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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.


On an unseasonably warm Saturday morning in January the two birds of paradise, Zel and Reuben, donned their colorful VIP tee shirts and headed to the northwest San Fernando Valley to visit one of the newest farmers' markets in Los Angeles. Their investigative assignment was to learn about the Chatsworth Certified Farmers' Market and share their findings with their readers.

Z: We have experienced a number of farmers' markets in all types of locations, but none matched the unique ambience of this one. The Chatsworth Farmers' Market is not on a barricaded main street, in a church parking lot, at a park, or any of the types of venues we have experienced in past market visits. This event takes place at a train station.

R: Yes, it all happens in the parking lot adjacent to the Metrolink station. We might say it's on the right side of the tracks when it comes to fresh produce and interesting craft items. It's also on the right side of the tracks because the train station is served by 5 bus lines and quite accessible to non-drivers. Driving directions to the market indicate it's located at the intersection of Devonshire Street and Canoga Avenue, but the entrance is actually Old Depot Plaza, one street west of Canoga, on the south side of the street.

Z: Two small signs line the entrance, but they are a bit small to attract attention of passing drivers. Market manager Dan Rochin informed us that pole banners are forthcoming. Dan was hired by the Chatsworth Business Improvement District, the market sponsor that is focusing on making improvements along Devonshire between Topanga Blvd. and Mason Ave. So far the group has spruced up the area by adding benches and trash receptacles.

R: We recognized Dan who has managed markets in Century City, La Canada, and Melrose Place. He's relinquished those duties to focus on the Chatsworth enterprise. Dan also happens to be a resident of this community. On that morning we noticed that he had the able assistance of his daughter-in-law, Lisa.

Z: When we say one of the newest markets in Los Angeles County, we point to September 18, 2004, the opening day. Prior to our visit on January 15, the market had been closed for the previous three weeks because Christmas and New Years were both celebrated on Saturdays. The giant torrential rainstorms were not exactly celebrations , but they did wash out the market the Saturday following New Year's Day.

R: The three-week hiatus didn't help the market continuity and doesn't help to build its patron base. The weather also damaged crops and created transportation problems for farmers who travel up to four hours in good weather to reach this market.

Tangerine Z: Dan informed us that a few of the farmers were no shows that morning. We did notice there were five growers who offered an interesting mix of fruits and vegetables. Surprising to me was that grapes were still available in January. Anyone on the East Coast who is buried under a snowdrift might be envious reading about fresh grapes being sold at a farmers' market in California. Bernie's Farm from Fresno had seedless red grapes as well as Pink Lady apples and Fuyu persimmons. To make it easy for buyers all the fruit was $1.50 per pound.

R: Citrus lovers found good pickings at the table of Valeriu Chatsworth Citrus. MaryAnne, a native of a section of Austria-Hungary that is now a part of Romania, told us that all of her crop was grown on a 400-square-foot lot in the community. She was selling Meyer lemons, tangerines, and pink grapefruit.

Z: She enumerated the trees on her lot that included 3 lemon, 2 grapefruit, 1 tangerine, 4 orange, 1 pink grapefruit, and 1 peach. In late summer she will offer tomatoes, grapes, and flowers. Farmers markets are truly great because some will offer the opportunity for backyard growers to be certified to sell their fruits and vegetables.

R: Andres from Tulare, Lore's from Camarillo, and Gaytan Farms from Riverside provided the vegetables and greens that day. Lore's sold bags of Brussels sprouts, two of which found their way into our shopping bag. They had a good selection of lettuces including iceberg, red leaf, green leaf, and romaine. They also featured broccoli, cauliflower, celery, green and red cabbage, tomatoes, and asparagus that followed us home. Their giant artichokes heralded the beginning of their season.

Z: Andres provided me with some shopping highlights of the day. Their cluster tomatoes were offered at prices lower than the supermarkets, and these were obviously fresher. I also purchased a green papaya for a salad I was planning. Reuben talked me out of bitter melon, but since we both adore okra, I had to buy some.

Sweet Potato R: Bitter melon, Yuk! I was tempted by the camote blanco or white sweet potatoes. As far as I'm concerned those creamy white ones are the best. You don't have to put anything on them like maple syrup or brown sugar. They're like dessert just eaten plain. Andres' citrus stock included Satsuma tangerines, navels, pomelos, and lemons. Eggplant choices were Indian, Chinese, and Italian.

Z: Gaytan Farms offerings featured Brussels sprouts, asparagus, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, beets, carrots, and a variety of lettuces. Since it did not take long to survey the produce offerings, we decided to take a few minutes to see what the craft vendors were selling.

R: We could have purchased a bargain rate subscription to the Daily News or had a 5-minute massage for $5 or found a real estate agent to sell our home.

Z: But those are not crafters. We probably should mention Zeke with his silverware chimes with spoons and forks hanging from upside-down silver pitchers, kettles, or goblets. Then there was Fran Marseille's Doodle-icious Dog Cookies and her Doodle Duds and Designs and Doodle Beds for your favorite pets.

R: There were gads of clothing items and jewelry galore and even garlic shampoo that had been deodorized. The food vendors did not have much for hungry vegetarians.

Z: As we strolled around, we could hear the soft sounds of flute and guitar that we had heard before. We reacquainted ourselves with Season of Us, a duo we had seen at another farmers' market. Their CD's were labeled, "Our CD's will assist you to relax."

R: Future plans for the market include adding kiddy attractions like pony rides and a petting zoo. Dan also plans more publicity and the banners so that people driving by will notice the market. Hopefully, the Chatsworth market will be able to attract more farmers during the spring and summer and more people in the neighborhood will show up not to board the train but to take advantage of the market offerings.

Chatsworth Certified Farmers' Market
Chatsworth Train Station
Devonshire Blvd. and Old Depot Plaza (just west of Canoga Ave.)
Saturdays 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Reviewed February 2005

Click here for past Farmers' Market Reviews

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