Z: Wait a minute. Didn't we visit the Montrose market in 2005?
Z: Does it really matter that we were here two years ago? What I said in 2005 is still relevant now. "Rarely will you find the main street of a community closed down for a farmers' market. Montrose is one of those exceptions because market sponsor, Montrose Business Park Association, realizes the importance of bringing a farmers' market to its citizens and making them more aware of downtown businesses. And the people in the area respond by making the market one of their stops each Sunday."
R: Mark Sheridan is still in charge and brings his 20 years of experience in managing farmers' markets. He leaves his Santa Barbara home at five and arrives at the market location at seven every Sunday morning. His successful formula entices thousands of people to the market every Sunday.
Z: The added attraction that Sunday was the Classic Car Show with proud owners showing off their shiny antique vehicles. I was intrigued with that 1931 Ford Model A that had a special kit attached to the rear. It opened into a picnic table and had an ice box and storage cabinets for dishes, pots, silverware, canned goods, and foods.
R: Five other 1931 Fords were lined up in queue. Car lovers could enjoy a bevy of convertibles like Porsches, Mercedes, and a sleek 1972 Ferrari. Vintage cars included a 1936 maroon Lincoln V12 Sedan, a 1937 black Chrysler Royal, a 1947 gray Packard Super Clipper, and a gleaming Nash Metropolitan convertible.
Z: Some of those brand names don't exist anymore. Sheridan told us they have two car shows a year with the next one planned as a hot rod event. Preparations are progressing for a book fair in November with the authors showing and signing their books. Sheridan urged us to check out the six to twelve varieties of apples at the market and to notice that there were still stone fruits available, fruits like Last Chance peaches grown in the high desert will be available through the end of October.
R: Speaking of stone fruits, Youngblood Farms from Littlerock offered August Lady peaches that will be available until the end of October. This peach was originally developed in the San Joaquin Valley, but Youngblood with their 2900-foot elevation is about six weeks behind the growers up north in bringing fruit to market. Youngblood also featured Red Delicious and Granny Smith apples.
Z: Lim's from Bakersfield and Ventura was closing out their stone fruit season with white nectarines, white and yellow peaches, and yellow pluots. Their apple season will begin with Fuji apples available at the end of October. Sweet Peach Farm from Lancaster has a 10-acre orchard of just peach trees and that's exactly what they sold that day. They will have their Last Chance peaches available throughout October.
R: Another vendor making the final stone fruit huzzah for this season was Garcia Family Farm with white and yellow peaches, white and yellow nectarines, and pluots. They also sold Fuji apples, and three grape varieties: black seedless, Red Flame, and Thompson seedless. Grape lovers had a great day in Montrose with Acosta Farm from Delano adding to the grape inventory with Red Flame, Autumn Royal, and Princess Green varieties.
Z: Takemoto Farms from Lindsay was concluding the stone fruit season with John W. Black Plums and Black Cat Pluots. We were delighted to talk to Ray and his sister Bonnie who could give us the specific names of the fruits they harvested. Ray operates the 40-acre farm while Bonnie helps him with the selling. They brought Valencia oranges and Asian Shinko pears to the market that day.
R: When we asked Ray when the navel oranges would be available, he told us that theirs are going to stay on the trees until their acidity level drops. The higher the acidity, the more tart the orange. He revealed a trade secret that is not widely known by the public. Many growers gas their oranges to give them more color. Of course, that is not the case with Ray's organic oranges.
Z: Ha's Farm from Tehachapi is usually not known for stone fruits, but they displayed yellow peaches along with Asian pears, and their apples including Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Royal Gala, and Mutsu, a Japanese apple. For me the highlight of their table was the Kyoho grapes. The sign said these Japanese grapes were sweet and juicy, but that understated their qualities. They are similar to Concord grapes but a bit lighter in color and with a softer skin. What a taste treat!
R: Gama Farm from Bakersfield was closing the stone fruit season with white and yellow peaches, white and yellow nectarines, and pluots. It's amazing how pluots (a cross breeding of plums and apricots) have become so popular. The farm is quite diversified with their white, red, and russet potatoes as well as pomegranates and creamy rich Reed avocados.
Z: On our last visit to this market we commented on the thousands of trees that can be found at Johna's Orchard in Tehachapi and the eight varieties of organic apples they grew. At this point in the season they offered Gala, Fuji, and Golden Delicious.
R: Market shoppers' vegetable needs were easily satisfied by five growers. GNB Farm in Riverside sold a giant array of vegetables including red and green peppers, giant tomatillos, eggplant, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, zucchini, onions, radishes, tomatoes, and Brussels sprouts. For a sweet touch to any meal there were cantaloupes.
Z: You mentioned radishes. Arrola Farm in Oxnard displayed some that were almost the size of baby red potatoes. Their tables were a virtual one-stop vegetable shopping center with lettuce varieties: baby, romaine, green leaf, and red leaf; cabbage both red and white; red, yellow and green peppers; anise, chard, kale, broccoli and cauliflower; red, white, and brown onions; lemons and limes; red and white potatoes; tomatoes and cherry tomatoes; dandelion greens, baby bok choy, celery, fava beans, and garlic.
R: That was quite an assortment, but you forgot to list the cantaloupes. Azteca farms sold cantaloupes also along with their #1906 Winter Strawberries that we had never encountered before. Their table also included plump round zucchinis, Roma tomatoes, watercress, cilantro, and Silver Queen white corn. We first tasted that variety of corn on a recent visit to the East coast and were surprised to find it in Southern California. No matter where you eat it, it's one of the sweetest you'll ever taste.
Z: I was enthralled with what we found on the tables of Her Farm from Fresno and by Cha Her himself. Her is a Hmong farmer who was born in Laos and came to this country in 1979. He traces his ancestry back to Mongolia. One of the items he sold was the herb rue. In reading my herb encyclopedia, I was surprised to learn that all parts of the plant are poisonous and should not be taken internally. Even skin contact may be a problem for hypersensitive people.
R: That hypersensitivity was surprising because he told us to rub it on our hands and smell it when we feel angry. That will relax you and take the bad spirits away. He suggested we place it under our pillows at night to prevent nightmares.
Z: Needless to say, we did not rue the day. We did buy some bitter melon that is edible, if you don't mind the bitterness. We chose two very ripe ones that were red inside instead of green. I had to have his fabulous grape tomatoes, sinqua and opo squash, and Chinese eggplant. Tempting but not ending up in my shopping bag were Chinese long beans, Thai chiles, yam leaves, lemon grass, and pygmy size jicama. Something we never encountered at any farmers' market was a peanut plant that Her had on display. He obviously wanted people to realize that peanuts grow on a bush.
R: McFarmers from Santa Ana was the only grower to offer baby watermelons that have become very popular in recent years. The table was a source of peppers with heat: jalapenos and pasillas and the only one to feature heirloom tomatoes.
Z: Anyone seeking attractive plants and flower bouquets would find unique choices at the Montrose Market. For example, Vanegas Growers of San Diego showed three kinds of celosia that cried out to be taken home. The beautiful protea display featured striking accents of eucalyptus sprays with blue, green, and purple leaves. Rodriguez Nursery from Oxnard offered multicolored bouquets with chocolate brown foxtails towering over the other blossoms. Quite stunning were the globe dianthus in magenta and red.
R: Three growers offered plants you could take home and add to your garden or landscape. Gonzales Nursery from Montrose sold horsetails, bougainvillea, citrus trees, and giant begonias. Evergreen Nursery from Compton is to be commended for the great job of labeling their plants. I never knew that plumeria was also called frangipani and that tillandsia was a type of bromeliad. I did know that their vanda and phalaenopsis orchids were quite beautiful and their red and white mandevilla vine was a show stopper. Actually the mandevilla was vying for top honors with the money tree planted in a pot shaped like a woman's shoe.
Z: The great temptation for me came at the display by Sterling Nursery from Carpinteria. I could have bought some great herbs from the extensive selection, but the Rieger begonias called to me. They were available in pink, white, yellow, and red. Four of these plants are now brightening our front yard.
R: The Montrose market seems to ooze with success. Sheridan and company have developed a formula that is inviting to the community that responds by supporting it. It's the only venue we know that has combined a farmers' market with a craft fair and a mini swap meet thieves market. For the children there were pony rides, trampolines, inflatable jumping, climbing and sliding equipment for children.
Z: The market supports fine arts by not charging a fee to any fine artist who demonstrates his/her craft and to public service organizations like the American Cancer Society. We spotted a table for Obama in 08 and across from it another for people who wanted to register Republican.
R: The rousing Dixieland music by Gremoli who play weekly just adds more fun to the experience. Entertaining that day were the Martini Kings with their sizzling high-gear Latin sounds featuring vibes, drums, and bass.
Montrose Harvest Certified Farmers' Market
Reviewed October 2007