KCRW Good Food Producer Gillian Ferguson shares highlights from farmers’ markets around Los Angeles, along with tips from chefs and growers on how to best use what’s in your basket.
Red, squat and bumpy, the Surinam cherry is a perplexing fruit. The berry itself is pumpkin shaped and the size of a bon bon, but in lieu of caramel the interior is filled with a giant seed. The flavor is more tomato and bell pepper than cherry, though as it ripens the crimson exterior deepens to a rich blood red and sweeter notes begin to percolate.
Cocktail savant Matthew Biancaniello is a fan. Last year he infused sherry with the pitted berries. This summer, for his Wednesday night pop-ups at Cliff’s Edge, he’s muddling them with lime juice, mint, and wild honey before shaking the mixture with an okra-infused cachaça. Produce scouts for chef Thomas Keller snatch up baskets of Surinam cherries as soon as the market opens, so unless you plan on dining at Per Se this week, shop early to secure your supply.
Where to get Surinam cherries: Mud Creek Ranch (Wednesday Downtown Santa Monica, Sunday Hollywood) and Coleman Family Farms (Wednesday and Saturday Downtown Santa Monica). Also keep an eye out for Surinam cherry bushes in lawns and parkways around Los Angeles.
Score Some Herb
Like a centerfold in Sunset Magazine, Matt Biancaniello’s wicker basket is perfectly stocked with lemon verbena, chamomile, flowering oregano, French lavender and huacatay (also called Peruvian black mint). The cocktail chef spends his days infusing, steeping and garnishing with the leaves, stems and flowers of these aromatic herbs. He muddles floral Bergamot mint with the aforementioned Surinam cherries and decorates a rhum agricole cocktail with garlic flowers. For a non-alcoholic infusion, Biancaniello plunges basil from Scharner Farms into carafes of water.
While grocery stores offer your basic thyme and parsley, a brief inventory of the herbs at Coleman Family Farms revealed at least five varieties of mint, including apple, spearmint and chocolate, which you can find in famous mint chip ice cream at Sweet Rose Creamery. Flowering herbs make for a fragrant and decorative table-scape, especially when paired with a bouquet of electric purple flowering artichokes.
Where to get unusual herbs: Windrose Farm (Wednesday Downtown Santa Monica), and Coleman Family Farms (Wednesday and Saturday Downtown Santa Monica).