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Cooking with Fresh Herbs from the Hollywood Farmers' Market

Celebrate the arrival of summer by planting an herb garden.

With the June gloom in Southern California, it’s hard to believe that summer is arriving this week. Regardless of the weather, consider celebrating the summer solstice by planting an herb garden. Cooking with fresh herbs is much easier than you think and it just may add some spice to your life.

“You don’t need a yard to plant a garden,” said Logan Williams, the owner of Hayground Organic Gardening, a nursery in Silver Lake. “All you need are a couple of ceramic pots to make an herb garden.”

Williams owns and operates the nursery and its stand at the Hollywood market with his father Jimmy Williams, a  pioneer in the Los Angeles organic farming movement. Williams Sr. is the author of From Seed to Skillet: A Guide to Growing, Tending, Harvesting and Cooking Up Fresh, Healthy Food to Share with People You Love.

He co-authored the book with Susan Heeger. The title of the book kind of explains where they’re coming from, right?

“People buy my plants and see how easy it is to grow food,” explained Williams Sr. “They also discover the food tastes better because they’ve grown it organically and by themselves.”

The Logan’s Farm stand offers a selection of vegetables, lettuce and herb plants such as cilantro, rosemary and basil.

“You only need dirt, water and the sun to have a garden,” said Peter Lee, the owner of Peter Lee Herbs and Plants, another vendor at the farmers' market.

Lee also sells a variety of vegetables and herb plants that are geared for the city gardener.

Since I live in an apartment building, I don’t have land where I can start digging a garden. But I have created one on a minature scale by building a garden area on my terrace. Especially this time of year, I use the herbs for dishes like scrambled eggs sprinkled with chopped thyme, roasted potatoes with sprigs of rosemary or a steamed white fish with lemon and sage. The fresh herbs make me feel like I’m a gourmet chef.

Speaking of gourmet chefs, that’s how ABC Rhubarb Farms, another vendor at the market, got its start. The Fillmore-based farm is owned by Lily Baltazar and her family. For 30 years, the farm grew vegetables and rhubarb (hence the name) then in 1985 the farm switched when a chef asked Martin Baltazar, Lily’s father, to start growing herbs for restaurants. There was such a demand by the culinary industry that the farm has focused solely on selling herbs and gourmet lettuce. If a chef can do it, why can’t we?

The next time you sautée a handful of fresh mushrooms with olive oil, salt and pepper try adding some fresh chopped herbs such as Italian parsley, oregano and garlic chives. It is the simplest thing in the world to do and you can serve it with rice, pasta, chicken seafood or meat.

If you don’t have the time or desire to get your hands into the dirt, then stop by the Kenter Canyon stand, another family-owned farm in Ventura County that grows lettuce and fresh herbs. For the past few months I’ve been making iced tea with their organic chamomile branches. They also sell the best wild arugula in town.

At the Hollywood Farmers’ Market, you may also discover vendors using herbs for non-culinary uses. The Roots Brothers make organic and natural skin-care products and cleansing lotions. They also offer linen sacks filled with dried lavender best placed near a pillow for a restful and peaceful sleep. For spiritual cleansing, there are wrapped bundles of dried sage to burn. The smoke will cleanse the mind and soul. It also will remove any negative energy from your home or office. Next week, you may want to grab a bunch and get to your bosses office early on Monday.

Please feel free to share stories and recipes of the items you find interesting at the market.

If you see me strolling about, please say hello.

See you next week at the market!

The Hollywood Farmers Market is located at the intersection of Ivar and Selma avenues, between Sunset and Hollywood boulevards. Rain or shine, it is open every Sunday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The market is a certified open-air street market with approximately 100 farmers, 30 local artisans and 40 baked-goods and prepared-food vendors who sell their products every Sunday. It is a direct-to-consumer marketplace with all produce and products from local, California vendors and growers.

Parking: Cinerama Dome: $2 for first two hours with validation available at the information booth at Ivar and DeLongpre avenues. Metered parking: Check parking enforcement signs. Some meters free until 11 a.m. on Sundays.

Dog Sitting: Only tagged assistance dogs are allowed at the market, but this shouldn’t stop others from walking their dogs to the public event. There’s a dog sitting service provided at the corner of Ivar and Vine streets. Your prized pooch will get to socialize with other dogs while you do your shopping at the market. It charges a small fee of $5 per 20 minutes.

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