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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 Redondo Certified Farmers' Market, approaching its 20th birthday, can be described as the market with a spectacular view. On a brisk Thursday morning in December the two birds of paradise, Zel and Reuben, journeyed to the South Bay area of Los Angeles County to investigate and report back to their eager and curious fans.

Z: When we arrived at the market, the first thing I noticed was the setting. What a delight to look out over the blue Pacific on a clear, sunny day and watch the dolphins frolic in the water. The lone sailboat silhouetted against the water could have inspired a painting.

R: The farmers set up their tables along Harbor Drive, a few yards back from the beach. The entire market is in the parking area on the edge of Veteran's Park with its manicured lawns and variety of trees. Facing the water, I could see the Redondo Beach Pier on my right.

Z: On first impression the market seemed small. As we entered the area, we could see only one side of the "V" and assumed it was the entire market. The other side of the "V" extended up the hill into the park and was not visible from where we entered on the beach side.

Pepino R: The most unusual find of the day was the tree melon. That was the name the vendors from Vista del Mundo from Santa Barbara gave to the pepino or pepino dulce. Pepino is Spanish for cucumber. Dulce means sweet. This yellow-skinned fruit with streaks of purple is between four and six inches in length and is a member of the nightshade family along with peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, and potatoes.

Z: Pepinos grow on shrubs that reach a height of 3 feet. The plant has evergreen leaves and purple blossoms. It's difficult to understand how it ended up being named cucumber in Spanish. The inside contains a sweet orange or yellow flesh with edible seeds. We were going to take a few home after we had surveyed the market. Unfortunately, we came back to the table and found they had already packed up and left. What a disappointment!

R: Vista del Mundo had other temptations we didn't have an opportunity to sample. Along with their Satsuma tangerines, they also featured cheremoya, pineapple guava, limes, and Haas avocados. They also displayed attractive protea bouquets and wreaths.

Protea Z: The wreaths were stunning and very unique. Picture large pink protea, clusters of pyracantha berries, pine branches, and silver dollar eucalyptus all woven into a gorgeous wreath that would look fantastic on any door during the holiday season.

R: Since you're speaking of flowers, there were two other vendors with beautiful offerings. Casitas Floral Farm from Carpinteria had bouquets of every rose color imaginable, Dutch iris, ranunculus, purple and pink lisianthius, and snapdragons. Most striking were the yellow roses with the orange tips.

Z: Their cut flowers were quite beautiful. If you wanted to take home a plant, Evergreen Nursery from Compton had some tempting choices. Of course, they had poinsettias in shades that ranged from a delicate pink to a deep red. They also featured miniature roses in a myriad of colors as well as daisies, impatiens, and pansies. For those wanting larger plants they offered ficus, queen palms with their broad, green striated leaves, and solano with their delicate violet blossoms.

Sweet Potato R: Even though it was December there were quite a few fruits and vegetables available. Fetzner Farm from Perris offered a selection of sweet potatoes that included the yellow variety, the jewel yams, and the Satsumo Imo, commonly called Japanese sweet potatoes. The Japanese variety have a more dense flesh and that unique chestnut flavor we enjoy. After researching our Highest Perch article on sweet potatoes, we know that there are no real yams sold in this country. They're all sweet potatoes, even the jewels.

Z: The Fetzner folks also had one vegetable I had not seen before: red scallions. The red scallions were alongside their red potatoes next to the turnips, turnip and mustard greens, tomatillos, Roma tomatoes, and Anaheim chile peppers. They also had Eureka lemons and white grapefruit.

R: For citrus there were other choices. Gless Farms from Riverside sold bags of navel oranges, grapefruit, and lemons in addition to avocados. The ubiquitous Rosendahl Farms from Caruthers also had citrus items that included pomelos, navel oranges, lemons, tangerines, and mandarins. Their apple offerings included Pink Ladies and giant Fujis. As always, they had their great assortment of dried fruits and nuts, including their fantastic red, black, and yellow raisin mix.

Grapes Z: M B Farms (Mark Boujikian) from Raisin City also offered his usual great selection of dried fruits and nuts featuring pistachios, raisins, and a trail mix. Their grape selection included Red Globe, Megrita, Crimson, and Thompson Seedless. On their table you could find pomegranates and Hachiya persimmons.

R: Visitors to this market had quite a few choices for greens and vegetables. NHIA Her Mova from Pinedale offered some unique items not easily found in supermarkets. They had sugar cane stalks, lemon grass shoots, and Thai and Chinese eggplant. Snow pea shoots, Chinese broccoli, Napa cabbage, and Cinderella squash were part of their unique offerings.

Z: I was surprised to find watermelon in December. Valley Heights Ranch from Oceanside still had some along with their selection of tomatoes, red and green peppers, zucchini, giant cauliflower, green cabbage, and Haas avocados.

R: I didn't expect cantaloupes, but there they were on the table of Cervantes from Santa Ana. They also had a great selection of greens and vegetables. Tomai Farms from Oxnard seems to have strawberries all year. The sign on their table next to the scallions said "unio." We came across that word in researching our Highest Perch article on onions last month. Unio is Latin for oneness or unity referring to a single onion.

Z: The sign was puzzling to me. The vendors were Hispanic. The sign was for the scallions, but scallions in Spanish are either chalote or cebolleta. Onion in Spanish is cebolla.

R: Maybe we're making too much out of that sign. I did want to mention Henry Kim who seems to have joined the lucky bamboo craze. We're finding the bamboo at every market we attend. Usually the vendor will also have bonsai plants. Kim calls his business Henry's Evergreen Bonsai. He has been involved in bonsai for a number of years as a hobby, but decided to start selling his creations 3 1/2 years ago when he retired from his sporting goods business that kept him quite busy for 15 years. He pointed to one of the plants and said it took two to three years to create that bonsai shape. Two unique plants he had shaped were the tea tree (leptospermum) with its bright rose colored blossoms and the cotoneaster with its white and pink flowers and bright red berries.

Z: I made a great discovery in the food area of the market. The Santa Fe Trading Company from Sacramento markets homemade flour tortillas that are all vegan. Their local representative, Brian McGuire, was eager to have us sample Hot Habanero, Tomato Basil, Garlic Butter, Pumpkin, Homestyle Flour, Spinach and Onion, Black Bean and Garlic, Chipotle, Whole Wheat, and New Mexico Red Chile. A package of the Chipotle with its smoky picante flavor just had to come home with us.

R: In speaking with Jerrie Watkins, who has been the market manager for 10 years, we learned that the market will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in June. They're beginning to plan the celebration. Next week they will have face painting, and Santa Claus will be on hand to pose for photographs with the kids. This spring the Easter Bunny will pay a visit the Thursday prior to Easter. For Halloween the main attraction is a costume contest.

Z: Jerrie, who has been an Avon representative for 38 years, began her farmers' market career volunteering at the Torrance Market. When she was asked to fill the opening at Redondo Beach, she accepted. "I enjoy the market," she says. "I was raised on a farm. I really connect with the farmers." She was really connecting with the farmers that day. She, her assistant, and the five volunteers were distributing plates of homemade cookies to all of the farmers. They had spent the last two days baking the cookies. When we asked her what made this market special, she answered, "The view. Today we can see the porpoises. Other days we see seals and whales on the water."

R: At noon we were given tickets for the weekly drawing. I didn't count but there seemed like more than a dozen winners of food and produce items contributed by the farmers. There was even a giant bag from Kettle Corn Cafe. We didn't win, but we came away with a feeling of being part of a small community.

Date Z: We couldn't leave without some organic dates from Bautista Family Farm in Mecca. They were all out of our favorite honey dates, so we asked Alvaro Bautista what was the closest. He felt Khadrawy would be a good choice. We also asked him what date was the most popular. Of course, he answered Medjool. We weren't disappointed with the Khadrawy. Reuben says they taste like soft caramels.

Redondo Beach Certified Farmers' Market
Harbor Drive at the end of Torrance Blvd.
Thursdays 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Phone: 310-540-0722

Reviewed January 2002

Click here for past Farmers' Market Reviews

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