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.
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.