One of the many perks of living in sunny Southern California is the presence of farmers’ markets all year round. I love strolling among the massive white tents filled with beautiful fruits and vegetables picked fresh from the farms. I incorporate seasonal produce into my baked goods whenever I can, and it’s inspiring to know that the ingredients I use come from local growers rather than mass producers in other continents. Take Chuy Mendez of Chuy Berry Farm, one of several top-notch vendors I discovered at The Altadena Urban Farmers’ Market. Chuy grows his berries in hot houses all year round, treating the crops with lime oil and ladybugs rather than pesticides. Mendez tightly manages his 10 acres of land, explaining why his berries are so naturally sweet and plump.
I visited the Altadena market for the first time last week as an assignment for a feature in my school newspaper. All I can say is I can’t believe I hadn’t discovered this place earlier. The market, which debuted in late May and is less than 10 minutes away from my house, is Los Angeles’s best kept foodie secret. It boasts an impressive list of artisan vendors, including Sqirl Preserves, Plow & Gun Coffee Roasters, and Drake Family Farms Dairy, to name a few. One of my favorite purchases was the Chia Tea and Cashew Brittle from Morning Glory Confections, a local company specializing in refined brittles. Founder Max Lesser creates baked goods such as dense Valrhona Chocolate Brownies and fruit galettes exclusively for the market. The thin chocolate chip cookie, filled with chunks of Lesser’s signature Fleur de Sel and Peanut Brittle, is irresistible. Other things I highly recommend trying are the smoked salmon from Shucked Oyster Bar and the aged “Glacier” Goat cheese from Drake Family Farms.
The market is sandwiched in between a lush public park and a community garden, away from the traffic and noise of busy L.A. streets. The setting is intimate and relatively quiet compared to better-known markets such as Santa Monica and Hollywood. The smallness enhanced my shopping experience as I was able to comfortably float from one station to the next rather than get run over by double-decker strollers and scraped by reusable grocery bags. The people were so genuine and pleasant to be around, generously offering samples and patiently answering my questions.
So what are you waiting for? Now it’s your turn to discover this food-lover’s hole-in-the-wall heaven and enjoy it just as much as I did.
Altadena Urban Farmers’ Market
Loma Alta Park
3330 North Lincoln Ave.
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Wednesdays, 3-7 p.m.