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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.


The Silver Lake Certified Farmers' Market celebrates its half-year birthday this month. On an unusually warm Saturday morning in February the two birds of paradise, Zel and Reuben, journeyed into the heart of Los Angeles to investigate and report back to their eager and curious fans on one of the newest markets in the area.

Z: The Silver Lake Market is in a V-shape arrangement on the world famous Sunset Boulevard quite a distance east from the famed Sunset Strip. Short sections of Edgecliffe Drive and Griffith Park Boulevard are closed to traffic every Saturday morning as vendors line both sides of each street. The produce and flowers are on one stem of the V, while the food vendors and crafters display on the other stem.

R: On the east side are a few businesses including Syntainer's that generously offers its restroom facilities for market visitors. On the west side, is Conquistador Restaurant with its multicolored wall mural showing numerous scenes including a woman carrying an armful of corn in the corn field and a man on horseback drinking a margarita.

Z: Conquistador generously offers its sink to any of the farmers who would need it. It's obvious that the neighborhood is anxious for the market to succeed. About that mural, what caught my attention were a few other items like a giant chili pepper, a giant lime, and a skeleton lying down along the bottom edge.

R: Before everyone thinks we're doing some kind of art tour, we should mention that this is what we would label a small market but with significant choices for fruit, vegetable, and flower lovers.

Z: Casitas Floral Farm in Santa Paula is represented at many markets. That morning they had their usual colorful display of cut flowers. Eric, their representative, had a few minutes to tell us the history of the company. Boyd Flowers and DeVries merged in 1998 to create Casitas. They grow 103 acres of flowers.

R: I couldn't pass this booth without noticing the array of tulips: yellow, orange, and pink varieties. The one that really made me stop for a moment was the parrot tulip, bright yellow with a brilliant red stripe up the middle and a feathery outer edge that reminded me of parrot feathers.

Freesia Z: That was most exciting, but we should mention the ranunculus, stock, snapdragons, and all the beautiful roses. I did follow the directions on the sign labeled "smell me." The freesia had a delicately sweet aroma. Universal Flowers of Ventura also showed tulips, ranunculus, and stock. That flower Reuben didn't know the name of was Queen Anne's Lace.

R: Sofia de la O from Duarte sold potted plants including white, coral, pink, and magenta bush and tree azaleas as well as pink and yellow jasmine plants. The pink jasmine was quite fragrant, the yellow ones not at all.

Z: Adjacent to them was Hi Tech Boonjae Bonsai of Littlerock. The most unusual plant there was a ficus banyon that looked like a thick, brown, two-pronged carving fork plunged into the soil. They showed a bottle palm that looked like a large onion coming out of the soil.

R: Tarika Thompson, who grows 30 varieties of orchids in Sylmar, was happy to tell us about her plants, especially the talinopsis. A written description does not do it justice. The blossoms had yellow and purple stripes with purple veins and purple polka dots. Each blossom had an orange and purple tongue with a purple center and a protruding white knob. We had to admire the Dancing Lady and stop to smell Charlie Baby, the chocolate orchid.

Z: By now people must be wondering if there was any farm-fresh produce available at this market or just flowers. You can be assured, there was an abundance of beautiful produce here. Culinary Farms of Reseda manages to produce quite a few plants on their one-acre plot. The healthy looking hydroponic lettuces we purchased were lifted directly from the water and into our plastic bags. They offered red Batavia, butter, green leaf, and oak leaf varieties as well as baby lettuce mixes and baby spinach and arugala. Their herb selection included everything from basil to thyme.

R: Guevara Farms from Santa Maria displayed giant heads of cauliflower, broccoli, celery, vine-ripe cluster tomatoes, snow peas, spinach, red cabbage, and Gaviota strawberries. The sign above their table declared, "Berries and vegetables grown biologically with natural predators and organic fertilizer."

Z: They probably don't have the funds to be registered organic and want the people to know they don't use pesticides. Anyone seeking tomatoes could have found them at the Beylik Family Farms table. They sold big beef, yellow, premium, plum and green tomatoes. The ubiquitous Sherrill Farms was on hand with their Lady William apples and many apple juice combinations. A large vase that held a cluster of branches with delicate peach blossoms added special color to their table.

R: I like that word ubiquitous. Ha Farm of Tehachapi is also ubiquitous with their unwaxed apples and apple products. That morning they proudly announced they had been certified organic a month ago. They showed Fuji and Rome Beauty apples with their jellies, syrups, vinegar, and dried apples.

Orange Z: Polito Farms from Valley Center displayed a citrus collection that included Satsuma mandarins, Clementines, oro blanco grapefruit, navels, Valencias, blood oranges, and three kinds of lemons. I was familiar with the Eureka and Meyer but had never experienced the Persian sweet lemons. They have no acidity and are sweet like an orange. What a taste experience! Haas and Bacon avocados and fresh-squeezed orange juice were also available.

R: Avila and Sons Farms from Hanford was present with their dried fruit and nut assortment. Vincent Avila made the three-hour drive down to the market that morning and was happy to give us a discourse on how peanuts were grown. His fresh-roasted Spanish peanuts had up to three or four kenels in each shell. Speaking of taste experiences. Wow!

Z: The food and craft vendors were all along the Edgecliffe side of the V. There were Afghan rugs, crochet and embroidered items, natural stone rock jewelry, Brazilian crystals, pottery, incense, and mosaic tables. What called to me was Soapscum. Tracey Gile showed us her soap bars, body wash, and body lube, all vegan products made with plant-based oils. Most unique were the bath candies. The dozen in each box looked good enough to eat. There are flavors like Coconuttie, Peachy Keen, Rose, Cucumber, Pepto, 50-50, and Almond Joy. They were really bath bombs. Toss them into the tub and they fizz. According to Tracey, the secret ingredient for the fizz is citric acid.

R: By that time I was ready to fizz off. What possessed them to use the name Soapscum! Zel says it's a great name, very catchy. We did have an opportunity to speak to market manager, Edwin Gomez, who told us about Sunset Junction Neighborhood Alliance, the market sponsor. The Alliance does quite a bit of work on their Youth at Risk Program to help disadvantaged young people. Edwin is an employee of the Alliance and helps as booth coordinator when they do their annual Sunset Junction street fair every August.

Z: The Alliance was able to get 10,000 signatures on petitions to have the market in the community. The market, under the umbrella of the Southland Farmers' Market Association, averages between 600 to 700 visitors on a Saturday. There are approximately 16 farmers, 5 food vendors, and 10 arts and crafts tables.

R: As an added incentive for market visitors, free Recyclers are distributed. The Recycler also runs a 1/4-page ad for the market each week.

Silver Lake Certified Farmers' Market
Sunset Blvd. between Griffith Park Blvd. and Edgecliffe Dr.
Saturdays 8:00 to noon
Phone: 323-661-7771

Reviewed March 2002

Click here for past Farmers' Market Reviews

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