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A Kale Storm In Ventura County

February 21, 2001|DAVID KARP

The makeup of a farmers market is largely determined by the intent of its sponsor. City managers seeking to draw crowds and entrepreneurs looking to make a profit often fill markets with craft and food vendors. In contrast, the Ventura Midtown venue is operated by Ventura County Certified Farmers Market Assn. by and for farmers, and all but a few of its stands sell locally grown produce.

Last Wednesday, John Watkins, a small organic grower from Carpinteria, featured four varieties of kale, now at its seasonal peak: dark, full-flavored Dinosaur, a cavalo nero; light green, mild-flavored Red Russian; frilly, deep purple Redbor; and ornamental purple and green Peacock. He also had small, tender stalks of broccoli, collard greens and a basket of ripe, wrinkled purple passion fruit.

Henry Robles of Oxnard sold spinach, celery, romaine lettuce (speckled with mud from the previous day's downpour) and large, rather flavorful cherry tomatoes, grown under plastic cover. From their sodden fields in Moorpark and Fillmore, Vicente and Irma Suarez somehow assembled an impressive array of Camarosa strawberries, along with green onions, radishes , and cilantro.

The Beylik stand of Fillmore sold hydroponically grown Beefsteak, plum, and Japanese pink tomatoes. Buddy Barett of Ojai had sprouts of alfalfa, clover, sunflower and broccoli. Two hobby -farmers from Ojai, Dave Friend and his son Brandon, wearing bright orange shirts and big grins, offered brown and white eggs from free-range chickens, and a few small but very tasty green-shelled Arucana eggs.

Vince Ditomaso of Camarillo had odd egg-shaped sapotes, sweet-tart Minneola tangelos, and good ripe Hass and Bacon avocados. Mary Shore set out a gorgeous display of citrus from Ojai, including fine Eureka and Meyer lemons, sweet seedless Pixie mandarins and exquisitely dark berry-flavored Moro blood oranges. She also brought, from her Santa Paula property, the most perfect-looking Bearss limes.

Ventura Midtown farmers market, Main Street and Mills Road, Wednesdays 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. (The market soon will move across Mills Road to the Pacific View shopping center, entrance near Lemon Grove Avenue and Main Street.)

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