Market Scene: Summer in Los Angeles
Weaving your way through the crowd at the Hollywood Farmers' Market most Sundays takes an athlete's focus and precision. It's hard to pull your gaze away from the teeming piles of Santa Rosa plums, citrine-colored nectarines, and beckoning un-husked corn that line Ivar and Selma Avenues long enough to watch where you're going. And watch you must—the traffic is like a pedestrian version of the 405 at rush hour, complete with Mercedes-like strollers and impatient drivers. Started 17 years ago by Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles (SEE-LA) the Hollywood Farmers' Market has grown from 25 stalls to include approximately 90 farmers, as well as artisans and food vendors. SEE-LA also operates smaller markets in the city including ones in Echo Park and Atwater Village.
The Fruits (and Vegetables) of Summer at the Hollywood Farmers' Market
Summer is raging full-throttle here, unfettered by clouds (or cooling breezes, unfortunately) with the mercury holding in 90s, which makes the refreshing array of fruits particularly appealing. The peaches, nectarines, pluots, apricots, and plums that had just begun to hit the stands when I wrote in the beginning of June are now ubiquitous. Yellow and red raspberries like those available from Nipomo's Pudwill Farms are sweet and tart and perfect out of hand, on yogurt or in any number of summer desserts. The blueberries from Underwood Family Farms in Somis are firm and flavorful. Cathy Dominguez, who was working the stall today, also mentioned that blueberry lovers can pick their own Pacific Blues out in Somis for a couple more weeks.
While it's easy to get lost in the world of available sweet treats, the abundance of summer vegetables should not be overlooked. Peacock Family Farms had a gorgeous array of summer squash varieties including Italian Heirloom zucchini, globes like the Provençal Ronde de Nice, pattypan, and crookneck.
Eggplant is also in season and can be found in all shapes and shades from lavender to royal purple and even white. I bought a handful of white eggplants from Peacock and plan to prepare them as suggested: stuffed with fresh herbs and baked, then topped with fresh goat cheese.
Blue Lake green beans are widely available right now, as are the delicious, though less delicate, Romano variety. Green beans are crisp and sweet and taste great barely cooked or, like the Romanos, cooked to death, which actually brings out the bean's complex flavors.
Snag some fresh onions, garlic, and avocados at the market too; I particularly love the round, buttery Reed variety (it's delicious with blueberries).
Still Early, But Good
Corn is just starting to come in and can be found from farms that are farther south, like Underwood. Try a kernel or two before you buy, or hold out a few more weeks—it's just going to get better as August approaches.
Figs will be making cameo appearances over the next few weeks. I've seen pints of Black Missions and Brown Turkeys already and Alex, from Avila & Sons in Hanford, told me to expect a small crop of the white, honey-sweet Kadota figs next week. But the real figgy fun won't start until August. So start clipping recipes.
As hard as it is to hold out for tomatoes, your patience will be rewarded next month. The heirloom and greenhouse varieties we're starting to see are good, but they only hint at the sweet, complex flavor of a perfect, vine-ripened summer tomato. When they're ready, you'll know it from 50 feet away; their perfume is that strong. The Hollywood Farmers' Market also hosts a tomato festival when the season is fully underway. Taste more than 60 varieties of tomato from the market's vendors all under a few tents.
Until then, happy eating.
Seasonal Produce Guide
Summer squashes (zucchini, pattypan, crookneck)