Purple variants of common vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus and potatoes have been increasingly popular at farmers markets in recent years, but none is as intriguing as the red Brussels sprouts just now showing up at the Santa Monica farmers market. Beautiful, tasty and different, they seem sure to make a splash.
It's hard to imagine a farmer more on the prowl for novel specialty produce than Alex Weiser of Weiser Family Farms. He learned of red Brussels sprouts from Erin Eastland, executive chef of Cube Marketplace & Café, who had experimented with growing them on a rooftop in downtown Los Angeles. She liked them but thought they'd do better in a colder climate (Brussels sprouts grow sweetest when kissed by frost), and asked Weiser if he'd be willing to put in a planting.
He consulted the bible of his trade, Elizabeth Schneider's "Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini," became further intrigued and ordered seeds of the classic red variety, Rubine, from Territorial Seed Co. He put in 8,000 plants, about three-quarters of an acre, at the coolest of the three locations where he grows, in Tehachapi, Calif., where it was 16 degrees (more than a kiss of frost!) Wednesday night.
Weiser brought the first samples to market Wednesday. A bit smaller than typical Brussels sprouts, and not quite as tight, they're deep reddish purple both inside and out, splashed with green — Christmas colors -- and white in the stalks. Read more in this week's Market Watch report by David Karp.
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Photos: Rubine red brussels sprouts grown by Weiser Family Farms in Tehachapi, Calif. Credit: Alex Weiser / For The Times