“Did you see any movie stars?!” This was the most popular question asked of me upon my return from the Santa Monica Farmers Market on Wednesday. I replied with “No. I was looking for produce.” After touring the market, dozens of farmers and over 200 pictures later, I was dizzy with excitement and marvel over the raw energy this excellent scene of honest commerce was producing. If there were any stars that I saw throughout that day, they were the hard working farmers and the produce glistening on display that they harvested for their livelihood and the pure enjoyment and sustenance of thousands of people coming out to support them week after week.
The farmers are in transition mode, as are all the chefs waiting for the next wave of fresh produce to spring into season. If you were a farmer at the market this past week, you sold lots and lots of fava beans, beets and carrots! Spring lettuces were abound but the air is getting warmer and arugula, red frill mustard were all flowering faster than they were growing. Pea tendrils are waving goodbye for now, but thanks to the abundance of fava beans, we have fava tendrils!! Thicker than pea tendrils and tasty raw or sauteed, they are so delicious and unique, a valuable item to embelish any plate and disarm the most highfalutin of eaters. Fava tendrils will only be around for the next couple of weeks, so don’t delay your desires to play with these meaty leaves!
The red frill mustard was a fleeting romance. Those of you who had the chance to use its spicy tendencies to tempt palates – you are the lucky ones! Red Frill – we’ll see you next year*
Harry’s Berries (Gaviota Variety) are peaking right now and they are super sweet, dark and juicy!
A visit to Yasutomi Farms proved my suspicions right! Jake, the grower has a bounty of hydroponic herbs, lettuces and veggies. Most notable are the Baby Celery and the Chinese Garlic Chives. We will be picking up some baby celery this week. Anyone interested in the delicious and delicate chives, let me know. They are remarkable!
Life’s A Choke Farms isn’t just about artichokes. Their Pencil Asparagus is beautiful top to bottom! They also have squash blossoms which will be available next week. They inject water into each blossom to ensure longer life after picking. That is some serious TLC!
Jaime Farms also has squash blossoms! Small zucchini with flowers the size of a hand, a good-sized hand at that! I have never seen such extravagant squash blossoms in my life! Put down the pastry bag; you won’t need it to fill these beauties!
Tutti Frutti Farms English “Shelling” Peas have been fantastic this year and the season is still abundant and strong.
Rutiz Farm is still rocking “Jerry’s Berries” along with the Persian Watercress and Savoy Spinach.
Coastal Organics has baby white turnips with purple shoulders (old-school!) and perfect gleeming green gem and red lettuces (available by the case: 30 heads). These lettuces are so beautiful, yet with this heat wave lurking in, lets enjoy them while we can!
So while we anticipate stone fruits, heirloom tomatoes, summer melons and squashes, creating summer menus in our heads, let us not look too far ahead and revel in the fertile bounty April has still to offer. In meeting each farmer, from Coastal Organics’ Mark to Coleman Family Farms Romeo, I immediately felt respect and appreciation for their work and their dedication. They enrich our tables, take us to our food’s roots and allow chefs to transcend the dining experience with food of true value. Simply put, they help chefs make eating worth eating.
AT THE MARKET:
Tom’s Terrific Tangerines from Polito Family Farm
Jerry’s Berries Strawberries (Galante variety) from Rutiz Farm – sweeter than candy!!
Red Spring Onions from Jaime Farm – big juicy bulbs!
Fava Beans from Coastal & McGrath Farms
Beylik Family Farms – Fillmore, CA
Persian Cucumbers – petite and crucnhy! No seeds=sweet!
Japanese Tomatoes – a deep red tomato that’s flesh is equivalent to a hearty beefsteak.
Yellow Tomatoes – these are really special and they are sweet and tangy!
Coastal Organics – Oxnard, CA
Black Kale– also known as tuscan kale, black cabbage, or cavalo nero!
Fava Beans – New! Young, sweet and non-starchy.
Baby White Turnips – delicate pepper flavor, marble-sized gems!
Gem Lettuces – Green and Red, these are the perfect lettuce. Sweet, succulent and crispy center.
Coleman Family Farm – Carpinteria, CA
Broccoli Spigarello – Leafy broccoli with all the broccoli flavor, but more delicate and beautiful!
Red Butter (Piret) Lettuce – you won’t find this anywhere else!
Freckles Lettuce – Freckles!
Lollo Rossa Lettuce – great for mixed salads, beautiful deep purple-red.
Treviso – so young, you’ll barely recognize it. Deep green with a deep blush.
Radicchio – note: small heads! Perfect for plate garnishes.
Garcia Organic Farm – Fallbrook, CA
Cara Cara Oranges– a mix between a grapefruit and a navel orange gives it its signature salmon colored flesh!
Meiwa Kumquats – a Japanese variety that has a sweeter pulp than conventional kind.
Paige Tangerines – sweet, juicy and easy to peel!
Harry’s Berries – Oxnard, CA
Strawberries – Gaviota variety, deep dark red with a soft and sweet flavor appeal!
Jaime Farm – Ontario, CA
Mixed Baby Bunch Carrots – beautiful baby yellow, orange, red, and purple haze carrots with tops
Rainbow Chard – striking colors, hearty leaves.
White Spring Onion – large sized and absolutely beautiful! Attached to hearty, fresh green tops
Red Spring Onion – big juicy bulbs!
Small Zucchini with Flower – great stuffed and sauteed! You have never seen any squash blossoms like this. Show-stealers!
Life’s A Choke – Lompoc, CA
Baby Anzio Artichokes – a cross between green and purple artichokes, and very meaty!
Baby Purple (Fiesole) Artichokes– not as meaty, but beautiful color and nutty flavor
Lyon Artichoke with stem– large and in charge! This is a very jumbo, round, meaty variety from Southern France that has very little bitterness, if any, compared to other varieties
Next Week: Pencil Asparagus and Squash Blossoms. Please give me feedback if interested*
McGrath Family Farm – Camarillo, CA
Wild Arugula – 3 Pound bag
Baby Bunch Candy Beets, Red Beets, Gold Beets, and White Beets
If you want beets, right now they are priced to sell!!!
Baby Watermelon Radish
Fava Tendrils – sweet, soft and meaty flavor, great fish and meat accoutrement!! Only available for a couple of weeks!!
Red Okami Spinach – a uniquiely shaped leaf with a deep red stem and veins – great for sauteing!
Baby White Japanese Turnips
Firecracker Lettuce – deep red and a bit frilly!
Fava Beans – beautiful, plump perfect beans.
Mike and Son Egg Ranch – Ontario, CA
Brown Eggs (15 doz case only)
Polito Family Farm – Valley Center, CA
Rutiz Farm – Arroyo Grande, CA
Sugar Snap Peas
Persian Watercress– a unique variety, with a wonderfully spicy-sweet kick
Jerry’s Berries Strawberries– (pre-order only) worth every penny!! A must try strawberry!
Savoy Spinach – cut in small clusters of 3-4 leaves – beautiful!!
Romanesco – Jerry grows the perfect-sized heads, nicest ones at the market!
Weiser Family Farm – Bakersfield, CA
Red Thumb Potatoes – red skinned on the outside, and pretty in pink on the inside
Russian Banana Fingerlings – baker size, but oh so creamy..
French Heirloom Fingerlings – red-skinned, baker-sized and white-fleshed, has a very silky texture ( I love these!!)
La Ratte Fingerlings – nutty flavors, stand out fingerling, one of the best potatoes, ever!!
Mix Baby Carrots – all heirloom varieties!
Micro Mix Baby Carrots – tiny tiny sweet and tender carrots for those creative chefs who like things small*
Baby Purple Broccoli – aka Red Arrow Broccoli, which is the specific variety. It’s not purple all the way through, but the green stem and leaves contrast it very nicely. It has a mild flavor and the farmer recommends slicing thinly and serving raw, or do a very quick saute if desired to keep the color!!
Baby Broccoli – it’s green counterpart – may be going away soon…..
White Beets – the big ol’ ones, great for roasting and pairing with other beets for a milder, sweeter flavor
Yasutomi Farm – Pico Rivera, CA
Baby Bok Choy – amazingly tender, great flavor, good for braise and hey, even the grill…
Baby Celery – more leaves than stalk, hydroponically grown, slender and tasty stalks. The best baby celery available. Period.