Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A beautiful November day

In Santa Monica, Wednesday is the day of the weekly Farmers' Market on Arizona Street between 2nd and 4th Streets. This is the grand-daddy of L.A.'s Farmers' Markets - the one that famous chefs go to, the one the radio shows are broadcast from.

The market begins at 8:30 in the morning and closes at 1:30 - that leaves just enough time for people who work in the area to spend their lunch break at the market. Whether you're buying fruits and vegetables to take home that night, or whether you're just looking for an apple to follow up your sandwich from home, a lunchtime trip to the Farmers' Market is always a treat.

Many people get a first introduction to the Wednesday Farmers' market when they serve on jury duty at the L.A. County Courthouse in Santa Monica on Main Street. The court allows an hour-and-a-half for lunch, usually, so there's plenty of time.

It's just a short walk over the bridge that crosses the terminus of the 10 Freeway, then up a few blocks. One treat of the walk is that you get to pass the landmark art deco Sears building - still in operation.

Built in 1945, it was designed by architect Roland Crawford in the art deco Moderne style shared by other nearby buildings, including Santa Monica's City Hall, the Georgian Hotel on Ocean Avenue, and the downtown area's tallest building, the Bay Cities Guaranty Building with its art deco clock tower.

Today the lunchtime streets were particularly crowded due to people from all over the world attending the huge AFM conference for international independent filmmakers and distributors. They strolled among the market stalls, wearing their lanyards and badges, marveling at the displays and getting in the way of the regular marketgoers, often folks who live in nearby housing, with their wheeled wire baskets and their childrens' strollers.

This is one of California's Certified Organic Farmers' Markets, so every thing is fresh from the farm. The usual market fare is always available, but the Santa Monica Wednesday Farmers' Market is known for unusual and specialty items, and things you can't get elsewhere.

Even though it's November, here in Southern California you can still get fresh, sun-ripened heirloom tomatoes and delicate squash blossoms.

Late artichokes are still coming into market, although the touch of frost turns them purple.

Here's something I'd never seen before - it's called a Watermelon Radish. It's about the size of a melon, and when cut reveals a beautiful pink heart. It's supposed to be a bit milder than our little red radishes, and good for eating both raw and cooked, in a stir-fry.

Autumn fruits and vegetables are starting to appear, like the Hachiya persimmons and these lima beans in the shell - it's rare to find actual fresh lima beans in the shell, but if there's anyplace you can find them, it's here at the Wednesday market.

Sweet-tart Meyer lemons start to ripen in fall and go into the winter. You can find them here, too.

When we moved to Los Angeles, in 1997, the Santa Monica Wednesday Farmers' Market was one of the first place we visited, thanks to a friend who took us along on her weekly shopping trip. Everytime I come back here, I remember my amazement that first time.

I'm glad I took the time to visit the market again today, now that it's November, because it puts me in the mind of Thanksgiving. And what inspires a Thanksgiving menu more than the rich variety of an abundant Farmers' Market?