Tendrils, Peach Blossoms and Golden Nugget Mandarins

Let it rain because the spring produce seems to be enjoying it.

Even the most loyal Beverly Hills Farmers' Market customers are getting frustrated with the weekly rainstorms that keep pounding the area. Every time I post a photograph of the market in the rain, I feel like I’m posting the same one as the week before, but I assure you it’s a brand new storm. Yet through this week’s dark, cold downpour, I could see that we’re over the winter hump and that spring sunshine is on its way. I just had to wipe the fog off my glasses and look really closely.

A sure sign that spring is here are the fava and pea tendrils I found at McGrath Family Farms. A tendril is a stem and leaf with a distinct grassy sweetness that comes from the plant’s foliage. Tendrils may be eaten fresh or sautéed like other wilted greens with olive oil, sea salt and pepper. It magically turns the leafy vegetation into a flavorful and savory side dish.

If you’re looking for actual fresh fava beans, head over to the T&D Farm stand, where they’ve just arrived from the farm. Fava beans are also one of the first new items to appear in spring. McGrath Family Farms also has spigarello, a hearty green that is often compared to broccoli, but without the florets. It’s perfect sautéed with olive oil and garlic.

I also noticed other shoppers walking around carrying large tree branches bursting with small pink flowers. I presumed they were cherry blossoms since cherries are always the first to blossom in an orchard. I found the item at the Ha’s Apple Farm stand and discovered they were actually peach blossoms.

“Usually the cherry trees bloom first, but the peaches love all of this rain,” said David Ha, the owner of the orchard, whom I ran into at another farmers' market.

Over at Harry Nicholas, I found flowering shoots of pussy willows (catkins), which are used throughout the world to trumpet the arrival of spring. In China, pussy willows become decorations for the New Year. In North America and Europe they are used during springtime religious ceremonies such as Palm Sunday.

In addition to the beautiful spring roses coming into bloom at the Venegas Creek Roses stand, the vendor has also started to grow heirloom tomatoes. The first variety is a small purple Cherokee. I haven’t had a fresh tomato in a long time, so I’m hoping these spring tomatoes will tide me over until summer. If you look closely at the photo I’ve posted, you will see one tiny red tomato amongst the purple Cherokees. It’s an unknown variety that sprouted in the nursery. I’ll keep you posted once it ripens and let you know whether any others show up at the market.

As I was on my way out of the market, I glanced over at the J&J Davis stand and spotted a bushel of unusual mandarin oranges called Golden Nugget. They’re very odd looking because the citrus has the same wrinkled skin as a Shar-Pei dog. The Golden Nugget's pulp has a bright reddish-orange color and is as sweet as sugar. One bite made me forget that I was soaking wet and cold.

I invite you to join me each week as I explore the magical world of the Beverly Hills Farmers’ Market. 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.

Next week the E-Waste Roundup and Used Battery Collection will start off the first of the month. The drop-off point is Civic Center Drive and Third Street. Top-rated professional musicians play some amazing music in the cafe area of the market. Next week, FIZ will be providing live musical entertainment, so invite a friend for lunch.

See you next week at the market!

The Beverly Hills Farmers' Market is held every Sunday (rain or shine) from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the 9300 block of Civic Center Drive. There are more than 60 farmers and vendors offering a wide variety of organic and conventional California-grown seasonal fruits and vegetables. There are also prepared food kitchens with menu items to take out or enjoy at the small on-site cafe.

Parking is available on the neighboring side streets or in the garage attached to the City Hall and library. The market supplies free shopping carts to use and they are located there. If you have any stories or recipes from the market that you wish to share, please contact the site editor at mariec@patch.com.

David De Bacco is a writer living and celebrating life in Los Angeles. He has worked for some of the world's most famous chefs and restaurateurs, and along the way he became a little savvy about food and wine. He has published articles and cookbooks for Shibata Publishing Co. in Tokyo and is a contributing writer for Edge Publications. He is also the creator of the Cookin with Mama blog, a meeting place to share recipes from our mothers.

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David De Bacco April 03, 2011 at 06:56 AM
I just watched the late night news and the weather report looks good for tomorrow’s farmers market. It may drizzle a little in the morning, but it won’t be like anything we’ve experienced for the last few weeks. I invite you to join me in the morming and discover all of the amazing finds at the Beverly Hills Farmers’ Market. Cheers, David


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