Gastronomy 101, a blog about food and Los Angeles restaurants

MARKET: Melrose Place Farmer's Market, Weekend of May 13, 2007

Oh man ... I can't believe it's been a week since my last post. There's been kind of a lot going on lately and it's been hard to get motivated to write about what I'm eating or whatever.

But at the same time, it's a lovely time to be eating. Spring is evolving gently into summer and things are growing and ripening everywhere. And I've been getting in the mood to really go to the farmer's market again. I must admit I am a sporadic attendee when the weather is colder and the stalls are mostly sporting hearty greens and knobbly root vegetables. But when the weather is nice and the tables are filled to overflowing with juicy fruits and berries, I am very enthusiastic to go to the market.

So I recently made my first foray of the season back to my most local market. It was really nice to go back to my mellow market on the quiet side street and check out what I could find. Unlike some other small markets, here you can always find something unique or interesting. This day was no exception and I found a couple of unusual fruits and a fun new vendor. But first, the standard:


Asparagus:

Season

Asparagus has a long season, beginning in Mid-February and continuing through September, but they are best in the springtime months of March, April and May, then tapering off into June until the smaller harvest of September and October.

Nutrition/Karma

Asparagus is very good for you. It is low in sodium and calories and high in vitamin C, B6 and potassium. It also contains compounds that fight cancer and strengthen the blood vessels. California produces 70-80% of the nation's supply of asparagus, so there's a good chance you're buying local every time you purchase fresh asparagus.

History

The word asparagus simply means "sprout" or "shoot." The plant is a part of the lily family. Cultivation likely began with the Greeks and Romans who ate it both fresh and dried, in the winter. Asparagus came to western Europe in the 16th century and from there to America, where California farmers began to grow it in 1852.

Selecting

When selecting your asparagus, you want it to be bright green, with firm tips and tender skin. The bottom is always going to be a little woody and tough, so look for ones where that woodiness hasn't advanced too far. Store it standing up in your fridge with the bottoms in just a little bit of water.

Cooking

There are many ways to cook asparagus, but my favorite preparation is simply to steam them. I like to put a pat of butter in the boiling water and then let the asparagus steam for about 5 minutes. The asparagus should be bright green and tender. If not, then let it steam some more. Then you can either eat it plain with just some sea salt and pepper, or with a little good olive oil and some citrus, or with sesame oil and white and black sesame seeds sprinkled over the top. All of these are things that require little to no extra ingredients and you get a tasty side dish.

Gala Apples: Gala apples are sweet and mild, and in California are available almost year round.

Ya Pears: Ya pears are a variety of Asian pears, but slightly less round and less sweet. They are crisp and have a bit of a floral flavor.

Sweet Lime: The sweet lime is a non-acid citrus fruit. It is sweet instead of sour and is used often in India, where it is called mosambi.

Finally, I noticed a new stand at the market for the warm weather. It was a stand with a fabulously graphic designed set of posters advertising "Poppies," which turned out to be homemade popsicles in flavors ranging from cocoa and strawberry to alfalfa, pico de gallo and hibiscus.

I sampled a strawberry which was creamier than the other flavors but still obviously made from real strawberries, and a pico de gallo which turned out to be a refreshing combination of orange juice, jicama, and cucumber. But the one I purchased was the hibiscus which was juicy, and not too sweet. It tasted just like the jamaica agua fresca at the taco stand. Yum!

Dogs like Poppies too (click to embiggen) :



They said they planned on being there with their Poppies all summer long, so I definitely have a reason to go back - as if I need one.

6 comments:

at first glance i read "poopies" but poppies sounds much better. what great flavors, i've got to try the pico de gallo!

said by themirthmobile at 3:09 PM Delete

Poopies = no.

I would really have to question the marketing person on that one.

Luckily, these guys went with the more appetizing "Poppies"

said by KT at 3:19 PM Delete

Blanching is good too. For some reason, the now classic Taiwanese way of eating asparagus is lightly blanched so that they're still a little crunchy, with a dab of Japanese mayonnaise on the side.

said by Chubbypanda at 2:18 PM Delete

Yum! That sounds good to me ...

said by KT at 2:32 PM Delete

Hey Kt....Konnichiwa....

long time....no comment

but chubbypanda's japanese mayonnaise and crunchy blanched asparagus....wow..memories

reminded me of a Kyoto Picnic in 1989 I remember a charming box lunch wrapped in a silk scraf, inside something crunchy w/kewpie japanese mayonnaise and sushi hmmmmm....

I remember the Path of a Thousand Temples, I remember the Ichi-ban Walk... beautiful

but I don't remember the name of the asshat I was married too and was accompanying me at the time :(

said by madame x at 5:07 PM Delete

Your ya pear has a yarmulke!

said by Demery at 2:17 PM Delete

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