A retired plant pathology professor well known for selling Asian citrus fruit at the Alhambra farmer's market has died, reports the Los Angeles Times. Jerry Dimitman died at 91 on December 14. David Karp, author of the paper's "Market Watch" column, wrote two years ago about the following that the former Cal Poly Pomona professor had developed in Alhambra.
The scores of customers who join the long line at the Alhambra farmers market on Sunday mornings to buy Jerry Dimitman's Wong pummelos all know the drill: Get there early, and be prepared to wait as each shopper scrutinizes the giant pear-shaped citrus fruits, holding them in the hand, one by one, to judge their weight, looking for heavy, shapely specimens.
In an obituary, Karp fills in more details about Dimitman's love of plants and Asian-Americans which started when he enlisted in World War II and was stationed in the Pacific.
Such was the mystique that he cultivated, along with some of the state's oldest, largest and rarest exotic Asian fruit trees, that he and his family always insisted that his home's location remain unspecified to deter intrusions by overzealous fruit lovers.
Many of his crops, such as lychees, longans, pummelos and mandarins, are available commercially, often from imports, but Dimitman offered ultrafresh, locally grown fruits at a modest price. Some were special varieties cherished in Asia but unknown or rare here, such as his huge, pear-shaped Wong and Chong pummelos, aromatic ponkan mandarins, and wampees, from a citrus relative with small, tan, tangy fruits. Eventually he and his children sought the assistance of Chinese friends who helped to conduct farmers market sales and maintain order among the long lines of customers who feared that he would sell out.
"He loved the Chinese people, he loved the fruit he was selling, and he loved that they loved what he was selling," said his fourth wife, Emma Urueta-Ruiz of Fallbrook, where they planted a second orchard together.
His son Robert, who lived with him at the original grove, said he intends to continue selling his father's fruits at the Alhambra farmers market, including his prized pummelos on the Sundays leading up to Chinese New Year on Jan. 23.
Read the full obituary.