Fresh From the Farm – Katie Malich

Great news for slow starters !
The Saturday morning Culver South Certified Farmers Market now has extended hours. The new hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., which is wonderful news for those of us – like yours truly – who enjoy sleeping in on Saturday mornings.

Indeed, if you are truly a lark in the morning, best to enjoy that second cup of java or organic, fair trade herbal tea at home before heading to the market … sometimes the vendors are still in set-up mode at 7:29 a.m. I’m sure that they won’t turn any early birds away, but your shopping experience will be enhanced if you arrive when the set-up is complete.

This Saturday, I stopped by the market just before noon and was delighted to see a nice selection of fruits and vegetables as well as three enticing food vendors, a crafts booth, and a table with health information and more from the market’s sponsor, the Fox Hills Ladera Heights Healthy Family Association.

I had come in search of fruit, and I did not leave empty-handed. I sampled blueberries, blackberries and strawberries, and left with baskets of berries for breakfasts this week.

I admit that I was a bit skeptical about the strawberries on Saturday, since rainy and cold weather can affect the harvest, but the sample strawberry I tried dispelled any doubts I had about the ones on sale at Culver South. While I stocked up on berries this visit, I made a mental note to return to the citrus vendor soon. In addition to wonderful looking oranges, grapefruit etc., I spied baskets of kumquats and an entire bin of exotic, tropical, melt-in-your mouth cherimoyas. And, although I didn’t purchase any this trip, I was reassured to see a great selection of vegetables for sale.

Next up: lunch on the go. I was torn between trying the barbeque or the tamales. The ‘cue smelled great, but ultimately tamales won. Then came another decision: which type? When in doubt, I always say, ask an expert. So I asked the seller for recommendations. He said that their chicken tamales were the most popular, but that he personally preferred the beef tamale. I had to admit that I, too, usually go for the chicken, but based on his recommendation I decided to branch out and ordered the beef.

It was perhaps one of the best beef tamales I have ever tasted. An honest tamale. Not too foo-frou, definitely not prime filet mignon with extra virgin olive oil or a fusion blend of Kobe beef and kim chee. But the stand’s name, Gourmet Tamales, was not off the mark. The large, generous tamale was definitely fresh and full of flavorful beef in an excellent red sauce. A real bargain for $3. It left me too full to try some of the freshly roasted peanuts at another stand, but I do plan to come back.

In addition to the vision and leadership of Healthy Family Association head Stephen Fisher, two Fox Hills area businesses have provided space and support for this local community effort. Westfield Shopping Center provides space at the north-east corner of its parking lot each Saturday from late January until the start of the Christmas/winter holiday season. The Culver South Farmers Market has also received support from Synmantec Corporation, which has included environmental, educational and community groups in its social responsibility program. When I spoke with him, Fisher had high praise for the support he had received from both Westfield and Synmantec.

This year, the Culver South Farmers Market’s plans include expanding its services to include EBT, Senior and WIC coupon acceptance. Coming this summer, shopping at Culver South will become even easier with the launch of the planned pre-ordering option on its website.

When you visit the Culver South website’s home page, you can register with the market to earn points toward discounts. Even if you don’t want to register, you’ll find very useful information there. I particularly enjoyed reading the “What We Advocate” page in the “About Culver City South Farmers Market” section. Many of us patronize certified farmers markets for their health, environmental, and sustainability benefits. The advocate page reminded me that these markets play an important role in community building and supporting small businesses, entrepreneurs and artisans as well as local farmers.

We are very lucky to have both the Saturday and the Tuesday farmers markets. I cannot think of any other Southern California city our size (a cozy 38,000+ according to the 2000 census) which offers two certified farmers markets.

The downtown Culver City Farmers Market is held year-round on Tuesdays from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Main Street between Venice and Culver Blvds.

The Culver South Farmers Market is held on Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. (with a short hiatus during the peak winter shopping season).

Katie Malich is savoring the strawberries she purchased on Saturday.

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