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All Grown Up

October 11, 2000

Founded 15 months ago by Southland Farmers Markets Assn., the South Pasadena farmers market has matured into a well-balanced event that is starting to draw customers from beyond its area.

Last Thursday, while the market celebrated Oktoberfest with an oompah band and free root beer, John Watkins, a small grower from Carpinteria, offered an idiosyncratic array of organic produce, from purple cabbages to purple passion fruit. He had conical, thick-skinned red Anaheim peppers, with just a smidgen of chile heat, fine looking eggplant and sweet little beets.

Joyce Meers of Maggie's Farm, from Tarzana, maintained her standing as the queen of premium baby salad mixes with her mesclun, romaine and arugula. She also had giant stalks of lemon grass and intriguing pineapple sage, which has tiny carmine flowers that actually smell like pineapple and can be used for flavoring butter or oils.

From Santa Maria, Luis Guevara's harvest included gorgeous raspberries, Aroma strawberries, medium-spicy Fresno chiles, squash blossoms and tomatillos. Sycamore Hill Ranch of Fillmore had ripe pear-shaped MacArthur avocados, Eureka lemons, Valencia oranges and juice, Bearss limes and feijoas, also known as pineapple guavas, with their odd, almost medicinal fragrance.

Jack Brian and Felice Apodaca, an engaging couple who sell only at this market, grow apples, pears and peaches alongside the runway of their Brian Ranch Airport in Llano, in the high desert, where Jack gives ultralight flying lessons; their Gala, Fuji and Golden Delicious apples and Hosui Asian pears were also top-flight.

William Lewis of Lakeview Terrace, a hobbyist who calls his operation Bill's Bees, had sage honey, light in color and taste, and wildflower honey dark as molasses, both gathered from the San Gabriel Mountains.

Santa Barbara Pistachio Co. of Ventucopa had unusual freshly harvested pistachios, still in their green hulls, with a moister, softer texture than the regular dried nuts. The stand sells at South Pasadena on alternating weeks; it will offer these delicacies at Santa Monica today and Saturday, at Montrose on Thursday and at Hollywood on Sunday.

South Pasadena farmers market, Meridian Avenue at Mission Street, Thursdays 4 to 8 p.m.

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