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Tomato Wonderland

September 13, 2000|DAVID KARP

Although smaller than Riverside's better-known Friday morning market, its Wednesday evening market--held across from the Mission Inn--boasts several distinctive farmers from the region.

Last week Leslie Dellaro, a local backyard grower, sold splendid organic heirloom tomatoes, including rich-flavored, reddish-brown Black Krim, which originated in the Crimea; mild Caspian Pink; and German Johnson, a low-acid type from Virginia. She also had dark green, nutty-flavored Buttercup squash; unusual hot peppers, including the top-shaped yellow Jamaican Hot (actually only medium-spicy); and fabulous eggplants: meaty but delicate Rosa Bianco; slender Asian Bride, white with a violet blush; and glossy black, crescent-shaped Millionaire.

Rich and Pat Hopkins, a retired couple from Anza, offered crisp, sweet-tart McIntosh apples, classic in New England, but rarely grown in California, where the variety doesn't ripen and color well except at high altitude. By growing at 4,100 feet, the Hopkins also were able to offer freshly picked Elberta and J.H. Hale peaches weeks after the Central Valley's harvest finished. In a week or two, they'll have exquisite Comice pears, another rarity in California orchards, though the Hopkins' tree is loaded this year.

Judy Wilson of Murrieta had greenish-skinned Kikusui Asian pears, one of the best varieties, crunchy and refreshingly juicy. She sold light-green Li jujubes, small, vaguely apple-like fruits with little flavor at that stage, though some Asians like them like that; as they ripen, they turn brown and become sweeter.

Barbara Applegate, based in Phelan, had fine, locally gathered buckwheat, wildflower, avocado and orange blossom honey.

Downtown Riverside farmers market, Main Street between 5th and 6th streets, Wednesdays, April through October, 5 to 9 p.m.

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