By Tatiana Blackington James
Fruit farmers are in a sunny mood. The rains that wreaked havoc on their crops have stopped, their muddy fields have dried out, and they are selling plump, sweet berries in every color of the rainbow.
There’s a cornucopia of summer produce to choose from right now, but this month’s star is the mulberry. A tree hardy enough to thrive on urban sidewalks yet fancy enough to be the only known food source of silkworms, the mulberry produces fruit too tender to be successfully crated and trucked across the country. It’s ideal therefore to buy the berries locally and eat them within a day or two, maybe even on the way home. You won’t be denying the silkworms, as they only eat the leaves, just the rest of your family.
Steven Murray of Murray Family Farms sells the White Shahtoot mulberry which, due to its color (more light green than white) might be mistaken for unripe. In fact, it was the sweetest sample on the table. A member of the California Rare Food Growers, Murray collects exotic fruits such as the Shahtoot.
“We put the entire thing in netting so the whole tree is netted, and then the fruit falls into the bottom of the net. That way we keep the quality.”
Jimmy Powell of Pudwill Farms sells a deep purple Pakistan mulberry grown on land that was once a turkey farm. Thanks to years of diligent fertilization by the birds, and careful seed selection by the farmers, Pudwill grows one kind of berry or another year round, including delicate black raspberries, also available now. But mulberry season, he said, will only last another two to four weeks.
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.