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At market: persimmons and satsuma mandarins

Recently revived Newport Beach farmer's market on Via Oporto includes vendors that feature some quality, juicy fruit.

November 20, 2010|From latimes.com

Orange County offers both opportunity and pitfalls for farmer's market shoppers.

The area's demand for fresh local produce far exceeds the supply, particularly for crops such as stone fruit and apples, and it's difficult for upstate growers to make it through the traffic to O.C. venues.

One of the best in the area is the recently revived Newport Beach market. Manager Mark Anderson has made a point of carefully screening his produce vendors to exclude cheaters who might sell produce bought from wholesalers or other farms.

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He does so by visiting farms and consulting with other integrity-oriented managers, many of them from the Los Angeles area, where he lives, and where he started his first market in Playa Vista.

As a result, his market roster reads a bit like "Santa Monica South," with several vendors, such as McGrath, Maggie's Farm, Tenerelli, Suncoast and Pudwill.

The Newport Beach market came back into being when the owner of the Lido Marina Village development was looking to revitalize the district's shopping street, Via Oporto.

A glimpse of the boats and water adds color to the market venue, a European-style walking street.

The relatively narrow passageway also means, however, that vendors must offload their produce and park elsewhere, not a favorite practice among growers and their employees.

There are several holes in the offerings — no potatoes or eggs — which Anderson is attempting to fill, but the market's eight vendors cover most of the basics of fruit, vegetables and flowers.

One of the leading attractions is Sahu Subtropicals, which draws from two farms in Fallbrook and Rainbow and currently features an abundance of Fuyu-type persimmons, the tomato-shaped fruit eaten firm like an apple. (As with most California growers, they actually offer the Jiro variety, which is squarer in shape than the original Fuyu, with lightly incised perpendicular lines at the bottom.)

The trick with Fuyu-type persimmons is to find specimens that are as dark as possible, so that they'll be fully ripe and sweet without being so ripe that they're starting to go soft. Once they lose their crunch they can still be eaten and cooked, but most people find them less appealing.

The best fruits have a deep orange color with a barely noticeable netting of darker lines that gives them almost a lacquered appearance. Late November and early December, before advancing maturity and rainstorms take their toll, is prime season for persimmons.

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