The Witchita pecan, developed in Texas back in the 1940s for more arid climate production, is one of a handful of pecan varieties that actually do well in California (it usually like a moister climate). K&K Ranch grows the Witchita and has had the nuts -- still in the shell -- available for the past two weeks at the Hollywood, Cerritos, Palos Verdes, and Westchester farmers markets. Sean Laughlin, their Hollywood market manager, expects them to be in for at least another month.
Dubbed, "precocious and prolific," by USDA Horticulturist LJ Grauke, the Witchita pecan tree yields a long, torpedo-shaped nut with blonde skin, and an almost perfectly round cross-section when cut in half, which is easy to see when you crack them by hand. The shells break well with a little pressure, but too much and you crack that long, delicate shape, something we tried a few times at the booth. If the look of the nut is important to you, use a nutcracker, gently and precisely. Otherwise just grab a couple in your hand and press. They'll yield against each other easily and the nut meat slips out with a little poking.
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The Witchita pecan shares the flavor profile of the hundreds of cultivars currently grown commercially in the U.S. Its nut meat is soft and almost buttery when raw. It has a dominant sweetness that is enhanced by a light roasting and works exceptionally well in desserts, especially the traditional Southern pecan pie. We're more accustomed to having a local nut crop of walnuts and almonds here in California, so having local access to pecans is a nice surprise. Farmers Market Fairy, a.k.a. Linda Mark, grabbed a couple handfuls for her customers this past Sunday as a bonus for her produce boxes. She delivers farmers market produce to busy customers all over Los Angeles and visits almost every market the city has to offer.
"I sometimes like to add a little something new for them," said Mark, standing next to a giant produce cart already full of her day's deliveries. "These are interesting and different."
For folks that love eating locally but don't have the time or energy to head to their local markets, Mark's delivery service can be a boon. She has developed strong relationships with many local growers and knows exactly where to go to get which produce. It comes at a premium, starting at $40 for the delivery, not including the produce cost. And you do miss out on developing your own relationships with local farmers. But Mark has definitely tapped into an interesting market niche and has several loyal customers, including Evan Kleiman.