In other parts of the country — the parts with blustery, wintery, freezing weather — the farmers markets are depressingly closed this time of year. Not so in LA, thanks to dozens of micro-climates that produce year-round artichokes (Suncoast Farms in Lompoc), asparagus (also Suncoast, plus a few others), and even tomatoes (too many vendors to name). Come December though, there is a noticeable shift toward the dirt-clad and the orange.
At local supermarkets tiny Fuyu persimmons can run you $3 each. Not so at the Hollywood, Pasadena, or Torrance markets this past weekend.
Persimmons are mounded in piles or, if they are pudding-soft Hachiyas, are carefully placed in paper trays for safe transport. You can find them at nearly every other stand at the markets right now. The squat, tomato-shaped Fuyus are great out of hand and can be substituted for apples in almost everything. The Hachiyas require a touch more patience as they don't achieve their slurpy, syrupy sweetness until left out on the counter for a few days or coupled with an apple in a paper bag for slightly speedier ripening.
While we can usually get a few standard root vegetables (carrots and beets) year-round, we don't really get into the more diverse root diaspora until the winter months. The nobby and slightly grotesquely-skinned celeriac (or celery root) showed up this week. They are a member of the celery family, but this particular variety is grown specifically for its highly aromatic root ball. Though if you are a Bloody Mary connoisseur, use the hollow stalks that grow out of the top as flavor straws for your cocktail. The larger the root, the tougher the skin, so we tend to choose smaller roots (small grapefruit-sized) for easy peeling. Choose celeriac like you would choose a potato — they should be firm and not squishy. Cook them like potatoes too — we love them in soups and stews, though they can be baked, roasted, boiled, or eaten raw in salads and slaws. Aside from eating them, just give them a good whiff, especially after peeling. They have an enjoyable, almost peppery, celery-laced aroma.
Where there were once piles of corn, peaches, and tomatoes you will now find piles of Cara Caras, Satsumas, Meyers, Eurekas, Washingtons, and Bearss. It's citrus season and now is the time for lemons, limes, oranges, tangerines, and their ever-growing number of crosses. For some, it's just not the holiday season unless there is a pile of ready-to-grab tangerines or oranges on the table for guests (or yourself). The harder to find and more bitter Seville oranges (ideal for traditional marmalade because they are packed with pectin) won't be around until January, but start making inquiries with your local orchards now. Until then, dive into a pile of Cara Caras. Their fruit flesh is a rosy pink and has hints of flowers and berries. The anyone-can-peel Satsuma is so abundant right now you can cart it off in giant crates.