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FRUITS OF CALIFORNIA

Where to Buy Premium Cherries

May 17, 2000|DAVID KARP

Southland cherry fanciers have local sources for superb cherries. Most notably, Kim and Clarence Blain, a charmingly eccentric retired couple, grow 27 varieties of cherries at their home in Lake Hughes, which they sell at the Hollywood and Santa Monica farmers markets.

Their season starts latest of all, in June. A visit to their property, nestled at 3,200 feet in the hills above the Antelope Valley, makes it clear quickly that this is no normal farm. Albino peacocks strut as watch birds, screeching out an alarm as a truck drives through the gate. Hundreds of fruit trees, mostly noncommercial varieties found only in backyards, grow in no apparent order, jostled by scrubby weeds. Coyotes have stripped off much of the low-hanging fruit.

Taking a spin around the orchard in a golf cart, the Blains show off some of their favorite cherry varieties: May Duke, considered the greatest of its class; gleaming yellow Gold; and, most unusual for California, sour cherries: the standard bright-red Montmorency, the curiously misnamed Kansas Sweet and the dark, ancient Morello.

"This started as a hobby and got out of control," says Clarence with a sheepish grin. "Kim loves to spend her time researching and ordering fruit trees from catalogs."

* Barbagelata Farms. Santa Monica farmers market (Arizona Avenue and 2nd Street), Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Torrance (2200 Crenshaw Blvd.), Tuesdays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

* Bautista Ranch. Redondo Beach (Harbor Drive south of Redondo Beach Pier), Thursdays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Hermosa Beach (Valley Drive between 8th and 10th streets), Fridays, noon to 4 p.m.; Torrance (2200 Crenshaw Blvd.), Saturdays, 8 a.m. to noon, and Tuesdays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Hollywood (Ivar Avenue between Sunset and Hollywood boulevards), Sundays, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Santa Clarita (Valencia Boulevard and Rockwell Canyon Road), Sundays, 8:30 a.m. to noon.; Santa Monica (2640 Main St. at Ocean Park Boulevard), Sundays, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

* Bozzini Farms. Santa Monica farmers market (Arizona Avenue and 2nd Street), Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Burbank (Orange Grove Avenue and 3rd Street), Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; Encino (17400 Victory Blvd. between Balboa Boulevard and White Oak Avenue), Sundays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

* Busalacchi Farms. Mail-order, hand-packed cherry boxes. (209) 931-1804.

* CJ Olsen Cherries. Fruit stand at Mathilda Avenue and El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara County; mail order, including hand-packed cherry boxes (local cherries start at the end of May). (800) 738-2464; http://www.cjolsoncherries.com.

* Circle C Ranch. Many unusual cherries, starting in early June, Santa Monica farmers market (Arizona Avenue and 2nd Street), Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Hollywood (Ivar Avenue between Sunset and Hollywood boulevards), Sundays, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

* Mariani Orchards. Orchard store open daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from late May or early June through third week of June. Cherry tasting of 40 to 50 varieties, June 17, 10 a.m., $10, includes orchard tour. 1615 Half Road, Morgan Hill. (408) 779-5467.

* Mile High Ranch. Pick your own cherries, retail sales; three-week season starts about June 20. 13000 Mile High Road, Oak Glen. (909) 845-7344.

* Nicholas Farms. Santa Monica farmers market (Arizona Avenue and 2nd Street), Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

* The Plaza Market. Often has extraordinarily large, fine cherries. Koreatown Plaza, 928 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles; (213) 385-1100. Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

* Summer Harvest Farms. Organic. Starting next week, Santa Monica farmers markets (Arizona Avenue and 2nd Street), Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Santa Monica (Pico Boulevard at Cloverfield Avenue), Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Calabasas (23504 Calabasas Road at El Canon Avenue), Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Beverly Hills (North Can~on Drive between Clifton and Dayton ways), Sundays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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