At the Farmer's Market: Apples and Stuff Made From Them
Tilden Farms from Riverside has Sekai Ichi apples, which are thought to be a cross between Red Delicious and Golden Delicious. They're great for eating out of hand, with a lot of juice and none of the mealiness that tends to plague Red Delicious.
Many vendors have Pink Lady apples this year, which are a cross between Golden Delicious and Lady Williams that originated in Australia. These are chameleon apples: You can eat them raw, you can cook them and you can bake them.
Also being sold by an increasing number of vendors are Asian pears, which look like apples and taste like honey. Core, slice and toss them with a tiny splash of real balsamic and a grind or two of pepper for a nice refreshing snack.
Ha's Apple Farm grows apples up in Tehachapi, including Fuji apples and some tart varieties such as Winesap, which are great for applesauce. The folks at Ha's also make a mean apple butter (the unsweetened kind is better) and some quite good apple cider vinegar. You can also stock up on dried apples and various jellies.
Ha's also has the single best apple product at the market, hidden away in a little cooler behind the main display: the Holy Grail of all things apple, unpasteurized apple cider in pints and half-gallons. Unpasteurized cider, which is just about impossible to get in this area without driving to Oak Glen, has a little extra bite, a little raw zing to it. A cup of unpasteurized apple cider and a cinnamon-sugar doughnut is a flashback to childhood for a lot of people who grew up in the Northeast and Midwest, and if that sounds good to you, you can indulge. The product is sold frozen, but it defrosts fine.
Bear in mind that apple varieties vary from vendor to vendor and week to week, so buy what you want when you see it!
Tilden Farms sells at the Irvine certified farmer's market, Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon behind the In-N-Out on Bridge Rd. and Campus Dr.
Ha's Apple Farm sells at Irvine and also at Costa Mesa (Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the OC Fairgrounds, 88 Fair Dr.), Laguna Hills (Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., in the parking lot of the Laguna Hills Mall) and Long Beach Southeast (Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., at 2nd St. and Marina Dr.).