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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 Palos Verdes Farmers' Market is not in Palos Verdes Estates but is located in Rolling Hills Estates. To unravel this confusion, the two birds of paradise, Zel and Reuben, spent an unseasonably warm Sunday morning in January investigating the peninsula to gather information to report to their eager and curious fans.

Z: The Peninsula Shopping Center is actually on the border between Palos Verdes and Rolling Hills Estates. Technically it's in Rolling Hills Estates. The farmers' market is conveniently placed in the parking area between Starbuck's and Petco. I guess you could enjoy a cup of coffee and pick up some food for Fido while you're visiting the market.

R: For people who wanted fresh produce and attractive flowers this was certainly the place. There were approximately 30 agricultural vendors, four of whom sold flowers and plants. We later learned that flowers and plants were the biggest sellers at this market.

Cymbidium Z: No wonder. What attractive displays! I was impressed with the cymbidium orchids from the Orchid Garden in Torrance. Vendor Jim Weiss grows some of the 20,000 varieties of orchids, but one of the most striking ones is a multicolored fragrant Five-O hybrid he calls Mary Lou. He named it after his wife who just happens to be the market manager. The orchid is known around the world by that name.

R: If I grew orchids I would name one Zel.

Z: Right, and if I developed a sandwich I would call it--- But seriously, Jim's cymbidiums are cool growing, meaning they can take temperatures as low as 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Because they are cool growing orchids, he doesn't need a greenhouse. He can grow them outdoors under the Edison power lines.

R: Both West Flower Growers from Oxnard and Skyline Flowers had their usual colorful displays. West's largest crop is chrysanthemums. They don't grow all 8,000 varieties of mums, but they had a representative number in their mixed bouquets. We were informed that they had 80 acres devoted to flowers and 1,000,000 square feet under glass. Since their greenhouses are heated with natural gas, they have some sizable bills during the winter months.

Z: Their gerbera daisies were breathtaking. What colors! Brilliant orange, hot pink, flame red, sunny yellow. The pink and white Oriental lilies and the lavender and white Asiatic lilies were showstoppers. I finally learned the difference between the two types. The Oriental lilies are fragrant, the Asiatic are not.

R: Skyline Flowers also had mums, gerbera daisies, and Oriental lilies along with snap dragons and their Bells of Ireland. Their most striking flowers were the pinwheel mums, delicate small white flowers surrounded by green leaves to create a pinwheel effect. Wow!

Z: I was equally excited about the plants from C Stars Nursery. The first plant we noticed was the Chinese magnolia with its lavender and white blossoms. The jacobena was unique. Each plant had a number of stalks with individual petals stacked vertically and forming a cluster of pink and white blossoms.

R: They also displayed kangaroo plants, one pink, the other yellow. Lovers of camelias, azaleas, and gardenias could find variety here. They had so much more, but I think we better move on to the produce.

Z: There was so much variety, surprising for this time of year. The biggest surprise was the offerings of H and R Citrus from Visalia. They sold three kinds of plums: Angelino, Howard Son, and Flavor Rich. Their citrus items included Satsuma mandarins, blood oranges, grapefruit, and navel oranges. They sold pears, and two varieties of apples: Fuji and Granny Smith.

R: There was no problem finding citrus at this market. I counted six vendors. K and K Ranch from Orosi attracted our attention with their sign announcing the "world's largest pomelos." We had encountered K and K at the Westchester market last year. Mark Kano was filling in for his sister, June Kashima, who operates the 20-acre ranch in addition to leased land. He was eager to tell us how his father, Wilfred Kano, started selling persimmons, plums, and pomegranates out of the trunk of his car in 1978, before there were any farmers' market.

pomelo Z: They may not have the world's largest pomelos, but when they reach eight inches in diameter, that's large enough for me. They also offered Oro Blancos, a cross between a grapefruit and a pomelo. They're the sweetest grapefruit you'd ever taste. In some parts of the country they're called "sweeties."

R: Veng Farms from Fresno gets my cabbage award. Their cabbages were six to eight inches in diameter. Their Napa cabbages could feed a family of eight. They also displayed a variety of vegetables that most people could not name or know how to cook: leeks, anise, Chinese broccoli, mustard greens, collards, kale, baby bok choy, and lemon grass. On their tables you could also find broccoli, onions, turnips, carrots, and sweet potatoes.

Z: In the supermarkets, the tops of the anise are usually trimmed off, leaving only about three or four inches above the bulb. Reuben kept saying the two I bought looked like three-foot tall bushes sticking out of the shopping bag! I had a good time filling my other shopping bags with Japanese greens from Yasutomi Farms from Pico Rivera. There were sempo sai (spinach cabbage), komatsuna (mustard spinach), tatsoi (baby spinach) along with daikon radish, and dandelion greens.

R: When we stopped to talk to Mary Lou Weiss, she greeted us like we were old friends. We hadn't seen her since we interviewed her at the Torrance market in January, 1999. I was surprised she remembered us. Along with this market she manages two in Torrance and one in Hermosa Beach. She is also on the state committee for certified farmers' markets.

Z: She is one busy lady. In addition to managing, she serves as consultant for new farmers' markets. She has opened 11 markets in the Los Angeles area. She opened this market almost 9 years ago, left for a time, and has now been back for the last three years. She has the assistance of Carolyn Hill who is currently recovering from a hip replacement and Peninsula Seniors including Millie and Anne who have helped since the opening of the market. They're all looking forward to a ninth anniversary party the first week in May.

R: The market, sponsored by the Merchants Association of the Peninsula Center, averages 2500 to 3000 visitors each Sunday. Along with the 35 to 40 farmers, there are 5 food vendors in addition to Patti's Peanut Galley and Krispy Sweet Popcorn. Approximately 20 crafters participate in 7 craft shows each year.

Z: Mary Lou is not an advocate of pony rides, but she will probably have a petting zoo at the ninth anniversary party in May. "Certified farmers' markets should have at least 50% farmers," she says. Her emphasis is on the farmers and the produce. She bemoans the markets that have a few farmers and are mostly dominated by crafts.

Palos Verdes Certified Farmers' Market
Hawthore Blvd. at Silver Spur Rd. in the Peninsula Shopping Center
Sundays 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Phone: 310-328-2809

Reviewed February 2002

Click here for past Farmers' Market Reviews

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