A forest of green balloons announced the 20th anniversary of the Gardena farmers market Saturday. Launched on June 23, 1979, this was the first certified farmers market in the Los Angeles area. Now it's the earliest to open, at 6:30 a.m., and small but lively.
Two original vendors remain: Friend's Ranches of Ojai had excellent Valencia oranges, white and pink grapefruits and sweet Pixie mandarins; Mike & Sons of Ontario offered organic eggs gathered the day before. Cary Harris, who was 3 when he started accompanying his father to the market in 1980, sold wildflower and orange blossom honeys.
Laura Spensley had pecans from Clovis in two varieties: Wichita, long and thin-shelled, with sweet meat; and Shoshoni, round and rich-flavored. Normally Leroy and Ida Edwards, the market managers, would have had their own black-eyed and purple hull peas and speckled butter beans, but because of the cool spring, these crops are still a few weeks off. Tamai Farms of Oxnard sold white corn, spinach and Chandler strawberries.
From the Central Valley, Albert Moua displayed cherry tomatoes, yu choy, Chinese broccoli and long Japanese eggplant. Carmen Jones brought Bing cherries, pink-skinned potatoes and delicate white-fleshed loquats. Jess Swope had Maycrest peaches, Red Diamond nectarines and sweet, perfumed Katy apricots--the first apricots of the season--that cried, "Eat more of me!"
Gardena farmers market, 13000 S. Van Ness Ave., south of El Segundo Blvd., Saturday, 6:30 a.m. to noon.