Fresh From the Farm – Katie Malich

What catches your attention when you walk through one of the Culver City Farmers Markets?

Are you guided by your eyes first, like me? Or are you captivated by the smells of meat on the grill, fragrant flowers, coffee brewing, sweetly perfumed ripe melons, and hot roasted peanuts? There’s the murmur of the crowd, punctuated by vendors offering samples and musicians entertaining the shoppers and vendors.

Last week I was definitely guided by my eyes.

I saw something at the Finely Farms stand which made me stop dead in my tracks. The sign said “tomatoes” They probably were tomatoes. Tomatoes unlike any others I’d ever set eyes upon. .

An art director’s take on tomatoes, perhaps. Or mysteriously teleported tomato from a parallel universe where even the vegetables mimic classical Art Deco design. Pleated, ruffled, ribbed. So dramatically one-of-a-kind it practically defies description. Cut in half one way, the outline is roughly diamond shaped. Cut in half vertically, the sillouette brings to mind the densely developed skyline of San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill. Their color was equally engaging. Imagine the rosy palate of a pastel sunset superimposed over a light red core.

Zapotec tomatoes, according to Finley’s sign.

Vegetables from outer space, across the continents, and across the centuries. How could I resist?

The taste was as delicate, light and fresh as their color. Definitely tomato, but a lighter, fresher, tomato than the hearty brandywines and cherokee heirlooms I’d purchased the week before. Very sweet and flavorful. Refreshing but not overwhelming. Beautiful sliced, with a sprig or two of of arugula for color and taste contrast, I enjoyed them in a simple salad, sans dressing to let their marvelous flavor shine.

These heirloom tomatoes have been cultivated for centuries Southern Mexico by the Zapotec people. They are a late season crop, so you should be able to find them for a while still at Finley’s stand. I’m so captivated by their fresh, light tomato taste that I’ll probably continue to slice them for simple salads. But they’d be great stuffed, too. I can easily imagine them holding cerviche or a nice quinoa salad. Let your imagination run wild, just like nature did when it created these beautiful but weird shapes.

Katie Malich has never met a tomato she didn’t like.

The Saturday Culver South Farmers Market will be held this coming Saturday, Nov. 12 and next Saturday, Nov. 19, and then take its holdiay season break. It takes place from 7:30 am to 1 pm in the northeast corner of theWestfield Culver City Shopping Center, at the intersection of Hannum and Culver Blvds. The downtown Culver City Farmer’s Market is held on Tuesdays from 2 pm to 7 pm on Main St. between Venice and Culver Blvds.

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