Carson's ethnic diversity is reflected in its farmers market, which, though modest in size, has plenty of character.
Thursday, Benito Dilag regaled shoppers with his cry, "balut, balut, balu-u-ut!" to advertise his Philippine delicacies: fertilized chicken and duck eggs with partially developed embryos from birds raised in Ramona. Customers believe balut have aphrodisiac qualities and often enjoy them with alcoholic beverages, Dilag said. Some eggs, called ma-alat, were dyed purple, indicating that they had been marinated in brine and hard-boiled.
Nearby, Andre's Produce of Orosi did a brisk trade in sweet potato greens, which Filipinos call kamote. They typically steam or boil the leaves, as one would cook spinach, adding shrimp paste and vinegar for flavor. The stand also carried jute, bitter melon and string bean greens, along with opo and sinqua, two Philippine gourds.
Zuckerman's Farm of Stockton sold several sizes of green asparagus, from pencil to thumb thickness (marriages have foundered over disputes about which sort tastes best). The stand also had Viola purple asparagus; brushed with olive oil and roasted, it loses much of its purple color but still tastes noticeably sweeter and milder than the green stalks. Purple asparagus has existed for centuries but remains rare compared to green varieties because it's far less productive for farmers.
Until the season's first harvests of peaches and apricots next week, apples, strawberries and citrus are the main fruits at farmers markets. Foothill Ranch of Corona sold bargain (7 pounds for $1) bags of Encore mandarins, a flavorful late-season variety that never won commercial acceptance because of cosmetic defects. Foothill Ranch also had dark pink Star Ruby grapefruit, the deepest in color of all grapefruit varieties, one of the last hopes for California grapefruit growers, who have suffered economic catastrophe because of foreign and domestic competition.
Carson farmers market, Carson Street at Civic Plaza Drive, Thursdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.