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JAUNTS: in and around the Valley

Farm Fresh for You

Over 100 vendors offer produce and more at outdoor market in Encino.

June 25, 1998|IRENE GARCIA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A plump black-and-white rooster crows loudly from inside a cage placed at the entrance of the Encino Farmers' Market.

It's a welcoming that helps give patrons the feeling they're on a farm.

With the Santa Monica Mountains in the background, and the vastness of adjacent Sepulveda Basin, it's not a farfetched idea. In fact, it's hard to imagine this is the middle of a hectic city.

And it's probably the next best thing to gathering your own eggs and picking your own produce and flowers without having to drive to a farm.

The outdoor market, open Sundays from 8 a.m.-1 p.m., features more than 100 booths of freshly picked items, including cherries, strawberries, corn, lettuce, apples and apricots.

The Organization for the Needs of the Elderly sponsors the market, and a portion of the proceeds benefits the group.

It's a festive event with friendly vendors who offer free samples such as juicy apples, sweet strawberries and succulent cherries.

If you're into natural foods, the selection of organic fruits and vegetables is good and prices are cheaper than at most of the specialty stores that sell them.

At the Encino market you'll find everything from organic greens to bean seeds and carrots. There's even organic pasta.

"Not only is it a lot cheaper than the store, it's fresher too," said Catherine Lincoln of Van Nuys, who shops at the farmers' market at least twice a month. "It's a terrific Sunday event."

There's a wide selection of regular produce and eggs, and, like their organic counterparts, they're fresher and cheaper than at most grocery stores.

Strawberries are a good example. With nearby Oxnard serving as the state's strawberry capital, it's not surprising to see several vendors selling cases of the luscious, red fruit.

The market's specialty is produce but other items are available such as honey, olives, bread, kosher hot dogs, fish, chicken and flowers.

One stand sells garlic- and jalapeno-flavored pistachios as well as the salted and roasted variety.

The popcorn stand is one of the market's most popular attractions. A man in a cowboy hat hands out samples of different flavored corn, popped on the spot. The aroma is wonderful and the popcorn is warm and tasty.

Food isn't the only thing you'll find here. A few booths sell jewelry, purses and hats.

One vendor has a number of baseballs with former Dodger pitcher Hideo Nomo's face plastered on them. A great deal for just $1, the vendor says, because she assures that, some day, "It's going to be a collector's item."

But before handing over that buck, keep in mind that Nomo's terrible performance this season led the Dodgers to trade him to the New York Mets earlier this month.

So perhaps you can use the dollar to take a coffee break at the nearby stand that sells the gourmet variety, both hot and frosted.

Those interested in polishing their culinary talents can attend the free cooking demonstration at the south end of the market.

If the kids are bored, there's face painting and free balloons at the entrance. Some weeks there's music.

The rooster is also a great attraction for children, though adults seem to love him, too. One woman blew a long kiss at the rooster and said goodbye as she exited with several bags in hand. She called him Bruce and promised to see him next week.

"Isn't he cute?" she said. "I really look forward to seeing him."

For some, he's one of the market's most popular features.

BE THERE

Encino Farmers' Market, 17400 Victory Blvd., Encino, between White Oak Avenue and Balboa Boulevard. 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays. Admission is free, but donations are accepted. (818) 708-6611.

Send Jaunts ideas, allowing at least two weeks' notice, to staff writer Irene Garcia at The Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth, CA 91311. Or send e-mail to Irene.Garcia@latimes.com.

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