Ojai Unusuals

A destination resort amid prime agricultural land, Ojai boasts an especially enticing farmers market, rich in smaller and organic growers offering unusual items. Last Sunday, David Roland of nearby Miramonte sold four kinds of organic basil: regular green and purple, lemon and ruffled purple basil, fragrant of anise. He also had German chamomile, for making tea, and let on that his Persian mulberries would be ripe for the next market.

Rodney Sellars of Oak View had cocozelle: bottle-shaped, green-and-white-striped, nutty-flavored heirloom zucchini. (At one time, the term cocozelle was widely used for all zucchini-like squash). Among other local producers, Ojai Valley Bee Farm offered orange blossom and wildflower honey, perchance gathered at Friend's Ranches, which sold Fuerte avocados, superb Valencia oranges and Eureka lemons, and, most handily, cold orange juice and lemonade--it gets plenty hot in Ojai!

Vicente Suarez of Moorpark had four kinds of cucumbers: regular, pickling, Persian and Japanese. From Farmersville, in the Central Valley, Terry Phillips added giant, grooved Armenian cucumbers, along with hot yellow Fresno chiles, jalapenos, eggplants and round Eight Ball zucchinis.

Frustrated by the lack of flavorful apricots? Don't despair; the Royals (a.k.a. Blenheims) are finally here. Robin Smith of Mud Creek Ranch, from Santa Paula, brought the small but juicy and aromatic fruits; next Sunday she'll also have unique white-fleshed Moniqui apricots.

Can't get to Ojai? Today only, Ojai's K.B. Hall Ranch is making a cameo appearance at the Santa Monica farmers market, selling its exquisite dry-farmed Royals. Grown on 93-year-old trees, they are a last vestige of commercial apricot cultivation in the Southland.

Ojai farmers market, 300 E. Matilija St., Sunday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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