By Mira Reverente
“People here like it raw,” Mary Mancilla said, describing the nut-eating crowd at the Calabasas Farmers Market.
For that reason, the raw almonds, cashews, pecans, peanuts and pignolias (pine nuts) sell really quickly on Saturdays, according to Mancilla, who was managing the booth of Alex’s Fruits and Nuts.
The Tamayo family started the business over 10 years ago in Lancaster, starting with plain and smoked almonds initially. Javier, the patriarch, wanted to offer healthy, easy-to-eat food so he started bringing little bags to sell in offices around town.
From two flavors of almonds, the business expanded to include more flavors and more nuts. Then they started selling at various farmers markets around the area. They now have a presence in about 40 to 45 farmers markets in Southern California. Almost everything is grown in California, except for the brown figs, which are from Turkey, and some nuts, which are from Brazil. The cashews and peanuts are imported from South America.
Nuts about Nuts
There are 30 varieties of nuts, with the raw varieties, roasted Filberts (hazel nuts), and lemon-roasted almonds among the bestsellers. Almonds alone come in 11 flavors, while the pepitas (pumpkin seeds out of a shell) come in three versions including the trail mix.
Aside from almonds and pepitas, there are several nuts to choose from: pistachios (five flavors), Brazil nuts, corn nuts, roasted Filberts nori (seaweed) peanuts and soy nuts. The raw nuts are plenty – pepitas, pecans, pignolias, walnuts and pumpkin seeds. For those with a sweet tooth, there are glazed pecans, glazed walnuts or the Boston beans (peanuts with candy coating).
Scientifically proven to be cholesterol-free and without any unsaturated fats, nuts have been recommended for inclusion in most heart-healthy diets. According to Mancilla, almost everything they carry is raw, sun-dried or roasted.
Most of the nuts are available year-round except for the pine nuts and macadamias, which are only available from October to April.
Delectable Dried Fruit
The dried fruit varieties are just as fascinating as the nuts. There are 15 kinds, from papayas to pineapples to prunes.
The manganese-rich pineapples come in three flavors–natural, sweet and chili with mango flavor. The raisins, comparable to prunes and apricots in terms of antioxidant content, have two varieties–golden flames and jumbo.
The granola and licorice are also popular at this market. “The wasabi trail mix is also starting to gain some attention at this market,” said Mancilla.
Most nuts and dried fruits have a shelf life of three months, except for the raw cashews and Brazilian nuts, which are only good for two months. Bulk orders can be made online or at the Lancaster store. They ship all over the world.
A bag of nuts or dried fruit was priced at $4. Volume discounts were available: two bags for $7 or 3 bags for $10.
Mancilla estimated that they sell approximately 40 to 45 bags of both nuts and dried fruit on most Saturdays. “I would consider that a good day,” she said.
At the end of the day, two-week old nuts and dried fruit are donated to a church in Lancaster.
The Calabasas Farmers Market is open from 8 am to 1 pm every Saturday at 23504 Calabasas Road, across the street from the Sagebrush Cantina.