A fruitful time at the Irvine farmers market

The Irvine farmers market, the largest in Orange County, offers a wide selection and moderate prices. There are quite a few craft stalls, but produce is clearly the focus.

Sue and Kerry Musgrove of Three G Farms, in Lake Matthews, bring large, juicy Star Ruby grapefruit, now in prime season from the Inland Empire. One of the few orange groves left in Orange County, Neff Ranch, sells excellent Valencias and their juice. And the Cal Poly Pomona stand has rich-flavored Kara mandarins, the connoisseur's choice among late-season varieties.

Several stands, including Annie Florendo of Sweet Tree Farms, have Galaxy flat peaches, with mild, sweet white flesh. Later in season and larger in size than the Saturn variety, the first modern flat peach variety (both are often marketed as "Doughnut"), they're a fragrant delicacy when properly ripe.

If you bring them home and they attract fruit flies, the ABC Rhubarb stand is selling rue, the type species of the Rutaceae, the botanical family that includes citrus, and suggesting that it can be used to deter those pests. I tried placing a bunch in a jar next to a plate of stone fruit, and so far it seems to be working.

Mark Boujikian has ripe breba (first-crop) Adriatic figs, with green skin and pulp like strawberry jelly; they also sell at many other markets, including Hollywood, Cerritos and Pasadena Victory Park.

Amy Cheng of Yao Cheng Farm, from Camarillo, has very sweet yellow-fleshed, round, seeded watermelons, of a Taiwanese variety whose Chinese name means "Little Jade." Happily for watermelon lovers, the market will be open next Saturday, July 4.

Irvine farmers market, Campus Drive at Bridge Road, Saturdays 8 a.m. to noon.

Tip of the week: For real apricot aficionados, coastal Blenheims are the standard of excellence, sweet, tender and juicy, with a honeyed aroma. The most celebrated Blenheim grower at local markets, Mike Cirone, who farms near San Luis Obispo and sells under the banner "See Canyon Apricots," made his first appearance at Santa Monica last Wednesday. The cool weather until recently delayed his harvest, he said, but it looks like a vintage season, with a large crop of superb quality. Remember that Blenheims ripen from the inside out, so slightly pale fruits can still be tasty; nevertheless, they bruise easily, so bring a padded carton to get them home intact.

Reopening: The Westwood Village Sunday market, closed since January, reopened recently as a Wednesday-afternoon market, 3 to 8 p.m., at the same location, Broxton Avenue between Weyburn and Kinross avenues.

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