Santa Monica Farmers Market 4/16/2009

Garcia Organic Farms: Santa Monica Farmers Market 4/16/2009

“Did you see any movie stars?!” This was the most popular question asked of me upon my return from the Santa Monica Farmers Market on Wednesday.  I replied with “No.  I was looking for produce.”  After touring the market, dozens of farmers and over 200 pictures later, I was dizzy with excitement and marvel over the raw energy this excellent scene of honest commerce was producing.  If there were any stars that I saw throughout that day, they were the hard working farmers and the produce glistening on display that they harvested for their livelihood and the pure enjoyment and sustenance of thousands of people coming out to support them week after week.

The farmers are in transition mode, as are all the chefs waiting for the next wave of fresh produce to spring into season.  If you were a farmer at the market this past week, you sold lots and lots of fava beans, beets and carrots!  Spring lettuces were abound but the air is getting warmer and arugula, red frill mustard were all flowering faster than they were growing.  Pea tendrils are waving goodbye for now, but thanks to the abundance of fava beans, we have fava tendrils!!  Thicker than pea tendrils and tasty raw or sauteed, they are so delicious and unique, a valuable item to embelish any plate and disarm the most highfalutin of eaters.  Fava tendrils will only be around for the next couple of weeks, so don’t delay your desires to play with these meaty leaves!

fava tendrils from McGrath Family Farm

The red frill mustard was a fleeting romance.  Those of you who had the chance to use its spicy tendencies to tempt palates – you are the lucky ones!  Red Frill – we’ll see you next year*

Harry’s Berries (Gaviota Variety) are peaking right now and they are super sweet, dark and juicy!

A visit to Yasutomi Farms proved my suspicions right!  Jake, the grower has a bounty of hydroponic herbs, lettuces and veggies.  Most notable are the Baby Celery and the Chinese Garlic Chives.  We will be picking up some baby celery this week.  Anyone interested in the delicious and delicate chives, let me know. They are remarkable!

Life’s A Choke Farms isn’t just about artichokes.  Their Pencil Asparagus is beautiful top to bottom!  They also have squash blossoms which will be available next week.  They inject water into each blossom to ensure longer life after picking.  That is some serious TLC!

Jaime Farms also has squash blossoms!  Small zucchini with flowers the size of a hand, a good-sized hand at that!  I have never seen such extravagant squash blossoms in my life! Put down the pastry bag; you won’t need it to fill these beauties!

jumbo squash blossoms from Jaime Farm

Tutti Frutti Farms English “Shelling” Peas have been fantastic this year and the season is still abundant and strong.

Rutiz Farm is still rocking “Jerry’s Berries” along with the Persian Watercress and Savoy Spinach.

Coastal Organics has baby white turnips with purple shoulders (old-school!) and perfect gleeming green gem and red lettuces (available by the case: 30 heads). These lettuces are so beautiful, yet with this heat wave lurking in, lets enjoy them while we can!

So while we anticipate stone fruits, heirloom tomatoes, summer melons and squashes, creating summer menus in our heads, let us not look too far ahead and revel in the fertile bounty April has still to offer.  In meeting each farmer, from Coastal Organics’ Mark to Coleman Family Farms Romeo, I immediately felt respect and appreciation for their work and their dedication.  They enrich our tables, take us to our food’s roots and allow chefs to transcend the dining experience with food of true value.  Simply put, they help chefs make eating worth eating.


Melissa Mayer


Tom’s Terrific Tangerines from Polito Family Farm

Tom's Terrific Tangerines

Jerry’s Berries Strawberries (Galante variety) from Rutiz Farm – sweeter than candy!!

Jerry's Berries Strawberries from Rutiz Farm

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My First Official Farmers Market Report!!

As a chef and a true food lover I get really giddy as spring sprouts beautiful nourishment from the earth. All across the state seeds have been sewn and the early birth of spring produce is being harvested. Strawberries are abound in many varieties: eat-from-the-basket fresh to perfect for a strawberry tart. Lettuces are peaking and blushing, varieties so special they scream star salad. Shallot shoots are tender sweet, savory and sexy, spring onions with bulbs bursting the size of baseballs and to round out this season’s onion fashion, garlic green tops are the opposite of “slow-aged” black garlic, rather bright, fresh lively and proof that spring IS in the air…

Farmers Market headstands this week:

“Jerry’s Berries” strawberries!! If I had a dollar for each thought I have had about these strawberries since sinking my teeth into one after another last Wednesday, I could buy 100 flats of them!  If you have yet to give Jerry’s galante variety a try, you really should.  They are bring-you-to-your-knees GOOD!

Red Frill Mustard Greens had chefs’ heads spinning last week!  Gorgeous and peppery:  it is the designer mustard green for chefs!

I’m in love with the Red Arrow Baby Broccoli and the Persian Watercress!!  All of the Farmers Market lettuces are beautiful and tasty, especially the Freckles Lettuce (It has freckles!! C’mon!)

English Peas are sweeter than candy and The Lyon Artichokes with Stem are bigger than my head and probably yours too!  The baby Artichokes are still rocking and as you know, super versatile!!  Principi’s Pizza’s Andrew is throwing down a Baby Artichoke, Green Garlic and Sage pizza at the Little Italy Mercado on Saturdays.  I indulged in several pieces and I’m hooked.  I am 99% sure he made a green sauce with the artichoke hearts.  It was amazing.  If you are at the Little Italy Farmers Market, check his wood-burning pizza oven booth out.  It is awesome!!!

I am heading to the market on Wednesday to see what’s new, what is on the cusp of landing in our hands and if there are some more adventurous produce out there that can continue to elvate our guests’ palettes and push our creative juices.

I welcome all special requests and questions that each of you may have regarding the Farmers Market and I hope to keep bringing you the special produce that continues to bring value to your menus.  “In these times” value is priceless.  A little McGrath Farm Red Frill Mustard here with a handful of Polito Family Farm Tom’s Terrific slices there can translate into guests feeling like they are in on something great!

For those of you who had the chance to order the shallot shoots last week, congratulations!! due to the holiday, no shallot shoots were harvested this week so if you haven’t tried them yet, next week is a good week to do so.

Farmers Market is going to start peaking soon with so much yummy produce on the horizon.  Get ready because if this spring is any indicator of summer’s fertile offerings, your menus could revolve around the freshest produce in town!!

On a personal note, thank you to everyone who participates in the Farmers Market with Specialty.  It is the Farmers Market where we find all this special produce that was just harvested and plucked from the earth and trees.  It just doesn’t get any fresher than that, unless you are plucking it form your own garden.  The farmers who bring us these goodies that enhance our menus and raise the bar are the true rockstars of our industry.  Thanks to you, they get to keep on keepin’ on!

Happy Post-Easter Monday and Happy Cooking!

Melissa Mayer


Tom’s Terrific Tangerinesfrom Polito Family Farm

Tom's Terrific Tangerines

Red Frill Mustard Greens - sexy and frilly on the outside, spicy and no-frills on the inside!  My pick of the week!

Red Frill Mustard Greens from McGrath Family Farm

Jerry’s Berries Strawberries (Galante variety) from Rutiz Farm – sweeter than candy!!

Jerry's Berries Strawberries from Rutiz Farm

More >

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