Last week I read the following information in the Food section of the Los Angeles Times:
Circle C Ranch, famous as one of the first farms to sell Persian mulberries, will offer the inky dark purple, intensely sweet-tart berries at the Hollywood farmers market for the next several Sundays. The vendor and family member, Shaheen Zekavat, works during the week, so she is unable to sell at other markets, but on Saturdays she harvests at the farm in Lake Hughes, in memory of her deceased mother, Kim Blain, who co-owned and dearly loved the orchard.
Circle C may also still have a few Montmorency tart cherries, the bright red, slightly soft fruits ideally suited for making pies and preserves. Tart cherries, which are a different species from sweet cherries, require more winter chill than most California cherry districts provide (they are primarily grown in more northerly states such as Michigan and Utah), and so are rarely found at local farmers markets, although many shoppers and especially chefs ask for them.
The Circle C orchard is at an elevation just high enough to produce a decent crop. Shaheen’s father, Seid, who founded the orchard and now helps with it, planted sour cherries because the fruit is essential in the cooking of his native Iran, where it is used in stews and rice dishes.
I could not believe my eyes! The excitement grew more and more as I counted the days until Sunday.
But let me back up for a second. Back in the days, during those find childhood years spent playing in my grandmother’s back yard I had plenty of fun walking around and eating fruit from our trees. We had 3 cherry trees, 1 sour cherry tree, 1 plum tree, 2 persimmons trees, 1 apple tree, 2 walnut trees, 2 white mulberry trees, and 1 red mulberry tree. So anytime I come across any of these fruits they revoke fond memories of the years that I spent living with my grandmother in Iran.
While I have been able to find all the above mentioned fruits outside of Iran, I have not had fresh mulberries since I left Iran. You can actually find the dry ones in Persian stores, but for years all I wanted were the delicious fresh white mulberries.
At my last place in Redondo Beach I lived next door to my landlord’s son. He told me that his mother had been the mayor of Hermosa Beach for few years, and until her death, she was regarded as the go to historian for the seaside town. Greg lent me her book to read and much to my surprise back in the days, before people actually began living in the South Bay full time instead of just owning vacations homes, there used to be many mulberry trees everywhere.
So I knew the trees existed at some point, but did they still exist today? Well I got my answer last week!
I left my house at 7:30am on Sunday just to make sure that I got to the Hollywood Farmers Market as close to its opening time as possible. I mean could you even imagine if I showed up there and all the mulberries were gone? I would have had a mulberry meltdown. Seriously!
I missed Shaheen’s booth the first time I walked up and down the Farmers Market. Although I saw her I didn’t notice the mulberries. You see, my eyes were looking for white mulberries. I went to the information desk and they told me exactly where she was.
Shaheen’s booth didn’t have any big signs but there were small signs on the table indicating the name of the berries. So it turned out that she doesn’t have white mulberries which we call Toot in Farsi, but what she has are Shahtoot, red mulberries. These type of mulberries look very similar to Blackberries, but don’t be mistaken, they taste completely different! These mulberries were picked the previous day and seemed to be pretty popular. Just during the short time that I stood there chatting with Shaheen several people stopped by to purchase them.
I have to tell you that they are delicious and just looking at them and tasting them brought back fond memories of our own tree which I used to climb as a child and pick Shahtoot from. I also remembered how I used to get in trouble for staining my clothes from the intense red juice of these small berries. But who could resist them? Not me!!
I can’t tell you how delicious these mulberries are! They are a combination of sweet and tart. Even The Sous Chef liked them.
If you live in LA do yourself a favor, take a drive to the Hollywood Farmers Market in the next couple of weeks to taste and buy these mulberries! Shaheen also had some plums, peaches, and dried sour cherries for sale.
Hollywood Farmers Market – Sunday 8am to 1pm
1600 Ivar Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Tel. (323) 463-3171