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FARMERS MARKET REPORT

Second Banana

February 16, 2000|DAVID KARP

The Santa Monica farmers market at Pico and Cloverfield boulevards is less well known than its sibling at Arizona Avenue and Second Street, but it's a big, vibrant market, one of the six largest in the Southland.

Saturday, after a downpour, the market migrated to high ground at the northern end of its parking lot. Laura Ramirez of Bryn Mawr, near Redlands, sold variegated Pink Lemonade lemons, a natural mutation of the common Eureka with tiger-striped peel and pink pulp--the original inspiration for pink lemonade. She also had incredibly juicy sweet-tart Minneola tangelos and excellent avocados: standard Hass, classic Fuerte and her favorite, Pinkerton, with rich, nutty flavor and a small seed.

The Silveira stand of Santa Maria and Trevino Farm of Lompoc both had chilacoyote, which they translated as "winter melon." Though similar in appearance, it's actually a Malabar gourd (also known as zambo), which Mexicans and Central Americans boil and eat with milk and cinnamon; they also roast the seeds and candy the rind.

From Ontario, Maria Cabral brought Purple Top turnips with lush, beautiful greens, which are delicious steamed with ham hocks and pieces of turnip. Similarly, the Suarez stand, from Perris, had Maui sweet onions with the green stalks still on, to be used in soups and stir-fries. Philip Xiong of Fresno had fresh young garlic, no bigger than thimbles, with roots and stalks still attached.

The Bautistas sold dates from Mecca in the Coachella Valley: Deglet Noors and Medjools, along with the rare but even tastier Khadrawy, Zahidi and Halawi varieties. David Avila of Hanford had a superb selection of nuts and dried fruit, including roasted Valencia peanuts; addictive roasted pistachios; Blenheim apricot slabs, sweet as candy; and meaty natural-dried Calimyrna figs, hard to find of this quality.

Santa Monica Pico and Cloverfield farmers market, Pico and Cloverfield boulevards, Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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