grown by the Iroquois Indians. After the French and Indian War it found its way to France and became known as Charentais or Savor.

Z: Their watermelons were quite unique. The Georgia Rattlesnakes measured 2 1/2 feet in length. The Sweet Crimson was an Amish heirloom melon. Looking at the side of the Moon and Stars melon, one could see bright yellow markings on a dark green background that looked like a planetarium sky with the moon and stars.

R: Both Rosendahl Farms of Caruthers and Boujikian Farms of Fresno displayed an assortment of stone fruits, grapes, dried fruits and nuts. Rosendahl offered white and yellow peaches and white and yellow nectarines as well as six kinds of pluots (plum/apricot hybrid). On their table were Thompson and Red Flame grapes and Gala apples. Their dried fruits included pluots, a variety of fruit mixes, and a tempting trail mix of almonds and walnuts with black and gold raisins,

Z: Boujikian had those delicious grapes with names like Fantasy, Megrita, and Red Flame. They displayed fresh tree-ripened Mission black figs along with an attractive selection of dried fruits and nuts. Fresh stone fruits for sale were O'Henry peaches, May Fire nectarines, and Showtime purple plums.

Crookneck R: Guevara Farms of Santa Maria showed the largest assortment of vegetables. Their squashes included Mexican and yellow zucchini, crookneck, and yellow and green pattypan. Other offerings were cherry and yellow teardrop tomatoes, carrots, scallions, red and green cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, red onions, and lettuces. The large sign behind the table read, "Grown biologically with natural predators and organic fertilizer."

Z: Reuben is not crazy about bitter melon or some of the Asian greens we find at the farmers' markets. John Xiong from Fresno brought some of his unusual crops to this market. He was selling bitter melon leaves, bok choy leaves, broccoli rabe, and a few others you're not likely to find in your local Ralph's Market. He had three kinds of bitter melon: Thai, Chinese, and Indian. Reuben just kept shaking his head and muttering.

R: Ugh! Bitter melon! How can people eat that stuff? Xiong did have some"ordinary" vegetables like string beans, pickling cucumbers, and eggplant that looked fresh and robust. The item on their table that really stood out was fresh peanuts. Not roasted, but fresh in the shell. And they are a vegetable in the legume or bean family, not a nut as many people believe.

Z: The Sproutime folks had set up a mini salad bar where people could make their own sprout salad. They were giving samples of their edamame salad. Edamame is the Japanese name for fresh soybeans that can be found in many markets. They also had samples of different kinds of hummus marketed under their Foodology label.

R: The most unusual display was the Backyard Garden. No one was supervising the collection of baskets filled with vegetables. All the items had price tags. On the table was a sign that said, "Gone to Church." Next to the sign was a collection box with a slit in the top. The unique feature of this display was that all the items were yellow: yellow peppers, round yellow cucumbers, yellow spaghetti squash, yellow pattypan, yellow tomatoes, and yellow crooknecks. A few of the spectacular bright yellow summer squashes measured five inches in diameter.

Dahlia Z: Another backyard grower was the Lubisich family. Tom and Mary Lubisich grow vegetables and dahlias in their backyard. They manage to produce 75 varieties of dahlias. That day they were selling their gorgeous dahlias in a myriad of brilliant colors, some as large as eight inches in diameter.

R: The extensive display of cut flowers and potted plants by Cosentinos of Malibu offered some unusual sprays like the Bells of Ireland, Trachilium, Monk's Hood, and the Snow on the Mountain. I liked the coffee berry plants best. The potted herbs were offered as a culinary combination all contained in an attractive terra cotta pot. I couldn't resist sniffing those aromatic herbs, especially the chocolate-scented geraniums.

Z: We did stop to check out the crafts that were in a line directly across from the farmers. About a dozen booths offered items such as soap by the slice, objects made from hemp paper pulp, handknit sweaters and clothes, jewelry, fizzy bath bombs, jewelry, and metal sculpture.

R: We did have an opportunity to speak to market manager Debra Bianco and her assistant Deni Mellé. Debra is president of Cornucopia, a nonprofit organization focused on environmental issues. Cornucopia is the sponsor of this market that began in May 2000 and now operates from May through November each year. When we asked her what made this market unique, she replied, "This market is not just a farmers' market. It's an environmental outreach to the community."

Z: That statement was evident as we noticed all the tables devoted to organizations taking an active role in environmental issues. Some of the groups represented were Mountains Restoration Trust, Save Nicholas Canyon, Surfrider Foundation, Earth Watch Institute, Heal the Bay, Wetlands Education Network, and Santa Monica Bay Keeper.

R: Debra proudly told us that one of the many projects Cornucopia sponsors is a school gardens program to teach children about growing vegetables biodynamically. The focus is to teach kids the importance of replenishing the soil to grow the healthiest produce. The vegetables grown by the children can be used in two ways: a school salad bar or sold at the farmers' market. Either way the children learn ecological practices. Kudos to Debra for her dedication to the environment.

Malibu Certified Farmers' Market
Malibu Civic Center, Civic Center Way off Malibu Canyon Rd.
Sundays 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
May through November
Phone: 310-457-4537

Reviewed September 2001

Click here for past Farmers' Market Reviews

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