What's in Season at the Farmers Markets: Sour Plums and Tarocco Blood Oranges

Sour plums from Mark Boujikian Farms at the Hollywood market.
Sour plums from Mark Boujikian Farms at the Hollywood market.
Felicia Friesema

The sour plum is a typical Californian in that it's from somewhere else (Asia, specifically) and has been adapted to fit the likes of Los Angeles' multicultural mix. It's also one of the first stone fruits we see at the farmers markets, right after the cherries show up. Go the Persian route, call them Gojeh Sabz, and dip them them in salt for a salty-sour crunch. Chinese? Dry them with sugar and salt and call them suan mei. Stew them in a tagine for a North African flavor. You can't go wrong with any of these, but here in L.A.? We were part of Mexico once, and fruit is always better with a little chile heat and salt.

When in LA - sour plums doused in Tapatio and salt.
When in LA - sour plums doused in Tapatio and salt.
Felicia Friesema

Despite the various methods for enjoying this ping-pong-sized green fruit, the sour plum's lineage is Asian and enjoys a steadily growing popularity here in California thanks to the myriad cultures that enjoy it. You'll find an abundant supply of sour plums for the next two months at Mark Boujikian Farms, where they will likely sample them out doused in Tapatio and kosher salt. (If they offer you one, take it. It's a terrifically crunchy flavor bomb.) They're at 29 different farmers markets in the region, including Hollywood, Irvine, Brentwood, Hancock Park, and Calabasas.

As the name implies, yes, they're sour -- but not to the point of pucker. The flesh has a tight and crunchy apple-like snap and the sourness is slightly citric, with no trace of bitterness. Get a big bag and experiment, assuming you've tried everything mentioned above. The California Tree Fruit Agreement, an association of 900 California growers, has a recipe for a sour plum crumble. We also think it would be a great balancer in sweet jams, particularly with all the cherries currently in season. Sour plum salsa, with a little tomatillo, and cilantro (no lemon needed) is a pleasant marriage as well.

Tarocco blood oranges from JJ's Lone Daughter Ranch att he Hollywood market.
Tarocco blood oranges from JJ's Lone Daughter Ranch att he Hollywood market.
Felicia Friesema

Just by observing the produce, we can now say with some certainty that we're now starting summer. But JJ's Lone Daughter Ranch reminded us this week that winter produce isn't really done yet. Last week, they had some coveted Tarocco blood oranges out. What we've been seeing up until now is the Moro variety, which is known for its super dark crimson coloring. The Tarocco is slightly lighter in color and more mottled, looking like someone spilled red watercolor paint on the flesh. Pretty, yes, but where it shines is the flavor. We cut one open and were blown away by the fragrance: a blend of raspberries, a juicy navel orange, and fresh spring flowers. The taste is decidedly sweeter than than the Moro, and as the scent implies, more complex.


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