February 3, 2013 |
For many years, when managers grew frustrated about lax enforcement at Los Angeles farmers markets, they would cry, "If only Ed Williams were here!" Williams, who worked for the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner's office from 1987 to 1990, "could walk through a market and spot the cheaters in an instant," said Laura Avery, supervisor of the Santa Monica farmers markets. He did such a great job that he got a promotion to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA)
January 25, 2013 |
Midwinter is peak time for citrus to be eaten fresh, and this year quality has been superb, probably because of the extended heat earlier in the growing season. Here are tips about which varieties to look for now and from which growing areas, including recommended growers, tips for choosing and using, and potential pitfalls. For each type there's also a peek at what the future has to offer. Algerian and some other clementines (from Southern California): At its best, sweet, juicy, rich-flavored, easy to peel and seedless.
January 18, 2013 |
FALLBROOK - Jim Russell's macadamia orchard looks like a park, 3 acres of holly-like evergreens growing above closely cropped grass. A casual observer would never suspect that it represents a relic of a bygone boom, a source of uniquely delicious nuts and one man's triumph over paralysis. Macadamias are native to eastern Australia, where there are two edible species: integrifolia in warmer areas and tetraphylla in cooler. The kind brought to Hawaii in 1881, and first commercialized there, was integrifolia , which proved most productive and suitable for roasting.
January 11, 2013 |
DE LUZ - High on a hill overlooking an idyllic vista of citrus, avocados and chaparral, Bill Vogel spied a tree loaded with an unexpected bounty and started to holler. "Holy moly, look at all these starfruit," he said, cradling a cluster of ripening greenish-yellow fruit. "What's going on? I got a second crop and didn't know it. " Such are the occasional delights of pushing the envelope growing exotic fruits, which Vogel, 65, has been doing since 2000, when he started buying property in this pristine agricultural community at the southern end of the Santa Ana Mountains.
December 29, 2012 |
Although summer claims many of the sexiest, most attention-grabbing vegetables, such as eggplants, tomatoes, peppers and zucchini, in Southern California the vegetables that thrive in winter are equally abundant and alluring. Roots, crucifers and peas may be available year-round, but winter is their time to shine. In the spirit of the many award ceremonies held in this season, here are some of my favorite early winter vegetables and producers who do an extraordinary job with them, based on notes, photos and tastings over the last 14 years.
December 21, 2012 |
Mandarins at their best are the noblest of citrus, with intense, complex aromatics and fascinating varietal identities. Two clementine-tangelo crosses prized for their rich flavor, Page and Lee, are now in peak season and well worth searching out. Page long been a favorite at farmers markets, and recently commercial growers have caught on and planted them on a larger scale. Its half-sister, Lee, is rare in California but arguably has even more extraordinary flavor. Page originated in Florida in 1942 as a cross of Algerian clementine and Minneola tangelo and was introduced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1963.
December 14, 2012 |
The great advantage of Southern California farmers markets - year-round availability of fresh, local produce - can sometimes backfire by obscuring the seasonal rhythm of crops and growing areas. For example, carrots, grapefruits, nuts and avocados are always available from somewhere but not always at their best; it's up to shoppers to learn the difference. Grown from the Mexico to the Oregon borders, carrots often look good but are starchy and vegetal in summer; the tenderest, crispest, sweetest ones come in winter, when the roots naturally accumulate nutrients.
December 7, 2012 |
Kiwi are now plentiful at farmers markets, but they're not always easy to find in prime condition. To produce high-quality kiwis, growers need to apply crop-specific expertise in pollination, pruning, irrigation, ripening and storage. Many farmers market vendors are generalists for whom kiwis are a minor sideline, so they sometimes bring rock-hard fruit that never ripens, or improperly stored specimens that have shriveled, softened and developed off flavors. At their best, however, local recently harvested kiwis have an intense vibrancy that is often missing in long-stored commercial fruit.
December 5, 2012 |
After moving to Los Angeles from his native New York eight years ago, writer-director Marshall Lewy spent many weekends hanging out at his neighborhood farmers market in Silver Lake. He became intrigued by the idea of a sprawling metropolis where farmers markets come to life, bringing in fresh produce and unusual characters from farms that surround the nation's second-largest city. The experience planted the seed for "California Solo," an independent movie about a former British pop rocker played by Scottish actor Robert Carlyle ("Trainspotting" and "The Full Monty")
November 30, 2012 |
At their best, clementines are among the finest of citrus fruits, easy to peel, seedless, with firm but juicy flesh and a rich, well-balanced flavor. However, they can vary dramatically in quality, depending on the exact variety, the season, where they're grown, how they're grown and how they're packed and stored. For anyone who has fallen in love with this fruit only to be disappointed later, it is worth understanding these factors before shopping, whether at grocery stores or at farmers markets.