Weekly Market Digest: Grapefruit

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Farmer AJ Bernard organizes his baskets of fruit by sweetness.

Grapefruit are in season now at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. AJ Bernard, of Bernard Ranches in Riverside, organizes his baskets of the fruit by sweetness. It might surprise you to hear that the grapefruit with the most sugar is the oro blanco, a thick skinned grapefruit with ivory white flesh. If you squeeze an oro blanco, the juice looks like milk. His star ruby grapefruit has vibrant red flesh, the color of a red soaked sunset, making it a favorite among chefs who want to add color to a leafy green salad. Bernard also has cocktail grapefruit for sale; they’re super sweet, hard to peel. Can you figure out how the cocktail grapefruit got its name? (Hint: bartenders can’t get enough of it.)

After Bernard’s grapefruit trees bloom in spring, the fruit ripens on the tree for at least a year before it’s picked and trucked to the market. We are in the early stages of grapefruit season now so these fruits are still a bit on the tart side; in a few more weeks they’ll be much sweeter. Grapefruit that seem heavy for their size have the most juice. If you’re looking for even more varieties to try, they’re coming in the days and weeks ahead: marsh white, pink blush, mellow gold.

Though it’s often relegated to a 1950s-style breakfast, chef Tim Hollingsworth counts himself among the fans of the grapefruit. He first moved to L.A. over two years ago to open Barrel & Ashes, a BBQ joint in Studio City. His new restaurant Otium opened up two months ago next to The Broad museum in Downtown L.A. Otium’s ultra-modern exterior gets you in the door, but the vertical garden on the rooftop where tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs and edible flowers grow is where the real magic happens. It’s likely to bring you back to see what’s being harvested — and put onto your plate — again and again.

Chef Timothy Hollingsworth gets comfortable with market manager Laura Avery (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

As chef de cuisine at The French Laundry, Hollingsworth learned the importance of the restaurant garden from Thomas Keller. Hollingsworth is riveted and inspired by the growing process in the garden — from seed to mature plant. The rooftop garden at Otium supplements the kitchen’s demand for fresh, local produce. The rest Hollingsworth picks up at the farmers market. He says citrus season is one of his favorite times of year, especially the ruby red season. He smokes this grapefruit in a donabe, a Japanese clay pot, before adding sliced amberjack fish that’s cured in citrus salt. (Try to make it yourself with a recipe on the Good Food blog.)

Market Manager Laura Avery blushed when Hollingsworth called the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmer’s Market his favorite market in the world. He believes it has the freshest, tastiest produce and a deep sense of community. And it’s one of the few times in his busy week that he can chew the fat with his chef buddies. Next Wednesday, might we recommend an early morning excursion to the market to shop alongside the best chefs in Los Angeles?