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FARMER’S MARKET REPORT: The “A” List:

Fall – a bracing fall with its first chilly rain and a much-anticipated holiday season ahead – is upon us.

As in the first flush of summer when the cherries and soft-fleshed stone fruit arrive, I occasionally attempt to list all the tempting varieties of fruit we can expect to enjoy throughout the season.

With apples, the list is getting longer and longer, thanks to some maturing orchards that are coming into their first harvest this year. One apple that I blinked and missed out on is the curiously named Northern Spy. It was my mother’s oft-mentioned favorite apple, yet all the time I was growing up I never actually saw or tasted one. Imagine my surprise when I spotted several of them at Windrose Farm’s stand at the Wednesday market – the last few of the season rolling around in the bottom of a field box that is, fit for nothing more than a flavorful pie or tart. The Spy is a cooking apple; the specimens I bought were round and squat with soft, slightly golden flesh and a sweet-tangy flavor. It is an Eastern apple that originated in East Bloomfield, New York around 1800. It was possibly a well- known market apple in my mother’s day, but it has practically disappeared from commercial cultivation in the East and is a true rarity in California. I am looking forward to baking this stalwart little apple soon, and sharing my mother’s memories of it.

So, on the “Apple” list for October, 2005. Continuing with Windrose Farm, I was delighted to find a wonderful assortment of strangely named and shaped apples, beginning with a Bramley’s Seedling – a small green apple that is usually used for sauce. Another good cooking apple is the bright red Jonathan. It has firm, juicy flesh and a thin tough skin, and is a very popular dessert and pie apple. The versatile eating/cooking Belle de Boskoop is a rough-skinned, green-yellow apple with crisp, tangy aromatic flesh. Who wouldn’t want an apple with a name like that? Windrose also sells a Hauer Pippin – a squat green apple with white flesh that is normally considered a tart apple, yet this year it is amazingly sweet. Customers are amazed, and the farmer can do nothing but shrug and smile – a surprise, but a nice one! There are plenty of tart apples still out there on the trees, like a Braeburn, which is a favorite tart eating and cooking apples you can find at the See Canyon stand.

For sheer experimentation delight, one can continue to explore Windrose’s stand, where one will find a pearly green-white-skinned Pink Pearl, the sweet-tart pink-fleshed apple that makes pink sauce. You can also try an American Smokehouse apple – bred in Pennsylvania in 1837. This one is a flattish apple that has a green skin blushed with red. Or try a Dutch-bred Elstar – a popular European apple with sub acid flesh and red striped yellow skin. For eating out of hand, you can munch on a Red Gold – a true red apple with crisp yellow-white flesh. There are many stands that sell the bright green Mutsu, an apple that begins the season tart and green and ends up golden and sweet. Its crisp-coarse flesh makes it an excellent choice for slicing and cooking or snacking.

Other interesting apples can be found at Mike Cirone’s See Canyon stand, including the fall favorite Winesap – a darling heart-shaped red-green apple with wide shoulders, yellow flesh, and good keeping qualities. Mike also has a Ginger Gold – a pointy-bottomed yellow apple, excellent for eating; and one of my favorites, the Winter Pearmain – a tall, white-yellow skinned apple that is juicy, sweet and crisp. For crunch, you can also enjoy a Tasmanian Splendor – a bright pink, crisp apple. The Rome apple is almost a maroon, is round like a ball, and has many followers. Mike says that he refers Santa Monica customers who are looking for a Macintosh to his Macoun apple – this is very similar to a Mac, with thin, crisp red skin and bright sweet-tart white flesh. If you are looking for a juicy apple, the Jonathan/Golden cross Jonagold is a good choice. And since most of the “delicious” has been bred right out of commercial Red and Yellow “Delicious” apples, finding a really good Golden Delicious apple at See Canyon’s stand is quite satisfying. It is a sweet-eating apple that absolutely lives up to its high-falutin’ name. I hate to even mention the outstanding Spitzenberg apple that I discovered a little too late this year, but look for this one next year. It is a large, Delicious-shaped apple with striped red skin and has everything going for it — flavor, crunch, and outstanding integrity.

Also visit Fair Hills Farm, a relatively new (to the market) grower of organic green Granny Smiths, sweet red-yellow Fujis, pink-skinned Pink Ladies and really nice yellow Galas. These have become popular standard fare at farmers’ markets and supermarkets, but the fresher market apples are far superior in flavor and texture. Apples will keep well in a chilly drawer in your fridge. They can be sliced and diced and added to salads, juiced, pie’d or tarted, and a plain baked apple, topped with anything from cream to nuts, is a delicious breakfast food, and simple to prepare. My daughter enjoyed a fragrant, hot baked apple on many rainy fall mornings before school. So many varieties, so many recipes – thank goodness the holidays are about to begin!

Farmers’ Market Special Events:

Wednesday, October 26 – the All-You-Can-Carry Pumpkin Patch will take place at the intersection of 2nd Street and Arizona Avenue from 9 am till the pumpkins are gone. Carry as many pumpkins as you can over a 25-foot course for the “heirloom” price of only $5!

Also, on October 26, join Nancy Silverton on 3rd Street and Arizona for a “Get It Fresh, Make It Now” chef demo from 10 am – 1 pm. Nancy will feature mozzarella cheeses with La Brea Bakery bread and market veggies. Profits to benefit the 24th Street School Garden project.And … be sure to welcome Ocean Avenue Seafood’s Oyster Bar, also on October 26 at 3rd and Arizona from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

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