March 15, 2013 |
Rhubarb is one of the great joys of spring, with its rosy color, earthy tang and old-fashioned allure, and the story of its local rise and fall is as intriguing as its flavor. Just a generation or two ago, it was widely cultivated in Southern California, but now local rhubarb is available almost exclusively at farmers markets, and just from a handful of vendors. Rhubarb is native to central and northern Asia, where its roots were harvested for millenniums for their medicinal properties.
March 8, 2013 |
Locally raised pork is rare in Southern California, but in a hilly grapefruit grove north of San Diego, fenced to exclude mountain lions, 14 tasty piglets luxuriate, fattening for sale at the Santa Monica farmers market. They're the dream or folly of Oliver Woolley, who raises heritage pigs. Oliver, 30, was born in Kentucky. He grew up in Colorado and moved with his family in 2003 to a 25-acre farm in Valley Center that grows flowers and organic grapefruit. He studied business at the University of San Diego and worked briefly as a trader for Morgan Stanley but "hated it," he said.
March 6, 2013 |
Just that morning, I'd used the last of the leaf lard I'd been adding to my galette or pie dough for extra tenderness when the words Mangalitsa and fatback jumped out to me from a little signboard at the Saturday Santa Monica Farmers Market . I stopped in front of what has to be one of the smallest stalls at the market, Peads & Barnetts. In fact, this was just its second week there. The name is that of one of Oliver Woolley's small pig farms in North San Diego County where he raises Mangalitsa, or Hungary's woolly pigs, a breed closely related to Europe's wild boars and prized for its thick layer of particularly tasty fat. He didn't have leaf lard, but he did have fatback in 2-pound packs at $3.50 a pound.
March 1, 2013 |
- The cherimoya is a peculiar-looking, almost intimidating fruit - "like a pre-Columbian jade pine cone or the finial for a giant Inca four-poster bed," in Elizabeth Schneider's memorable words. But at its best it tastes sublime, with sweet, juicy, flan-like flesh and rich flavor blending papaya, banana and pineapple. Mark Twain famously called it "the most delicious fruit known to men," and if taste were all that counted, cherimoyas might outsell apples. Alas, cherimoyas are exceptionally tricky to grow, select and ripen, and thus not well adapted to American industrial fruticulture and marketing.
February 23, 2013 |
The Irvine Saturday farmers market is the largest and best in Orange County, but it's a mixed bag. It has some worthy local small farmers who come in person, along with more commercial farms, and even a few who have been sanctioned previously for cheating by agricultural authorities or other managers. Orange County Produce, owned by the family of the previous California agriculture secretary, A.G. Kawamura, farms on remnants of undeveloped local land, a bittersweet reminder of the county's past agricultural glory.
February 16, 2013 |
The prepared food vendors at local farmers markets cater to a world of tastes and ethnicities, from Filipino balut to halal shawarma , but until recently none served observant Jews who follow kosher dietary laws. It fell to a secular Jew, Michele Grant, fresh off the success of her Grilled Cheese Truck, to fill that niche, offering a flavorful, healthy twist on traditional kosher cooking, strictly supervised by the Rabbinical Council of California . "The idea is to encourage the Orthodox community to come to farmers markets," says Grant, 46. "When they buy produce, they can have a little nosh at the same time.
February 9, 2013 |
As part of a great California olive oil boom, now at least a dozen olive oil vendors are selling at local farmers markets, up from only a couple a decade ago. Most offer a good product, but there are few who, like Michael O'Brien of Paso Gold , provide local, fresh, high-quality, certified organic oil, sold by the farmer himself in the agricultural section of the market. The combination of new varieties from Europe, high-density systems and mechanized harvest led to a surge in plantings of olives for oil, from a few hundred acres two decades ago to about 30,000 today, said Paul Vossen , a University of California farm advisor.
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.