Clasby’s company is located in Santa Paula, Calif., in the heart of agricultural Ventura County, west of Los Angeles. But she scours the state in search of the best produce, tasting her way through orchards, farms and small family producers. She brings her products to market the old fashioned way, by truck. This week’s market list contains more than two hundred items.
Clasby is the first to admit that without the support of Molto Mario, superstar TV chef Mario Batali, this market would never have gotten off the ground. That’s the Executive Chef for his three Vegas restaurants, Zack Allen, watching things work,
But it has, and at long last, word is disseminating, and the market is increasingly becoming more popular. The hours have just been increased, and the color and variety of the inventory is simply staggering. Many local chefs such as Michael and Wendy Jordan of Rosemary’s are getting produce here. The bar for Las Vegas food is being nudged ever higher.
There are literally hundreds of things to buy here, in all colors, shapes and sizes. A farmer from nearby Sandy Valley sells huge grapefruits and watermelons. Flowers, date cookies and boutique goat cheese are just a few of the specialty items.
All produce is organic, which means it is grown naturally, without pesticides or hormones. On my last visit, I bought gorgeous Blue Lake green beans, baby purple artichokes, a pile of un-pickled Anaheim peppers and various Heirloom tomatoes. I asked Clasby to define the term “heirloom”, and she gave me an elegant response.
“Some seeds are several generations old,” she said, “and produce unique varieties. They are saved and replanted, producing varieties that are literally handed down from generation to generation.” In the same way, it is possible to have heirlooms from other fruits and vegetables. One example is mixed heirloom potatoes, which are sold here. Heirloom potatoes, who knew?
These tomatoes come in every color of the rainbow, sometimes oddly shaped, but invariably delicious and here, unfailingly ripe and intense. Green Zebras and Early Girls, the latter dry farmed, will make you wonder why you ever bothered with the so-called Roma or Beefsteak ripened with ethylene gas that you foraged at Vons.
For those who grouse about things not being grown locally, one needs to look no further than Gilcrease Orchards, in North Las Vegas, and their superb apples. Herb choices are amazing, and indispensable to the passionate home cook. There are so many things unavailable at local supermarkets, too, such as Bull’s Blood beet tops, wild fennel on skewers and flowering thyme. And many of the herbs are local.
Pumpkins and cabbages, quince and Shinseki Japanese pears, the list is endless. If you like greens, there are 45 to choose from. What, you don’t put stinging nettles or purslane in your daily iceberg mix? That’s about to change.
And if I can’t convince you, Clasby will. She’s ready to tell you about how fast food consumption parallels the rise of heart disease, cancer and obesity in this country. She’s ready to suggest ways to cook her products, and she’s convinced that no one can afford not to eat well, even if it comes at a higher price.
Which isn’t the situation here.
Molto Vegas Farmer’s Market is held Thursdays, at 7485 Dean Martin Dr. #106, just south of Warm Springs Road (across from Unicahome’s old location).
Hours: 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
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