Buy produce from your community farmers’ market or farm stand and not only are you supporting local businesses, you’re doing something great for your health (and your taste buds). “Anything that’s pulled out of the earth and consumed quickly … always tastes better, is sweeter, and is more nutrient dense,” says Kelly Miller, market manager for Real Farmers Market, which hosts markets in Louisville, Erie, and Highland. “That’s why farmers’ markets are so special. These guys are out harvesting the day before [and in the] middle of the night to bring farm-fresh stuff here.”
We talked to those hardworking harvesters to get the dirt on what produce to buy and when to get it. Some of their suggestions will be familiar, while others are unexpected—but all will add some local flavor to your table while also delighting your taste buds. Dig in for their expert tips.
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Farmers pick flowers from their garlic plants in order to produce larger garlic bulbs down the road. Known as garlic scapes, these hard-to-find-in-grocery-stores veggies have the texture of a green bean, but the flavor of—you guessed it—garlic. Hurry, though: They’re only around for another week or so.
Get them from Rough & Ready Farm
Brighten up a salad or add some dainty embellishments to your desserts with farmers’-market-fresh edible flowers. Not only do these blooms provide a lovely accent to your dish, there’s a certain joy that comes from telling your guests, “No really, you can eat them!” Keep an eye out for pansies, marigolds, and nasturtiums.
Get them from Eat a Peach Farms
These small potatoes—they’re picked before they reach full size—have such tender skin, there’s no need to peel them. And they come in an array of colors like red, yellow, and white. The Purple Viking variety, with its tie-dye-esque exterior, is especially striking—and offers a slightly nutty taste with a hint of sourness.
Get them from Isabelle Farm
Get outside your comfort zone with these edible blossoms from a flowering zucchini. Catherine Blackwell, farm manager at Brown’s Farm in Niwot, recommends stuffing them with bleu cheese and toasted walnuts; flash-frying them in a panko crust; and serving the blossom over steak. The heat of the steak will melt the bleu cheese, making for a creamy, crunchy taste explosion on top of the protein.
Get them from Black Cat Farm
You’ve certainly heard of these sweet-as-candy icons from the Western Slope. Last year’s supply was devastated by frost, but this summer orchards seem to be having a bumper crop, Real Farmers Market’s Miller says. Also keep an eye out for nectarines, advises Brian Coppom, executive director of the Boulder County Farmers Markets. Choose fruit with gold flecks on them—evidence of where a small insect gnawed on the skin, requiring the fruit to send sugar to the area to repair the damage. “It results in this incredibly luscious [taste] experience,” Coppom says.
Get them from Morton’s Organic Orchards
Just follow your nose (and maybe the flames) to the roasted chile pepper station found at most farmers’ markets. You’ll want to remove the char and deseed the peppers when you get home, but then they’re perfect for salsas and chile rellenos; you can also just sprinkle them with salt and olive oil and eat them with chips. Opt for habaneros, which have a robust flavor with just enough heat to spice up the taste experience.
Get them from 7th Generation Farm
Bust out your melon baller; scoop out circles of honeydew, cantaloupe, or watermelon; and freeze them for a better-than-ice-cream (and much healthier!) treat. Honeydew fans should look for a variety known as the Snow Leopard, which has a white hue and a “pure, sugar sweetness,” Brown’s Farm’s Blackwell says.
Get them from Brown’s Farm
Because their lack of uniformity hasn’t been bred out, heirloom tomatoes come in all sorts of odd shapes—but that doesn’t make them any less delicious. Given the great variety of heirlooms, it’s worth talking to the pros before choosing what you take home. Go to the market with a dish in mind (caprese salads, tomato sandwiches, homemade sauces, oh my!) and then ask the individual manning the booth for recommendations on what variety is best for your recipe.
Get them from Monroe Organic Farm
“With Colorado being dry and sandy, the soil is perfect for growing beets,” Miller says. She adds that beet farmers actually started our state’s agriculture industry. Watermelon, striped, and standard red varieties tend to have an earthier flavor, whereas golden beets are a bit sweeter. So, ahem, go back to your roots.
Get them from Miller Farms
“Once there’s a threat of frost, all of us farmers will go out and do this mad harvest and try to get everything in because if [the squashes] get snowed on, they’re done,” Blackwell says. Varieties like butternut and acorn make an excellent roasted vegetable mix (add some onions and potatoes too, Coppom suggests), while Cinderella pumpkins are a great addition to a hearty soup.
Get them from Ollin Farms
Look for these “big, fat, stubby carrots” late in the fall, recommends Brett Matson, co-owner of Switch Gears Farm in Longmont. This specific variety begins storing its sugar in its root (the part we eat) once the first frost hits, making them especially sweet.
Get them from Switch Gears Farm
Berries are hard to grow in Colorado, so “any time you see berries at the market, buy them,” Blackwell advises. “The flavor profile of berries grown in soil versus berries grown hydroponically … is just night and day.” Coppom recommends golden raspberries, if you can find them; they’ll be sweeter than their red-colored cousins.
Get them from Aspen Moon Farm