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Market Report
Oakland, Calif.
Friday, Oct. 7, 2005

The Market:
Old Oakland Farmers Market
9th Street between Broadway and Clay
Fridays, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
(510) 745-7100

Marketgoer: Victoria Slind-Flor

This market is one block from Oakland ’s Chinatown , and many of the vendors specialize in herbs, greens and other vegetables used in Asian cooking. Asian greens, most selling for $.50 a bunch, included the usual array of bok choys, broccolis and mustards as well as more exotic fare such as Tham Lung (Ivy gourd) and Bai Prik Ma (a pointed leaf that is is eaten raw). Taro stems, and purple yams were also for sale. One vendor from Coachella brought green Jewel of Basra dates on the stems, and was selling them for $2.50 a pound. He said many Asian customers prefer their dates that way, tart and crunchy. Duck eggs, both fresh and the pink-dyed salted version were available for sale.

Beets and Eggplants


What I Bought:

Hachiya Persimmons and Pomegranates

Two Girls Farm from Reedley , Calif., had a good deal on two quintessential fall fruits. They were selling bright orange hachiya persimmons at three for $1 and small pomegranates at five for $2. There also were pale orange fuyu persimmons in the market today, at $1.50 per pound.

The pointed hachiyas need to ripen to softness in order to be sweet. Then I’ll put them in the freezer and eat them with a spoon. Small pomegranates I will eat out of hand, and add to salads.

 How to Cut Open a Pomegranate 

Price: $1 for three hachiya persimmons
$2 for five small pomegranates

Tomatoes, Prosperosa Eggplant and a Bell Pepper

I will combine these round, baseball-sized eggplants (Solanum melongena, var. prosperosa) with heirloom tomatoes to make a Mediterranean vegetarian entrée, called Eggplant in Fans.

Price: $1/lb. for tomatoes
$.75-$3/lb. for eggplant, depending on variety and condition
$1.50/lb. for peppers


I will "smother" this fresh, crisp okra Louisiana-style by cooking it slowly in a lidded container with tomatoes and bell pepper.

Price: $1/lb.

Hyacinth Beans

These beans are Dolichos lablab, purpureus, commonly known as hyacinth beans.  They seem to come in purple, green, and green edged with purple. Unlike almost every other kind of bean, these grow on a vine that is perennial here in California . It's actually widely grown for its ornamental virtues and because its fragrant flowers attract hummingbirds. There's much conflicting information in the literature about them. Some say the raw pods are poisonous and carcinogenic. Others say the mature beans are carcinogenic and poisonous but may be eaten if they are boiled in several different changes of water. The allegedly poisonous element is a cyanogenic glycoside. Adherents of the differing views on their nutritional attributes predictably have different notions about how they should be prepared for human consumption. Some people say they eat the pods raw. Others say they stir-fry or steam them. Others use them as a veggie in curry, or cook them for a long time.  Others use them only for fodder or green manure. The Filipino people I talked to in the market seemed very thrilled to see them and were buying them hand over fist as if the beans were a rare treat. They said they like to steam them with pumpkin.  Hmmm.

Price: $2/lb.

Ngo Om (Rice Paddy Herb)

According to Andrea Quynhgiao Nguyen, a writer and cooking teacher based in  Santa Cruz, California, this herb (Limnophila aromatica) is used in Vietnamese cooking to impart a citrusy, cuminy edge to soups and other dishes. She has experimented with other ways to put it to use, and has described her experiments in her blog, Viet World Kitchen.

Copyright 2005 Seasonal Chef