by Tatiana Blackington James
May is always glorious at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, offering up jewel-like berries, mountains of downy fava pods and blushing peaches the color of California sunsets. This year is no exception, but below-average temperatures and substantial late-season rainfall have delayed some summer fruits and forced others to squeeze in among winter crops still going gangbusters.
Purple cauliflowers and red leaf lettuces boast hues so vivid they rival the nearby bouquets of pea blossoms and Alstroemeria. Everything is plump and fresh-faced, not a wilting leaf in sight, making the brutal 2012-2016 drought seem a distant memory.
For some farmers, the rain has been too much of a good thing. Cherry vendors such as Martin Hernandez of Barbagelata Farms lament sun-starved fruits too green to harvest and ripe ones so engorged they burst open and have to be discarded.
“The Brooks [cherries] got rained on. They’re sort of sad,” said Jay Scott of Scott Farms, but “they’re really tasty if you keep away from the cracks.”
Peaches and nectarines can be affected, too. While juicy, their flavor gets watered down.
Zach Nichols of Two Peas in a Pod has also been dealing with wet weather at his family farm in San Luis Obispo, which produces blueberries the size of marbles.
“It’s not hurting us as much as it has other farmers. It’s making the fields muddy and messy but the crops, they’re hangin’ out and they’re diggin’ it,” he said of his upcoming harvest of
Sugar Snap and English peas.
Ky Takikawa from The Garden Of… isn’t complaining either.
“It’s been amazing!” he said of the recent rains. “Sometimes it’s been hard to get in and plant but we have a nearby lake that supplies most of our water that’s filled up…I’m very grateful.”
Takikawa grows his vegetables in the Santa Ynez Valley, one of the regions hardest hit by the dry years.
With lingering clouds and cool breezes forecasting days more conducive to stews than salads, at least the produce is cooperating. While the first stone fruits and plump tomatoes conjure dreams of alfresco dining, for the near future, the slow cooker may be a cook’s best friend.
Santa Monica has four weekly farmers markets including the Wednesday Downtown market on Arizona Avenue between 4th and Ocean from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., the Saturday Downtown market on Arizona Avenue between 4th and 2nd Streets from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., the Saturday Virginia Ave. Park market at 2200 Virginia Avenue from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and the Sunday Main Street market at 2640 Main Street from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.