Z: On six days of the week this market location is just a metered municipal parking lot for shoppers in the area, but on Sunday morning it is transformed into the bustling Larchmont Village Certified Farmers' Market.
R: I keep marveling how they could possibly squeeze all those vendors and all the patrons into that small parking lot along Larchmont Boulevard just south of Beverly Boulevard. Actually, they don't all fit. Some of the vendors are on the sidewalk, and a few are even in the street.
Z: It's apparent that the community wants and supports this endeavor that includes farm-fresh produce, flowers, crafts, food, clothing, jewelry, and even paint for the home. I noticed immediately that there were a number of flower vendors, even one with silk flowers that looked so much like the real thing I actually leaned over to smell the fragrance.
R: Lisa Morgan was one of those vendors. She wears two hats: market manager and salesperson for Skyline Flowers. As controlling manager of the market, Lisa works for Jennifer McColm who owns and operates a number of markets in Los Angeles County. Jennifer operates the market in conjunction with the Larchmont Association. Lisa had a few minutes to tell us about her transition from school crossing guard to flower salesperson to market manager. She even introduced us to her daughter Brieanne who was helping her that day. Her brother Zak is also helps with market tasks.
Z: Lisa was very willing to share some of her tips on getting flowers to last longer. She puts an old copper penny in the water with tulips to make them rock hard so they won't flop over. Laundry bleach can also be used to preserve flowers. Just a half-teaspoon in the water makes them last longer.
R: Yes, but she warned us about not using them on irises or roses. It'll bleach out their color. Speaking of color, I always thought those red-tipped variegated sunflowers were the real thing. Not so, they're dyed to get that color. What a disappointment!
Z: I was attracted to some of Skyline's unusual offerings like the coxcomb celosia and the amaranthus. The celosia came in bright red, gold, and hot pink with a touch of yellow in it. The light green amaranthus were in fingered clusters that draped down almost eight inches.
R: Flowers and plants were plentiful at this market. High Tech Nursery from Palmdale sold colorful and unusual bonsai plants. The pyracantha with its red berries was in full bloom as was the purple bougainvillea. Their most spectacular item was the persimmon tree. Its seven branches were almost denuded of leaves, but there were 13 plump persimmons hanging there ready to eat. We had to ask the price, but $150 was beyond our budget.
Z: I enjoyed the contrasting colors of Cho's Flowers from Somis. Owner Kyu Young Cho was happy to show us the giant pompon marigolds alongside the purple iris. He had a container of curly willow branches in yellow and orange and reddish brown to add drama to any flower arrangement. His yellow Asiatic lilies were truly magnificent.
R: E and R Floral from Carpinteria also showed Asiatic lilies and Stargazer lilies along with some beautiful rose bouquets, dramatic dahlias, and colorful lisianthus. All this flower focus makes it seem like the market was dominated by flowers, but there was much more. There was an excellent selection of fruits and vegetables with organic growers represented.
Z: Citrus was not difficult to find that morning. Atkins Nursery from Fallbrook offered Palestinian and Bearrs Limes, Meyer and Eureka lemons, Valencia oranges, and Ruby red grapefruit along with Fuyu persimmons, pomegranates, and Haas avocados. Owner Victor Gonzalez proudly announced that he grows 300 kinds of fruit on his 70 acres. He promised to have samples of his 50 kinds of cherimoyas in about a month.
R: Nicholas Farms from the Fresno area was strong on citrus with Satsuma tangerines, pomelos, lemons, and grapefruit. They also sold Zutano avocados, pomegranates, Granny Smith apples, and black plums. We were surprised to see any stone fruit this late in the year. Ernie and his wife Ellen, who work this market for Ricky Nicholas, assured us that they would have this variety of plums for a few more weeks.
Z: Very Best Farm from Oxnard was one of two growers selling strawberries. That morning they only had one item, their Gaviota strawberries. Santa Maria Farm from you-know-where had the Camarosa variety. We tasted both and couldn't decide which were sweeter.
R: Underwood Farms, present at so many markets, offered their diverse selection of vegetables. Zel had to have some of their heirloom tomatoes. She bought one of each: a Cherokee, a Brandywine, and a Pineapple tomato. She also couldn't resist those candy-striped beets and a colorful bunch of three types of radishes.
Z: While we were scanning the Underwood produce, we received a mini-avocado lesson. They were selling the McArthur, a variety we had never seen before. They described the McArthur as less oily than Haas and not as watery as Bacon. It was something like a Reed.
R: Unless you know about avocados that could be quite confusing. People might want to read our Highest Perch avocado article at http://www.vegparadise.com/highestperch48.html
Z: Organic produce lovers could find a good selection from Gama Farms near Bakersfield and Kenter Canyon Farms in North Hollywood. The most unusual item Gama offered was white icycle radishes in lengths up to 8 inches. Their potatoes included Red Rose, Yukons, baby reds, fingerlings, and both brown and white Russets. They also sold garlic, red and brown onions, turnips, leeks, carrots, and a variety of lettuces.
R: The Kenter people had created an attractive display by carving some red pimiento peppers into flowers. They also hung strings of herbs and pimientos on the poles supporting their awning. The bees were buzzing around and enjoying the sprigs of lavender that was for sale. Edible flowers and the baby lettuce mixes were attractively displayed in large wicker baskets.
Z: One of the highlights of the day was visiting with Nhia Her Mova of Pinedale. She was selling two kinds of peanuts in the shell, "cooking" and "no cooking." The "no cooking" were raw peanuts; the "cooking" were boiled peanuts allowed to dry. That evening we were shelling and munching on the boiled peanuts as we watched our favorite Sunday evening shows.
R: Yee Yang and Chue Her from Fresno also sold raw peanuts along with tomatoes, squashes, corn, and even melons this late in the season. They also displayed fresh sugar cane. The stalks were about four feet long and about two inches in diameter.
Z: Mark Boujikian from Raisin City had his usual display of dried fruits and nuts. That morning his sister Tamar was telling us the difference between the Thompson seedless grapes and the raisin grapes. Both are green, but the Thompson seedless are larger and more desirable because of their plumpness. Called table grapes, they're the ones found in most supermarkets. The raisin grapes are much smaller but sweeter.
R: As we walked around looking at the craft items, we could hear the sounds of The Season of Us who were playing bossa nova melodies. Stephanie Geivell was on the flute with Bill Stanfield on the guitar.
Z: We stopped for a few minutes to talk to Heidi Hess who makes clothes from synthetic fibers. We also examined bath bombs from Bliss in Venice. Phaedra was happy to tell us how we could "get bombed in the bathroom." By this time our stomachs were growling.
R: At many farmers' markets the food is quite carnivorous. In this instance there were a few vendors that had vegetarian offerings. Me Gusta Tamales from San Fernando displayed three kinds: sweet corn, sweet pineapple, and veggie with carrots, zucchini, and peas. Instead of tamales we decided to head for Seed Live Cuisine and have a raw lunch.
Z: We shared a Spiced Coconut Sandwich and a fresh young coconut with two straws. We found a small picnic table in the corner of the lot and devoured our tasty lunch.
R: As we were leaving, we marveled how they had squeezed 48 vendors and so many shoppers into such a small space.
Larchmont Village Certified Farmers' Market
Reviewed December 2002