Wintertime in Southern California requires our farmers to dig a little deeper than usual. While carrots, beets, and other root veggies are available across multiple seasons, they reach their peak flavor when hit by a little colder weather. Carrots and root vegetables are especially sweeter now that we've had a frost, lending a superb depth to soups and doing just fine with a good roasting. The reason for the sweetening? The colder weather converts the starches into sugars to help the vegetables get through the colder months. Their survival technique is our flavor gain.
Another set a vegetables that benefit greatly from the cold weather are greens: spinach, arugula, and kale specifically. Spinach that's survived a good frost tastes unlike any summertime spinach you've ever had. It's complex, with a sweetness reminiscent of springtime sugar snap peas. The harvests for this weekend's markets should be especially tasty. Spinach will be sweet. Arugulas will still be peppery, but will mellow significantly compared to their high heat summertime zing. Kales will undergo a similar flavor change, sweetening up and losing some of their bitter edge.
The wintertime pest decline (fruit flies excepted) doesn't hurt either. Leaves on leafy greens are big and luscious, like newly sewn sails, with nary a pock mark or bug chomp in sight. In addition to flavor profiles changing, the winter greens hold up much better in long braises, bakes, and stews, which are perfect for warming up a cold winter kitchen.
Pasadena Farmers Market, Victory Park, North Sierra Madre Boulevard and Paloma Street, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Torrance Farmers Market, Wilson Park, 2200 Crenshaw Blvd., 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
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Old Town Calabasas Farmers Market, 23504 Calabasas Rd., 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Long Beach Saturday Market (East Village), 400 East 1st Street, on 1st Between Elm and Linden, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Santa Monica (Saturday, organic), 3rd Street at Arizona Avenue, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.