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FRONT BURNER | FARMERS MARKETS

Westlake: A Noisy Success

May 03, 2000|DAVID KARP

New farmers markets often begin with a bang, then languish from lack of community interest. The 3-month-old Westlake Village market, on the other hand, has sparked a local controversy: Residential neighbors of its shopping center parking lot have complained of noise and traffic, while market partisans have rallied to its defense.

The market seems inspired by the enthusiasm of its rookie manager, Jennifer McColm, a writer and mother of three who scurries around on a scooter, her long blond tresses flying.

On Sunday, the Rosendahls (whose wide-ranging Fresno-based operation is controversial itself, resented by many smaller growers) had the first soft fruit of the season: Burlat cherries, softer than later varieties but not bad if you get a dark one; flavorful Mayfire nectarines, quite good for such early fruit; and Earlitreat peaches, juicy but only fair in flavor at this picking (try the pecked fruits; the birds know how to pick winners).

Larry and Carolyn Comer of Kingsburg won't have fresh fruit for a few weeks, but they did offer candy-sweet and meaty dried yellow nectarines in 1-pound gift packs and excellent homemade boysenberry, apricot and Santa Rosa plum syrups. Audra Etheridge sold huge Tarocco blood oranges, much sweeter than the common Moros, from her family's farm in Dinuba.

Darrell Yasukochi had sugary white corn from the Kitagawa farm in Thermal, along with spinach, long Asian eggplant and hot green jalapenos. Chris White of Jazzy Sprouts, who plays jazz drums and serves in the Army Reserve when she's not farming in Reseda, sold radish, pea, sunflower and buckwheat greens and 35 kinds of sprouts.

Norman Fisher of Upper Ojai had Hass avocados, in various sizes and stages of ripeness. He said that at this time of year the large ones are best because they've been on the tree longest and have developed the most oil, but a medium-size fruit he selected could not have been tastier.

Westlake Village farmers market, 32129 Lindero Canyon Road, Sundays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (The market may move in a few weeks to the Westlake Village Inn on Agoura Road.)

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