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.
If you want to know what to buy at the farmers’ market, look for David Karp. The longtime writer for the LA Times, New York Times and Gourmet magazine has recently turned his attention to farming as a partner in Xanadu Orchards, (named after the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem, not the Olivia Newton John movie), but he can still be found walking the local markets, seeking out rare, unparalleled fruit.
His signature look is khaki pants, an agricultural-themed baseball cap, and a greenish vest with breathable side vents and one too many pockets. He’s easy to spot.
This week I found him inspecting a small crop of nectarines at Kennedy Farms. A makeshift sign identified the fruit as “STANWICK” in messy black handwriting.
“Stanwick is the quintessence of high flavor—a concept dear to the Victorians but virtually unknown today,” Karp tells me, and by “high flavor,” he means the perfect balance of intense sweetness and acidity, an uncommon attribute in white fleshed stone fruit.
Karp is skeptical that Kennedy’s June harvest is actually a Stanwick (though they do grow the real deal, which ripens in August). In fact, he’s confident that the fruit is actually a Snow Queen, a variety that is almost 60 years old but resembles the prized Stanwick—leathery skin, dappled coloring, and “high flavor” are attributes of the fruit, which is virtually unknown to commercial growers.
“They crack, they get cat-scratches, they bruise,” says Karp. “It’s everything that is a nightmare for a farmer.”
But for some, the flavor is worth the hassle.
Look for a smooth round surface at the top of the fruit and a speckled pattern of tan and mahogany skin. Don’t let your senses deceive you Karp warns.
“If it’s all red, it’s going to be a water bomb. It’ll be horrible!” he says, insisting you couldn’t pay him to eat the worst Snow Queens, but the best ones should be selling for $10 per pound.
Keep an eye out for Snow Queen nectarines at Honey Crisp Farms at the Wednesday Santa Monica Market and Summer Harvest Farms at the Saturday Downtown and Pico markets as well as the Sunday Beverly Hills Market. According to David Karp, they are also marketed as the June-ripening “Stanwick” at Kennedy Farms at the Wednesday Santa Monica Market.