Lettuce—and Lots Else—Season at the Irvine Certified Farmers Market

Produce-wise, things really get revved up in what might be our most temperate in-between season

I love this time of year at our Orange County farmers markets. Of course I love them in every time of year, but this cusp-of-spring shoulder is extra inspiring. I think of it as lettuce season. Every stand has mountains of beautiful lettuces, from upright romaine to ruffly red- and greenleaf. The colors are almost otherworldly—otherworldly in a tremendously appetizing way, that is. Lettuce season always means lots of other stuff is coming in big, as well.

Last Saturday at the Irvine market at Mariner’s Church we were also in search of breakfast. Have you checked out the prepared food offerings at the market lately? There are organic salads tossed to order and juices made from Meños Farms’ incredible produce, also organic. You probably know about Jumbo Tamales—and if you don’t, you should. We had some fantastic German sausages from Temecula-based Degenhardt’s Deli. I had a currywurst, the German street-food classic: one of the deli’s fine weisswursts grilled, cut into pieces, and doused with curry ketchup. SO GOOD. I appreciate that Degenhardt even provides the proper currywurst wooden fork, too. The bratwurst on a roll with onions was also excellent, and there’s sauerkraut and an array of mustards available to garnish as you please.

We also had great dumplings from Shanghai LA Foods, shrimp shumai and pork potstickers. For dipping, the owner makes Sriracha-type sauce from scratch—a rich, red, complex sauce. Delicious. And while you may do a double-take at the cheeky name of Frogs Organic Bakery, pull over for the very wide variety of French pastries and breads. I bought a baguette for dinner, to complete the farmers market trifecta that, along with a little La Bahn chicken to roast and serve on top of a pile of dressed Scarborough Farms salad, was the subject of a distinct family craving.

Also: Stehly Farms almost too-rich-to-drink organic tangerine juice, Cal Poly Pomona’s stupendous broccoli, and eggs, also from La Bahn. The most gorgeous spinach from Farmer Mike, from whom I’ve been buying gorgeous spinach since the 1980s. Shockingly great tomatoes from Corona Farms of Riverside—perhaps the single benefit of our recent unseasonably high temps. So, ya, lettuce season. However: I keep thinking about that currywurst… I think it’s engendered a farmers market craving of its own.


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