For a farmers’ market feel without the once-a-week schedule, The Vegetable Shop at Chino Farm, better known as just “Chino’s,” in San Diego County’s Rancho Santa Fe, is the perfect find—it’s open every day but Monday. About a half-hour drive north of downtown San Diego, this is the place to discover new varieties of familiar produce, like their French strawberries, or multiple kinds of tomatoes, beans, melons, and squash, plus white corn so sweet and delicious you might just move here. Try unusual offerings—strawberry figs, salsify, Jerusalem artichokes, red carrots, watermelon radishes, and candy lime mint. Keep your eyes peeled too; the shop became a favorite haunt of leading chefs such as Trey Foshee of of La Jolla’s George’s at the Cove California Modern after first being championed by Alice Waters, considered the leading force behind California’s focus on fresh, seasonal, local ingredients.
If you see an unusual fruit or vegetable you don’t recognize, ask the helpful staff about it. Not only will they identify it for you, they’ll also tell you how best to prepare it.
Opened on a 45-acre plot of land by Junzo and Hatsuyo Chino at the close of World War II, for more than seven decades The Vegetable Shop has sold only produce grown by the family, on the family farm, and they do not ship. So sought after are their offerings that restaurants sometimes specify on their menu when ingredients come from Chino Farms. What makes their fruits and vegetables so oversized, so flavorful, so unblemished? Reasons most cited by longtime customers include respect for tradition, a deep dedication to the land, and passionate commitment to quality food. Now into its third generation of management, the family continues to follow the same path with the same acreage, with no plans to change anything.
Useful info: The Vegetable Shop at Chino Farm is open 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sundays. It’s best to come earlier than later in the day as many items sell out.