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What's In Season Now at Los Angeles Farmers Markets

    First Posted: 05/23/11 08:28 PM ET   Updated: 07/23/11 06:12 AM ET

All over Los Angeles County, dozens of farmers markets pop up week to week with God's perfect California produce -- we're very, very lucky. The spring harvest is bountiful as ever (think garlic, asparagus and ramps) and summer's produce is beginning its first-of-the-season flirt (think corn, peaches and tomatoes). No matter where you are in LA or what day it is, you're apt to find an ideal farmers market near you. Here, we highlight a market for every day of the week, beginning with the most important one of all:

Wednesday: Every Wednesday morning, the blocks surrounding Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade are populated by the city's most prominent and ingredient-minded chefs. At the heart of the market hubbub is Shaner Farms, on Second Street just north of Arizona Avenue, supplying the finest citrus in the city. Across the street is big-player Coleman Farms, flaunting a long stretch of in-season greens and herbs, like big arugula, little gems and sage. LA's most important market also plays host to Harry's Berries, Ha's Apples and the Carlsbad Aquafarm, SoCal's revered purveyor of sustainably farmed shellfish. At nearby Fig, chef Ray Garcia hosts his regular Farm Dinner series, his most recent gathering with McGrath Farms.
Second Street and Arizona Avenue, Santa Monica; 8:30am - 1:30pm (310-458-8712 or smgov.net/farmers_market)

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Spring Garlic
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A chef's staple at Hollywood Farmers Market. Photo by Heather Rudulph
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Thursday: Adjacent to the Metro Gold Line's Mission stop is the rain-or-shine (minus Thanksgiving) Thursday evening market in South Pasadena. Dairy is abundant here: You'll spy the Fresno ladies of raw milk at Organic Pastures, Soledad Goats Artisan Goat Cheese and Bravo Farms Cheese Factory. Capay Organic is beginning to unveil summer's stone fruit and melon, while McGrath is feeding SouthPas the sweetest strawberries around. At nearby Euro Pane Bakery, chef Sumi Chang is topping both her financier and vanilla custard with California's best strawberries.
Meridian Avenue and Mission Street, Pasadena; 4pm - 8pm (626-799-1327 or southpasadenafarmersmarket.org)

Friday: For the low-key denizens of Venice, you get a laid-back Friday morning market. Erickson Farms cannot pick their cherries fast enough right now. A woman asked, "Do you spray your cherries?" and a loyal Erickson employee, "No, ma'am, we don't believe in poisoning our cherries." Weiser Farms also sets up shop here, infamous for his carrots, potatoes, and his recent spring garlic and Bloomsdale spinach. At nearby Gjelina, chef Travis Lett's menu is covered with market-forage ingredients: grilled asparagus with frisee, a striped bass with spring onion and peas, and a salad of the aforementioned Bloomsdale spinach.
Venice Boulevard and Venice Way, Venice; 7am - 11am (310-399-6690 or venicefarmersmarket.com)

Saturday: To prepare for the neighborhood market Saturday morning, the most important thing for a Silver Lake local is: Secure a parking space the night before. Worst-case scenario: You're stuck roaming the exquisite market of the Eastside, featuring Sanger's Asian vegetable offerings, the asparagus and strawberries of Oxnard's Lore's Farm and Inner Gardens and Tea Trunk's jars of unusual teas and dried herbs. If you just want to eat what's fresh, just pop into Forage, whose culinary purpose is to cook what's locally available. No one can make a side of carrots and peas (with leeks, sugar snap and English peas) taste better.
3700 Sunset Boulevard, at Griffith Park Boulevard, Silver Lake; 8am - 1pm (310-328-2809 or http://www.farmernet.com/events/one-cfm?venue_id=866)

Sunday: Sunday is a big day for marketing. Even amidst negotiations (or threats) of closure due to a dispute with a local film school, the Hollywood market welcomes a big turnout weekly. Corn is making its debut, and nearby Cube is snatching it up making its first-of-the-season corn soup. At Brentwood's intimate market, stone fruit is making its way into people's home, but local restaurants are still stuck on peas. At nearby Tavern, where President Obama recently dined, you'll find snap peas in starters, English peas in the main courses; below, chef Suzanne Goin offers her recipe for Curried Pea Soup With Crème Fraiche.
Hollywood: Ivar Avenue and Sunset Boulevard; 8am - 1pm (323-463-3171 or hollywoodfarmersmarket.net)
Brentwood: 741 Gretna Green Way, at San Vicente Boulevard; 9am - 2:30pm (818-591-8161 or farmernet.com/events/one-cfm?venue_id=599)

Monday: West Hollywood's unassuming farmers market just north of the tennis courts in Plummer Park is ideal for any last-minute shopping and/or sating a vegan Korean fix. Nearby restaurants like Animal and Salt's Cure can pick up a quick helping of kale, fava beans or the like -- without succumbing to a Whole Foods run.
1200 North Vista Street, at Fountain Avenue, West Hollywood; 9am - 2pm (323-848-6535 or farmernet.com/events/one-cfm?venue_id=636)

Tuesday: As far as late-afternoon treats go, the Culver City market never disappoints. Town troubadours surround the Downtown area, vendors try to stuff local beef jerky in your mouth and an abundant amount of local produce is available for purchase. The season's first cherries are making their red-carpet debut, and chef Akasha Richmond of nearby Akasha is making grown-up Maraschino cherries to garnish her cocktails (click here for the recipe.)
9770 Culver Boulevard, at Main Street, Culver City; 3pm - 7pm (310-253-5775 or farmernet.com/events/one-cfm?venue_id=648)

Suzanne Goin’s Recipe For Curried English Pea Soup With Crème Fraiche

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups diced white onion
A heaping ¼ teaspoon curry powder
2 cups thinly sliced butter lettuce
3 cups shucked English peas from 3 pounds in the pod (or frozen peas out of season)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
6 large whole mint leaves plus 2 tablespoons sliced mint
5 cups vegetable stock or water
1/2 lemon, for juicing
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons crème fraîche
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat a large saucepan over high heat for about 1 minute. Add 4 tablespoons butter and when it foams, stir in the onions, curry powder, and 1 teaspoon salt. Turn the heat down to medium and cook 5 to 7 minutes, until the onions are translucent and just starting to color.
Add the lettuce, peas, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, sugar, and remaining butter. Stir to coat well and cook another 4 to 5 minutes, until the lettuce is wilted. Stir in the whole mint leaves, add the stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn down to a low simmer and cook until the peas are just tender. (This may happen very quickly. Taste one to check for doneness.)

Strain the soup over a bowl. Put half the pea mixture into the blender with 1/2 cup of the stock or water. (You will need to purée the soup in batches.) Process on the lowest speed until the mixture is puréed. With the blender running at medium speed, slowly pour in more of the stock, until the soup is the consistency of heavy cream. Turn the speed up to high, and blend for at least a minute, until completely smooth. Set aside, and repeat with the second batch. Add 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice and taste for seasoning.
Pour the soup into 6 bowls, spoon some crème fraiche in the center of each, and scatter the sliced mint over the top. Or serve family style in a tureen, garnish with mint and pass the crème fraîche on the side.

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