Last week I made the easy trek to Chino Farm at Rancho Santa Fe. If the traffic gods are smiling, it’s just a short drive to the unprepossessing north San Diego County farm stand, where, upon arriving, if you didn’t know in advance you would never guess that anyone outside the immediate neighborhood has any idea the place exists.
But, oh, do they ever. Thanks to patrons like Alice Waters and Wolfgang Puck, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say Chino Farms’ The Vegetable Shop is the most famous farm stand in the United States.
Jason Quinn of Playground in downtown Santa Ana makes the trip several times a month, and not only for designated Chino Farms BattleDish dinners in the 2.0 space next door to his restaurant, though they are a consideration
“If I could,” Quinn said, “I’d use only Chino produce.” For the special dinners, which occur a couple or three times a month (check the 2.0 calendar here), Quinn and his sous chefs each prepare four courses, and a winner is judged by attendees.
The food on BattleDish nights is completely vegetarian. When I talked to Quinn, he’d just returned with the Chino haul for that night’s event. His selection included baby Cherokee tomatoes, eggplant, and concord grapes—the latter to appear in a PB&J crepe cake, in a concord grape jam he’d just finished making.
Quinn cited Chino Farms haricots verts as a favorite, and indeed when I visited the stand I noted their tiny, uniform perfection. If you’ve ever, as I have, grown the weensy green beans, combing daily through the plants for a handful of just-right specimens, you’ll appreciate the Chinos doing it for you. It was the Chino’s haricots verts that first impressed Alice Waters, too, I believe.
Perhaps corn and strawberries, including the tiny, fragrant frais de bois, are the Chino’s most famous crops, but the range of what the family grows is vast—take a look at what you might find in the current season.
I bought a jar of their own peach jam, with only peaches and cane sugar, and, (the reason I gave it a try) “no added pectin” proudly indicated on the label. The stand is closed on Monday, and hours change seasonally though opening time is usually dependably 10 a.m. Plan to get there not too long after that, especially on a day when the Playground guys are shopping.
Jason Quinn says that when they go, the fully stocked stand at 10 a.m. is considerably thinned out by 10:45. Like almost any produce shopping, the early bird gets the worm—but in this case, the worm is world-class.
— Priscilla Mayfield
6123 Calzada Del Bosque
Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92014
(858) 756 – 3184
Sunday: 10:00am – 1:00pm
Wednesday: 10:00am – 3:32pm
Thursday: 10:00am – 3:32pm
Friday: 10:00am – 3:32pm
Saturday: 10:00am – 3:32pm
The Chino Family
Chino Nojo — nojo means farm in Japanese — traces its history to the early 1920s, when Junzo Chino emigrated from the small Japanese fishing village of Hashiguii. Eventually settling in Los Angeles, Junzo married Hatsuyo Noda, who had emigrated from Wakayama, Japan. After working in the farming community in L.A., Junzo and Hatsuyo later moved southwards, first to Carlsbad and subsequently to the San Dieguito Valley, which was then a rural expanse of fields near Del Mar, where they rented land. After WWII, during which time the family was interned in Arizona, the Chinos returned to the area and resumed farming, soon purchasing 56 acres of choice land in the San Dieguito Valley. There they raised their nine children and established Chino Farm.
Today’s Chino Farm is run by Tom Chino, alongside his brothers Frank (Koo) and Fred (Fumio) and his sister Kay (Kazumi). The farm is famous for its sweet corn, strawberries, and tomatoes, but it also grows hundreds of varieties of other vegetables and fruits each year. Alice Waters of Berkeley’s Chez Panisse was the first renowned chef to recognize and publicize the high quality of Chino Farm produce. Other chefs quickly followed in her footsteps, putting the farm on the culinary map nationwide.
For all its importance to the American culinary scene, Chino Farm has also retained its connection with Japan, where the farm is well known. During the last half century, the family has hosted over 1000 Japanese trainees who have come to work in the fields and greenhouses, and to study the Chinos’ ideas, techniques, and guiding principles. Those principles are also evident to everyone who encounters Chino Farm: respect for tradition balanced with far-sighted innovation; deep dedication to the land; and passionate commitment to good food.
On a daily basis, produce is first come, first served, so items may sell out! Remember the early bird gets the…peas?
- Beets (Chioggia, golden, red)
- Bok Choi
- Broccoli (stem, crowns, purple peacock, purple sprouting, asparation)
- Brussel Sprouts (red, green)
- Cabbage (green, red, savoy, Napa–just starting)
- Cauliflower (purple, green, white, Romanesco, sprouting)
- Carrots (deep purple, purple haze, red, white, yellow, orange)
- Celery (green)
- Celery Root
- Chicories (Treviso, Radicchio, Tardivo)
- Collard Greens
- Frisée (course & fine)
- Garlic (spring, Elephant)
- Kailaan (aka Gailaan)
- Kale (red & green curly, Russian red, fizz, Cavalo Nero)
- Karashina (green)
- Kohlrabi (red & green)
- Lamb’s Quarter- very few
- Mizuna & Mibuna
- Scallions (green)
- Shelling Beans- dried Lima
- Spigareillo (Broccoli fam.)
- Sweet Potato (Okinawa, Garnett)
- Swiss chard (red, pink passion, green, yellow, bright lights, peppermint)
- Tatsoi & Komatsuna
- Turnips (white)
- Verdulaga (or purslane)
- Strawberries (Albion, Mara des Bois)
- Dried Strawberry Figs
- Meyer Lemons
While much of Chino Farm business is dedicated to dealing directly to the public through our vegetable stand, we also regularly supply a number of chefs and restaurants. Here is just a small sample of those valued partners: