Cherries: Go to the grocery store and the selection of cherries is pretty much limited to dark red Bings and blushing Rainiers or Queen Annes. There’s certainly nothing wrong with any of those, but the world of cherries is much larger. To get a sense of what else is out there, visit the Barbagelata stand at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market. Here, in addition to Rainiers and, in a couple of weeks, Bings, you’ll find Brooks, a fairly new early-season spinoff of Bing that is just as crunchy and almost as sweet; Burlat, a very early variety grown primarily as a pollinator, but that tasted pretty terrific last week; and Black Tartarians. The latter is a fascinating cherry, a real throwback to old-school cherries that were melting in texture rather than crisp. Its flavor is dark, rich and complex. Since sour cherries are so scarce in California (to be very productive, they require more chilly winter weather than we can usually provide), try a Tartarian instead for your pies.
$5 to $6 per pound, Barbagelata Farms
Corn: Too early for corn? Not at the Tamai farm in the San Fernando Valley. Last week they brought in the first corn of the summer, and their stand was swarming with shoppers. They grow fairly new varieties of white corn that start out with much higher sugar than old-fashioned corn, and so the ears stay sweeter longer and don’t go starchy as fast. There’s a lot of mystique around choosing good corn, but the most important thing is to make sure the kernels at the very tip are filled out; if they’re in good shape, the rest of the ear will be too. Also, it’s a good test to pop one of the kernels with your thumbnail -- it should spurt juice (don’t do this too often or you’ll get some very dirty looks from the farmers).
3 ears for $2, Tamai Farms
-- Russ Parsons