Come early April you can add fresh tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce and the like to the oceanside aesthetics of Channel Islands Harbor--at least on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
On April 9, the Certified Farmers' Market of Channel Islands Harbor will join the ranks of Ventura County's six other fresh produce bazaars. The market will be held in a parking lot on the 2800 block of South Harbor Boulevard near the Harbor Landing mall.
The market is the brainchild of the Channel Islands Harbor Assn. of Lessees' board of directors. Attracting more foot traffic and promoting the harbor was the chief reason for organizing the market, said project developer Tom Jackson.
The weekly market, operated rain or shine, is expected to open with 15 to 20 growers who will offer seasonal produce and fresh cut flowers. "We're targeting primarily Ventura County growers, but there will be some coming from out of the area," said Jackson, who will act as market manager. Eventually, organizers hope to sign up 25 vendors for the market.
Despite the close proximity to Oxnard's farmers' market, held on Thursdays, Jackson said he does not expect the two outlets to become competitors.
"I don't think we'll be taking any of the customers from the Oxnard market," he said. "We found that there is quite a lot of beach community (residents) looking for fresh produce. There is nothing really here to service the Hollywood-Silver Strand Beach, Port Hueneme and Mandalay Bay areas.
"And on the weekends, this is quite an active harbor for boat people. People that live in L.A. come up here for their boats, so we hope to attract them also."
Besides the assortment of fresh produce and other products, the market will feature a "Chef of the Week" cooking demonstration. Each week a different chef from one of the harbor's restaurants will be on hand to show customers how to prepare recipes with fresh vegetables.
For information, call 985-8954.
When Romeo Lozano left his native Philippines many years ago for a new start in Central California, he didn't expect to find the pomelo, a popular and prized commodity in the Philippines, Indonesia and other Asian countries. The hefty ancestor of the grapefruit is relatively obscure in the United States.
"I didn't know they even existed here up until about five years ago," Lozano said recently from his farm in Tulare County.
Lozano began to devote seven acres of land to raising the pomelo, a favorite of his as a child. He now travels to Ventura County each Thursday, offering the fruit at the Oxnard and Thousand Oaks farmers' markets.
"At first only my Philippine and Asian customers bought them, but I started introducing them to my Caucasian customers and they really like them," Lozano said.
Pomelos come in various varieties, from nearly the size of basketballs to baseballs.
The uninitiated will find that the thick-skinned pomelo's similarities with the grapefruit end at the outer surface.
The firm, meaty flesh--protected by a thick layer of pith--can be far sweeter than a grapefruit and is completely free of bitter taste.
"You can't compare them to anything," said Ojai grower Lauren Kokx.
"The texture is completely different to a grapefruit."
During the pomelo season, which winds down at the end of this month, the Kokx family sells its pomelos to the wholesale market and at its roadside stand in Ojai. The fruit may also be purchased occasionally at upscale grocery stores and Asian markets.
When purchasing, watch for general freshness--including a rich aroma--and skin that is free of obvious blemishes and signs of deterioration. You'll need to remove the heavy pith before devouring.
Note: The thick peelings make a popular candied treat in Asian communities.
* FYI: Romeo Lozano offers pomelos for $1 each at the Oxnard and Thousand Oaks farmers' markets every Thursday. The fruit is also sold for $1.50 to $1.75 each, depending on size, at Kokx Ranch roadside stand in Ojai. Interested customers should call the Kokx family at 646-5480 or 646-2029 to check for availability.