2007-08-02 13:07:10.0 Russ Parsons: The main thing I'm thinking about right now are all of the wonderful fruits and vegetables in the farmers markets. Tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, peaches, plums,melons. The melons seem to be especially good this year.
2007-08-02 13:07:51.0 Administrator2: Excellent! Do you have a favorite farmers' market?
2007-08-02 13:08:39.0 Russ Parsons: I've got lots of them. The Santa Monica Wednesday market and Sunday Hollywood,of course, but there are really good markets on Saturday in Torrance and in Pasadena as well that somehow don't seem to get nearly the attention.
2007-08-02 13:08:45.0 Mammothus: Hello Mr. Parsons. I really enjoy you're writings, especially about less common fruit varieties. I have one specific question and a more general one. First, how can one tell the Adriatic fig you mentioned in this Wednesday's article from the similar Kadota? Second, what are your best sources for information about fruit varieties in general? Thanks.
2007-08-02 13:10:26.0 Russ Parsons: That is a tough one. Both are green figs. The surest way to tell is that the Kadota has a thicker peel (that's what makes it so good for drying). The Adriatic is more delicate. And, of course, you can always ask the farmer. As for sources on fruit varieties ... I've got a whole shelf of them that I gathered while I was working on my book. There's a surprising amount of really good information on the Web, too, especially on University-sponsored sites.
2007-08-02 13:11:12.0 Administrator2: You mentioned this year's melon crop...what kind of interesting dishes can you make using melon?
2007-08-02 13:12:12.0 Russ Parsons: One of my favorite melon desserts is really simple: just slice the melons and dress them with a simple syrup (1 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, boil until clear) that you've flavored with lime zest and mint. That's terrific, especially after a big meal.
2007-08-02 13:12:47.0 Administrator2: That sounds great!
2007-08-02 13:14:05.0 Russ Parsons: You can also make a cold melon soup very easily--puree the melon in a blender and add just enough water to make it slightly liquid. Squeeze of lemon juice, maybe a shot of tequila. Serve this in small cold glasses. it's the kind of thing to serve at the start of a meal to wake everybody up.
2007-08-02 13:14:25.0 Jen: Hi Mr. Parsons. I enjoy your writings very much over the years. I've noticed a new type of cantelope Tuscan variety available in the supermarkets. Is this a new hybrid?
2007-08-02 13:16:33.0 Russ Parsons: Thanks Jen, I've noticed that melon, too. melons are extremely promiscuous--they cross pollinate all over the place and there are all kinds of varieties that pop up. These "Tuscan" melons are relatives of French Charentais--you can tell because they have deep ridges as well as a rough surface. Ironically, these melons are the true cantaloupes, and the word cantaloupe comes from the name of one of the Pope's summer houses outside of Rome (so I guess they should be called Roman melons, not Tuscan).
2007-08-02 13:16:56.0 Mammothus: I'm really excited about fig varieties coming in (they're one one my passions), and I'm happy to see some grapes coming to market as well. Some of my favorites are Muscat and Red Flame. Any you particularily enjoy Russ?
2007-08-02 13:18:16.0 Russ Parsons: Well, my favorite grape of all time is a good Muscat. There's nothing better than that. They usually come late in summer, like September. They have seeds, but you have to taste them tobelieve them. I also really like Kyoho grapes, which are a Japanese variety that was developed out of the old favorite Concord--you'll taste that "grape jam" flavor.
2007-08-02 13:19:11.0 Russ Parsons: And I should also point out that a good Thompson Seedless is a great grape. Choose the ones that are really ripe--they'll be almost amber in color rather than green. Green they don't have much flavor at all. But ripe they are quite flowery and sweet.
2007-08-02 13:19:18.0 Administrator2: Russ, here's a reader-email question (chatters, these can be submitted in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org, by the way): I recently went to the SM farmers market and bought some beautiful baby potatoes for a simple potato salad. We usually buy russet potatoes forthis peasant dish, but because I wanted to be eco-friendly I wentw/farmers market spuds. I ended up spending $7 more than I normallywould have. How can I continually justify that? (And, honestly, theflavor was no different. The texture maybe, but not flavor.)
2007-08-02 13:21:04.0 Russ Parsons: Well, that's a personal call you'll have to make. For me, I find the flavor of a lot of these potatoes to be really terrific. Of course, these days you can also buy them at places like Trader Joe's. So that's a tough call. I do prefer waxy potatoes for potato salads because they hold together better. Russets are much starchier and they tend to fall apart and smash when you stir them.
2007-08-02 13:21:12.0 Jen: Back to the grape question, are there many farmer's market vendors who sell Italian Muscats? They're my favorite over the other muscat of alexandria. Although both are very hard to find.