The usual, painfully stereotypical story of success in our town is about the farm girl who comes to L.A. to make it in "showbiz." But the best stories are almost always a twist on the typical. So it goes for Shear Rock Farms, a story about the woman (in this case, Sabrina Bohn) who leaves Hollywood for rural Santa Paula with dreams of making it in agriculture. Bohn still comes back to Hollywood for business, but now it's just every Sunday with a pile of vegetables, melons and greens in tow. You also can find her at the Tuesday Highland Park market and she just started selling this week at the newish Altadena market on Wednesdays.
Becoming a repeat customer of hers isn't difficult -- the produce is always gently handled and immaculate, and Bohn is continually ready to talk about what's emerging from the 19 acres she works with her farm partner, Raul Barrios. The only difficulty right now is waiting the two weeks between pickings of her new Red Rain mustard greens. "The plants need recovery time," she says with some apology, though it's hardly an inconvenience to pick up something else from her in the interim.
Like any good pusher, Bohn insisted we try a sample of the new Red Rain a couple of weeks ago, and we may have raised an eyebrow. Eating mustard greens raw is often more punishment than pleasure, filling your mouth with both spicy heat and deep bitterness. They're great cooked or, if you're going to eat them raw, mixed with other less-spicy greens to balance them out. Bohn was reassuring. The Red Rain was different, she promised. And she was right. Mild, maybe even a little sweet and lemony, with just a little bit of heat and bitter to remind you that it was indeed a mustard.
The Red Rain is a dark burgundy, mizuna-like plant with deeply serrated leaves that have soft green ribs and undersides. Bohn picks them while still young and tender, so they're exceptional in salads and play well with the winter citrus currently piling up at other stands. As the season progresses and the leaves grow larger, wilt them into a quiche or pair with spinach in a peppery saag.
Bohn also grows several other varieties of harder-to-find winter greens. The Red Rain is a newer crop for her and will only be around every two or three weeks as weather allows.
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While you're there, be sure to try the olive oils she sells -- especially the Arbequina (soft and fruity) and Mission (heavy with polyphenols and a little peppery). They're fresh-pressed from a neighbor's olive ranch and simply bottled with unassuming and somewhat vague address labels, which only adds to their small-producer appeal.
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