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This week at Westwood Farmers' Market: Valencia oranges, Robada apricots, Flavorella plumcots
At its former location on Weyburn Avenue, the Westwood Farmers’ Market was big and lively. Forced to close in 2006, it reopened three months later at the Veterans Garden, north of Constitution Avenue, west of Sepulveda Boulevard. While this venue is beautiful and peaceful, with picnic tables under a large fig tree and even a nearby parrot sanctuary, it is isolated from Westwood Village pedestrians, so shoppers and vendors are few compared with the old market in its prime.
The manager, Mark Wall, who grows fruit on 10 acres in Oceanside, is an old pro at running farmers markets, dating back to Gardena, the first successful market in Southern California, in 1979. He helped start the original Westwood market in 1994, and currently manages the Vista market, the oldest in San Diego County and one of the best. He has kept the Westwood market going with prepared-food stalls, which help draw traffic to support the eight farmers.
Some of these have sold at the market since the beginning, like Polito Family Farms, which has sweet and juicy Valencia oranges. Valencias can be found at farmers markets practically year-round, but now is peak season for quality and abundance, and Pauma Valley, where Polito grows, is for Valencias what Napa is for wine.
Suncoast Farms of Lompoc has fresh, tender broccoli and baby artichokes. Smith Farms of Trabuco Canyon has pristine, succulent celery, which is not easy to grow well and can be elusive at farmers markets. The Santiago stand has crisp, sweet carrots from Nipomo, as well as fine all-red Albion strawberries. Tomorrow, Mark Boujikian should have his first Rainier cherries of the season, from near Fresno.
Picks of the week: Robada apricots, the best variety before Blenheim; and Flavorella plumcots, bright yellow plum-apricot hybrids with startling, intense sweet-tart flavor and aroma. Both available from Fitz Kelly at Santa Monica Wednesday, and from other vendors.
Westwood Farmers' Market, Thursdays at Veterans Garden, north of Constitution Avenue, west of Sepulveda Boulevard.