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Gold Nuggets on PCH

FARMERS MARKETS

March 22, 2000

The 4-year-old Corona del Mar farmers market maintains a good balance of large and small growers, and draws enthusiastic strollers from its pleasant neighborhood near the sea.

Last Saturday, Polito Family Farms offered top-quality citrus from Valley Center: superb Oroblancos, pummelo-grapefruit hybrids with firm, whitish pulp and a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity; Moro blood oranges (still holding their flavor, while those from the Central Valley are tasting musty); satsumas (sweet, but past their peak); and seedless Gold Nugget mandarins, a newly introduced late-season variety, from a test planting.

The Valdivia stand, a fixture at many farmers markets, had its signature array of tender vegetables from Carlsbad, including zucchini blossoms, tiny squash, sugar snap peas and fava beans in the pod. Among boutique growers, Seabreeze Organic Farm of Del Mar and Vista displayed spinach, arugula, mild French breakfast radishes, baby leeks and unusual baby celery, used primarily for its intense-flavored greens, which go well in soups and stews. Tina Barnes of Crows Pass Farm in Temecula brought organic asparagus and pristine portabello mushrooms.

Another small organic operation, Budwood Farm of Fallbrook, had an excellent spicy mix of greens, as well as a variety of sprouts. Also from Fallbrook, Eli Hofshi's stand had Fuerte, Hass and Pinkerton avocados, along with dandelion greens, cherimoyas, Eureka lemons and sweet limes. In addition to her family's avocados and citrus, Lori Herbel sold fabulous bouquets of exotic flowers, including Banksias native to Australia, and Proteas and Safari Sunsets from Africa. Her cousin Christine brought aromatic sage she had gathered in the hills and tied in bundles, to be used as incense or as an air freshener.

Corona del Mar farmers market, Pacific Coast Highway at Marguerite Avenue, Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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