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.
November 17, 2012 |
OROSI, Calif. - Easy to peel and nearly seedless, with tender flesh and tangy mandarin flavor, satsumas are one of the most popular farmers market fruits around Thanksgiving. Farmers like them too, especially growers in cold, low-lying areas, because they ripen early, before frosts usually strike, and the tree is exceptionally cold-hardy for citrus. Satsumas do need some chill to develop full color and sweetness, however, and because of the unusually hot fall, the current harvest started a week or two late.
November 9, 2012 |
While farmers markets have proliferated in recent years, demand for fresh, local, seasonal produce has increased even faster. Several types of entrepreneurs have arisen to satisfy this demand, including specialty produce distributors, shopping services and stores that emulate the farmers market experience, such as Atwater Village Farm . One intriguing variation is the Produce Project, which buys from farmers markets and sells at "pop-up farm...
November 2, 2012 |
When the Stokes Purple sweet potato shows up in markets next week, it's hard to say what will be more intriguing: its look, with dramatically deep purple skin and flesh, its flavor or the mystery of its origins. It was discovered in the United States by Mike Sizemore, 61, who grew up on a farm in North Carolina, the nation's largest sweet potato-producing state. He said in a phone interview, speaking in a delicious Southern drawl, that he worked for 30 years catching car thieves for the state government before retiring in 2003.
October 20, 2012 |
VENTUCOPA, Calif. - Pistachios are available from storage year-round, but for the next week or so, ultra-seasonal green nuts, freshly harvested and still encased in their hulls, will appear at farmers markets. Moister, softer and sweeter than regular pistachios, they have their own flavor that hints at citrus and eucalyptus. They are sold by Santa Barbara Pistachio Co. , owned by the Zannon family, who started last Sunday to harvest 400 acres in the remote, pristine Cuyama Valley, midway between Santa Barbara and Bakersfield.
October 12, 2012 |
REEDLEY, Calif. -- Raisins are the neglected icon of California agriculture, perceived as an old-fashioned industrial commodity, devoid of seasonal sizzle. At farmers markets, however, it's well worth searching out special varieties, freshly harvested and processed by small growers. One of the top grape vendors at local farmers markets, Linda and Brian Raphael of Apkarian Family Farm, produce high-quality raisins in small quantities, and they show up personally to sell them. On Monday, in anticipation of rain, they were pulling in the last of their trays from the drying yard in Reedley, in Fresno County, where almost three-quarters of the state's raisin crop is produced.
October 5, 2012 |
WASCO, Calif. - California's almond harvest, which takes place from August through October, is a dusty, noisy affair, vast in scale and fascinating in its blend of agricultural and industrial processes. Sixty years ago California grew 100,000 acres of almonds, 85% of them in the northern Central Valley, from Madera to Butte counties. Mechanization, increased irrigation in the southern San Joaquin Valley (at least until recent water cutbacks) and booming exports have boosted production, and California now raises some 760,000 acres of almonds, its third largest farm commodity, after dairy and grapes.