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A peck of peppers, a bunch of grapes

September 05, 2007|Russ Parsons | Times Staff Writer

No food-lover's trip to Santa Barbara would be complete without a stop at one of the local farmers markets. The big Saturday morning market, near Santa Barbara and Cota streets, is certainly one of the best in the state. In terms of diversity and quality of produce, it rivals the big Wednesday market in Santa Monica and the Saturday Alemany market in the Bay Area. The Tuesday evening market, which is held on State Street, one of downtown's main drags, is smaller and more select but still has a lot of great farmers.

The differences between the two are primarily due to real estate -- the Saturday market is in a big open lot, and there's plenty of room for the roughly 85 farmers, plus assorted musicians and others (including not so long ago a guy who would do some kind of chakra balancing with a stick pyramid and a suspended rock). The Tuesday market is limited to just two blocks on State Street, so with 60 farmers, operations manager Aaron Young says, "I have to measure the stands out by the inch."

The Saturday market runs from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; Tuesday's starts at 4 p.m. and lasts -- at least officially -- until 7:30 p.m.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday, September 07, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
Grape variety: In Wednesday's Food section, the Farmers Market column stated that American grape varieties are from the family Vitus labruscana. They are from V. labrusca.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, September 12, 2007 Home Edition Food Part F Page 3 Features Desk 1 inches; 24 words Type of Material: Correction
Grape variety: The Sept. 5 Farmers Market column stated that American grape varieties are from the family Vitus labruscana. They are from V. labrusca.

Besides the two main markets, the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market Assn. also manages markets at La Cumbre Plaza shopping center Wednesday afternoon and in the neighboring towns of Goleta on Sunday morning and Thursday afternoon, Solvang on Wednesday afternoon, Carpinteria on Thursday afternoon and Montecito on Friday morning.

-- Peaking

Bell peppers: Here's what you do: Buy a whole bunch of peppers (red, yellow and green, which is the color the purple and "chocolate" ones revert to when cooked). Put them on a medium-hot grill or roast them on a jellyroll pan in a 400-degree oven. When the skin is shriveled and beginning to blacken, transfer the peppers to a bowl and cover with a damp tea towel to steam through. Rub off the papery skin with your fingers -- resist the temptation to rinse them under water or you'll lose all the good pepper juice. Tear the peppers into strips. Dress with some sliced garlic, a drizzle of sherry vinegar and a good grinding of black pepper. To paraphrase Dr. Johnson: To grow tired of roasted peppers is to grow tired of life.

Various vendors, $1 each

Kyoho grapes: It is ironic that the best-flavored American grape you can buy was actually developed and popularized in Japan. There are two families of grapes: Those that came from Europe (which are called Vitis vinifera) and those that are native to the Americas (V. labruscana). The latter are known for their "foxy" flavor, familiar from commercial grape juice, grape jelly and Passover wine. The best-known labruscana variety is the Concord. But Concord doesn't grow particularly well in the California climate, and as grape-growing moved west, it shifted from native varieties to European. However, in Japan, where European grapes suffer in the humid climate, American varieties do grow well. And in the early 20th century, Japanese breeders developed the Kyoho. Today it is the most popular variety in Japan, accounting for a third of all of the table grapes grown. And based on that popularity, in the last five years it has staged a comeback in California -- proving you can go home again.

Various vendors, $3 per pound


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