Southern California is suffering from a case of the "in-betweens." It's practically Octobernormally time to trade in the grilling gear for a cast iron Dutch ovenbut yesterday it felt like the middle of August. Now I realize complaining about hot weather won't inspire much sympathy when most of the country is unpacking their sweaters, but it can be a little disheartening when you're eager for those cooler weather fruits and veggies.
Instead, most of the Hollywood Farmers' Market (map) still looked like late summer. The heirloom tomatoes were beautiful (and bountiful) and there were a surprising number of tables full of peaches, plums, berries, corn, and melons. There were also still lots of hot and sweet peppers in every color, shape and sizestuffed peppers anyone? And the dates were still sticky, sweet and delicious.
The only brand new thing I saw were jujubes at Burkart Farms, not to be confused with the sticky jelly candies that help keep dentists in business. Also called the Chinese date, these tree fruits have long been cherished by the Chinese for their medicinal properties. About the size of a small plum, they turn the color of Manzanita when ripe, a glossy reddish-brown.
Their slightly bread-y texture and sweet apple-like flavor make them a delicious treat to snack on out of hand. The Chinese frequently bake them into cakes, but they can also be dried and used in dishes like Yaskik (sweet rice with nuts and jujubes) or Eight-Treasure Puddings. If you buy the jujubes fresh, keep them refrigerated. If they start to shrivel before you eat them all, put them in the sunshine for homemade sun-dried jujubes.
I heard there were supposed to be quinces from Mud Creek Ranch in Santa Paula, but couldn't seem to find them. Apples were in attendance, but there were far more choices last Saturday at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market (map) than at the Hollywood market. Cirone Farms had an incredible selection that included Honeycrisp, Mutsu, Spitzenberg, Red Stripe, and Bellweather, not to mention more familiar varieties like Golden Delicious, Fuji, and Gala.
Plenty of zucchini and eggplant for sale, but I was excited to see a number of kinds of winter squash popping up too, including small pumpkins, crookneck, spaghetti, kabocha, butternut, and acorn squash, a handful of each at a number of stands.
Most of the other fall goodies I was excited about in my last reportpomegranates, persimmons, broccoli and cauliflowershould be arriving in full force in the next week or so. Spinach, Brussels sprouts, and artichokes might not be ready until the end of October. And, according Christopher from Rancho La Viña, the source of fresh walnuts and La Nogalera Walnut Oil, the bulk of the walnut harvest won't start until late October either.
Until then, I'll just put the Dutch oven away, wipe the sweat from my brow, and enjoy one more caprese salad, at least until it cools off enough to turn on the oven.
Grapes Winter squash Jujubes Peppers Dates Apples Figs Asian Pears Tomatoes
Around the Corner
Spinach Pears Persimmons Pomegranates Broccoli Cauliflower Artichokes Brussels sprouts Walnuts Pistachios Mushrooms
While You're Waiting
Try making plum jam, quince paste (if you can quince) or apple sauce!