Today I discovered something new about our community–Amelia Saltsman’s tours of the Santa Monica farmers’ market. Being a close friend to The Broad Stage, Amelia was excited to show me her world of local specialties, just up the street! I applaud anything in our community that encourages a healthier lifestyle, and after reading The End of Illness by David B. Agus I was especially motivated to discover the homegrown prides of the Westside.
The first place Amelia led me to was the Wong family artisanal farm, for a quick taste of their golden, robust mangoes. These mangoes are so popular that they’re backordered, you actually have to join their email waiting list to pick up a bit of the limited supply. After one taste, I could see why these were the talk of the town, and we loaded up on the not-yet-ripe mangoes they had left.
While we strolled on to sample fresh yellow corn, we saw Mark Swed (performing arts critic for the LA Times) stream by; he’s a regular at the market. I chatted with him and he recommended the Blenheim apricots, exclaiming ‘this is their last week!’ Amelia made sure we all got some and most of mine were gone before I got home (they were so delish)! Amelia’s breakfast treat tip: toast or English muffin w/labne or plain greek yogurt, then smash the fresh apricot right on top.
While sampling the most amazing cherry tomatoes and smelling the chocolate mint, we ran into Raphael Lunetta, chef/owner of Jiraffe restaurant and his good friend Josiah Citrin, chef/owner of Melisse. These guys not only shop the local market together, they’re still surfing buddies! Only in Santa Monica.
At the end of our tour we stopped in front of the Weiser family farm, and Alex Weiser handed us a box of the most incredibly sweet Persian mulberries (ever) to sample. Amelia had some great advice in picking produce: you need to pick it up first, smell it, then taste it. And ask for recommendations on when to eat it, how to fix it, and how to store it. Through starting a dialogue with the farmers, I found out that the best time to buy strawberries in California is in the springtime.
What I came away with from this tour is an understanding of the passion each individual farmer has about what they grow, and how they love sharing what they produce with us shoppers. I tend to be obsessed with buying only organic produce, but Amelia explained that many of the farms take such care in their growing methods it’s not always necessary. It also helped that there’s a square post in the middle of the market that lists all of the vendors at the market and their growing methods. Who knew?
Go see your local farmers for yourself, and make sure you touch, smell and taste everything! You can find more information on the tour of Santa Monica’s Farmers’ Market with Amelia Saltsman on her website. (Email Amelia through the Contact page of her website and mention The Broad Stage and receive a 20% discount for Amelia’s September 25th tour.)
Director, The Broad Stage