R: This is one of those farmers' markets that has a charming, small-town feeling. Instead of closing down the main street, the market is quite visible from the busy, two-lane main street which is right off the Mulholland freeway exit. The locals call this area Old Town at Calabasas Junction.
Z: We parked in a lot behind the Sagebrush Cantina, an area reserved for the farmers' market on Saturday mornings. Walking across the street, we noticed attractive wood-frame shops surrounded by chinaberry and eucalyptus trees. Honeysuckle vines climbed up the railings of the shops that resembled New England-style houses. The farmers' tables were set up in a horseshoe configuration around the houses, lending a quaintness to this market. It's not as large as some of the others we've visited, but there was certainly variety.
R: This market emphasized the farm-fresh produce. There were about thirty vendors, most of them offering produce, plants, and flowers. Food vendors like Corn Maiden, Popin Kettle Corn, and Ann's Bakery offered their wares. It was not a carnival or fiesta atmosphere, but there was entertainment with K.C. Phillips singing to the accompaniment of a guitarist.
Z: The entertainers were quite low key, but very good. But the highlight for me was the great summer fruits, especially the peaches, plums, and nectarines. Of course, like all farmers' markets there were beautiful flowers and plants.
R: You were especially taken by the bonsai plants and the water bamboo that thrives in water and doesn't need soil. Couldn't resist. We purchased a few to give as gifts. Next to the bonsai table was Chef's Garden, an attractive display with all kinds of edible herb plants.
Z: Cindy and George Martin have their own greenhouse in Moorpark where they grow everything they sell. In addition to this market, they sell at Camarillo, and Encino and ship their plants all around the country. Earlier in the season they offer heirloom tomato plants for sale. George boasted that one of the yellow, pear tomato plants they sold to a customer reached a height of 7 feet. I'd love to have had one of those plants!
R: I was impressed that they have their own web site at chefsgarden.com. with Cindy at the helm as webmaster.
Z: We did have an opportunity to talk to Lillian Velone whose family had a farmstand for 59 years on Topanga Canyon Boulevard just south of Chatsworth Park. The stand is now closed, but her son, Bill, sells homegrown, organic produce at this market. The harvest this week included cabbage, summer squash, onions and garlic.
R: We were surprised to discover that cherries are still available due to the unusual weather conditions this year. Velazquez Farms from Linden (just east of Stockton) had small and jumbo Rainiers. They were beautiful, and tasting samples proved they were quite sweet.
Z: Kelly Farms from the Ontario area brought their plump, Camarosa strawberries and white corn. As we were leaving the market, we noticed they had sold out. Of course, we helped by buying the second to last three-pack of strawberries.
R: There were a few vendors with apples. Ha's Farm in the Tehachapi area displayed his giant Fuji apples along with packages of dried apples and jars of applesauce, apple butter, and a variety of apple jellies. John Ha said that unlike many farmers, he did not wax his apples. He explained that waxing keeps the apples from drying out and makes them look good.
Z: Sherrill Orchards had the most apple varieties for sale. They not only had Fuji, but Granny Smith, Gravenstein, and Early Red, too. I'm a gravenstein fan, so, naturally, I seized the moment and bought a sack. As at other markets, they had their juice blends for sale by the pint or quart. This season they offer apple-peach and apple-cherry combinations.
R: Anyone wanting organic stone fruits had a great selection at Orchard's Best. There were two kinds of nectarines and four varieties of plums to choose from. What they don't sell that day, they take home and dry. Their dried fruit selection was extensive and even included out-of-season fruits such as dried persimmons.
Z: Actually, it was their tablecloth that attracted us to their stand. The entire surface was a brightly colored collage of fruits and vegetables flowing from woven cornucopias.
R: Speaking about attracting one to a table, how about those giant artichokes from Green Farms in Lompoc. The one we bought weighed 1 1/4 pounds and was 5 inches in diameter.
Z: The big attraction for me at Nakamura Berry Farm (Oxnard) was their beautiful, registered organic produce. They had just about anything a vegetable lover would crave in addition to their delicious strawberries. There were lettuces, cabbage, chard, leeks, parsley, cilantro, zucchini, radishes, onions, broccoli, and cauliflower. We packed our canvas sacks to the brim.
R: Another attraction was Underwood Farms from Moorpark. They also had a wide assortment of vegetables including white and green bell peppers, yellow and green string beans, a variety of lettuces, all kinds of green and yellow squash, sweet onions, garlic, and white radishes. Unusual things they displayed were rhubarb, lemon cucumbers, fresh soy beans and bicolor sweet corn.
Z: The vendor laughed when you asked for 6 bisexual corn. It turned out to one of the sweetest corns we've ever eaten. I also had to buy a giant Asian cucumber and a package of the fresh soybeans. We can boil them up this week and have our own edamame.
R: We had to stop at Adam's Ranch Olives from Strathmore. Adam sells at other farmers' markets as well. When we asked what was new, he showed us his olives stuffed with orange peel and stuffed olives in vermouth.
Z: Don't forget the capers. They were the largest I've ever seen. Of course, he had olive oil and other pickled stuff like green beans, onions, and pepperoncini. Close by was Raglin's Botanicals. This was the place for the orchid aficionados. There were a number of beautiful phalanopsis plants which I've always called butterfly orchids. But the real standout was the Lady Slipper. Indescribably gorgeous!
R: One of the special features at this market was Timeless Creations Soap Co. that makes all natural, vegetable-based bath and body products. Paulette Lewis does it all. She makes the products, sells them, and even teaches soap-making classes. "I've never made an animal-based product. They clog your pores," she says.
Z: Her soap blocks were visually exciting with a profusion of swirled, and flecked colors imbedded. She displayed essential oils and alcohol-free perfumes with jojoba oil. She couldn't stop extolling the wonders of jojoba oil that acts as a great sunscreen while allowing your skin to breathe.
R: Gourmet soap bars? You bet. Avocado and Borage soap bars. And, of course, a vegetable shampoo soap bar. We tried it the next day. My hair felt great afterward.
Z: We had an opportunity to talk to Phyllis Power and Linda Everon who are co-managers of the market which is into its seventh year. Along with co-managing the market, Phyllis is the director of the Leonis Adobe Museum right up the street. She's worked at the museum since 1962 and has been director the last 8 years.
R: Linda was wearing a hand-painted Calabasas Farmers' Market T-shirt with colorful fruits and vegetables. The market is on property that she's owned for the last 20 years. One of the buildings houses her antique store now holding a going out-of-business sale. She's operated the store for 6 1/2 years. "I've been told by people that this market is like a European market," she says.
Z: Originally Phyllis came to her looking for a place to hold a farmers' market. The goal was to attract more people to Old Town Calabasas. They agreed to work together, and the rest is history.
R: One extra feature we should mention is the used book sale right outside of Savannah's Coffee Shop, also on the property. People donate books which are placed on display each week. All the proceeds are donated to the Calabasas Public Library.
Calabasas Farmers' Market
Reviewed August 1999