Address: 1500 block of Ivar Ave between Hollywood and Sunset boulevards, Hollywood
Many shoppers at the Hollywood and Santa Monica farmers markets well remember Circle C Ranch for the outlandishly long lines that formed to buy its Persian mulberries. -- David Karp, for the L.A. Times
Will the Hollywood farmers market agree to move, or dig in its heels? At a boisterous, well-attended meeting recently, leaders of the nonprofit group that sponsors the market presented an update about the market’s ongoing dispute with the Los Angeles Film School over access to a parking structure on Ivar Avenue, and sought comment from the public about how it should respond.
Small and unprepossessing they may be, Pixie mandarins are a farmers market favorite for their seedlessness, rich flavor — combining the best of mandarin and orange — and late season. In the last decade, Pixies grown in this picturesque valley in northwestern Ventura County have achieved cult status in Southern California because they're local, distinctive and delicious.
Friend's Ranches mostly brings netted bags of the small fruit to market, at Hollywood and Ojai (Sunday), Santa Barbara (Saturday) and Santa Monica (Wednesday), but accepts special orders for medium and larger sizes. It also has a farm stand at 15150 Maricopa Highway in Ojai ( 646-2871) and sells by mail order. Churchill Orchard sells certified organic Pixies at the Ojai market. Mike and Mary Shore of Timber Canyon Ranch offer both conventional and certified organic Pixies at the Ventura (Saturday and Wednesday), Santa Clarita (Sunday) and Thousand Oaks (Thursday) markets. And Ojai Pixies are sold at Gelson's, Bristol Farms and Whole Foods markets — a triumph of flavor over size and appearance.
This coming week, a veritable fruit storm will hit the Southland, with some of the year's most eagerly awaited, high-flavored fruits, including Blenheim apricots, Snow Queen white nectarines and Persian mulberries.
Fennel, the most fragrant of vegetables, is now at its peak of abundance and quality. Of the half-dozen stands at the Hollywood farmers market that sell it, Finley Organic Farms, which grows the Zefa Fino variety in Santa Ynez, has the sweetest and most tender and aromatic bulbs, ideal for eating raw in salads. Finley also sells at the Culver City, Beverly Hills and Saturday Santa Monica markets. But it's hard to go wrong: The Xiong farm of Clovis has pristine specimens, and Underwood Family Farms of Somis has large, plump bulbs.
The Hollywood farmers market has a distinctively urban, almost carnival-like atmosphere, blending serious foodies, working-class shoppers, musicians, petition gatherers and a scattering of freaks. It's the second-largest market in Southern California, behind Santa Monica Wednesday, and features an abundance of excellent and unique farms, but also some that sell commercial-grade produce. The geographical organization is well-conceived, with the certified farmers on Ivar Avenue and a lively stretch of prepared foods and crafts on the cross street, Selma Avenue.
The unusual-looking Buddha's Hand citron was imported to California and raised here in gardens starting in the late 19th century, but it is only in the last two decades that small-scale commercial orchards have been planted, about 25 acres across the state. The main season is late fall and early winter, but in coastal districts the trees produce fruit continuously.
"Windshield doctor and heirloom tomato grower." It sounds like one of those joke advertisements, but Darrell Elser juggles these two vocations with aplomb.
He certainly provides the greatest diversity of tomatoes at Southern California farmers markets: more than 50 varieties, most of them heirlooms, lovingly grown on half an acre of his yard in Yucaipa, east of Redlands. Other than the fact that you have to pay for the fruit, visiting his stand is like having your own backyard tomato garden.
Few people, however, have any idea of the family drama, worthy of Chekhov and Flannery O'Connor, behind the stand, which resumed selling at the Hollywood Farmers Market on June 28.