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Front Burner | Farmers Market

Success in Cerritos

July 18, 2001|David Karp and \f7

If the offerings at the Cerritos farmers market seem impressive for a 2-month-old event, that may be because it's not entirely new: It's the successor to the 18-year-old Saturday Long Beach market at Wardlow Road and Norwalk Boulevard (which closed but has just been revived as a Wednesday market).

More interesting than the market's genealogy is that of the superb stone fruits sold Saturday by Arnulfo Garcia of Kingsburg, who had really ripe and luscious Stark Saturn (Donut) flat peaches, from an ancient Chinese strain; tender Babcock white peaches, the low-chill, low-acid variety developed from a flat peach parent in the 1920s; and its distant progeny, incredibly sugary Arctic Rose white nectarines, the prototype of modern low-acid varieties. He also had 'mango' nectarines, small yellow-orange fruits with leathery skin but rich, wild flavor, discovered as a mutation on a peach tree about 15 years ago; firm green Kelsey plums (preferred by many Asians); and Ace plums, a rare old Luther Burbank variety with crimson skin and flesh.

Beatrice Gama had high-colored Flame seedless grapes from Arvin, the earliest growing area in the Central Valley. From Lucerne Valley, in the high desert, Weiser Family Farms brought sweet, aromatic cantaloupes and juicy, green-fleshed Ogen melons. Karl Nejely of Fallbrook, who has been selling at farmers markets since 1980, sold good Hass and Fuerte avocados.

Watkins Farms of Carpinteria had dark red, flavorful cherry tomatoes and fresh salad mixes. Mary Takahashi and John Sweredoski of Carson's Top Veg displayed a vast array of vegetables, including pristine lettuces, sharp watercress, dandelion greens and kabu (white Japanese turnips).

Reflecting the demographics of Cerritos, the market offered an outstanding selection of Asian vegetables. Thongsai Phannavong of Fresno had bitter melon and hot pepper greens, which included the baby vegetables, and small green-and-white-striped Laotian eggplants, used in Southeast Asian soups and stews. Pao Yang, also of Fresno, sold tiger peas, an Asian relative of black-eyed peas with slightly fuzzy edible pods, kangkong (water spinach), Indian guar beans and 2-foot snake gourds. Joe Baniaga of Orosi had moloukhiya , a green similar to okra leaves, used in Middle Eastern soups; slender black Japanese eggplant; and baseball-size green Filipino eggplants, which he said were typically cooked in fish sauce.

Cerritos farmers market, 12800 block of Park Plaza Drive, south of TowneCenter Drive. Saturdays, 8 a.m.-noon.

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