Summer in Colorado means wildflower hikes, ice cream cones and days spent splashing in Boulder Creek or the pool.
But perhaps one of the surest signs that summer is here? Stocking up on fresh, locally grown produce at the farmers market. Nature’s bounty is on display in the summer and fall, when farmers start to pick their colorful, nutritious and downright delicious fruits and vegetables.
From the fields to our dinner tables, here are some of the tastiest Colorado fruits and vegetables to snatch up at the farmers market — and some farmer-backed tips for how to eat them.
You already know and love Colorado’s famous peaches. But for Kacey Kropp, a farmer at First Fruits Organic Farms, summer is all about nectarines, a fruit that her family lovingly calls “nectarbeans.”
“Nectarines are peaches’ fuzzless, flavor-concentrated cousins,” says Kropp, who helps harvest nectarines on the family’s Paonia farm from July through September.
When nectarines start making an appearance at the farmers market, follow Kropp’s lead and try making some nectarine salsa, made with nectarines, red onion, cilantro, jalapenos, cumin, maple syrup and salt and pepper.
“The complex, syrupy nectarine pieces do the heavy lifting in this salsa recipe,” she says. “Add this salsa to tacos, pork dishes, vanilla ice cream or scoop it up with corn chips along with a cold Mexican lager. To me, this is a favorite taste of summer in Colorado fruit country.”
You really can’t improve on perfection, which is why farmer Steve Cockroft of Croft Family Farm in Kersey recommends eating his fresh sweet corn right off the cob. The fresher, the better.
The trick to keeping sweet corn as sweet as possible for several days? Picking it in the morning, then keeping it cool until you’re ready to eat it.
“Real food tastes better, but real food that is picked and handled with care gives people that over-the-top experience,” he said.
Mokum carrots are sweet, floral, juicy and refreshing, which makes them a favorite summer vegetable of Catherine Hess, farm manager for Brown’s Farm in Niwot.
Since they’re packed with flavor on their own, Mokum carrots don’t require much jazzing up. Peel them into veggie ribbons and toss them in salads, or quick-pickle them for a little extra tang, Hess recommends. If you’re looking for a heartier way to add these tasty carrots to the dinner table, consider turning them into little carrot fries, Hess says. Toss the carrots with a little honey, salt and rosemary, then roast them in a 425-degree oven until they’re perfectly tender.
“There are many wonderful carrots, but Mokums will always have a special place,” Hess says.
Broccoli is tricky to grow in Colorado’s climate, but the Bailey family has managed to perfect growing this crunchy green vegetable on the Western Slope over the years. To get crisp, flavorful broccoli, they usually plant a small crop in the spring and a larger crop in the fall. Your best bet for finding their broccoli at the farmers market is in September and October, when cooler temperatures produce an abundance.
“We focus a lot of attention on building our soil and using regenerative farming practices, which we believe is the primary reason our broccoli tastes so good,” says Bradi Bailey, who owns Stubborn Roots Farm in Fort Collins with her husband, Calvin. “Broccoli, like most vegetables, thrive in well-drained soil rich in organic matter. By taking care of our soil, it provides our crops with all they need to grow, and in turn, it will give us nutrient-dense, healing food we can enjoy.”
Their broccoli is so good that even their kids love to eat it — and all parents know that’s really saying something. When they’re not eating raw broccoli as a snack, they also recommend added it to various soups or roasting it in the oven with a little salt.
Is there anything more summery than biting into a fresh, juicy, ripe tomato? Not according to Brian Coppom, executive director of Boulder County Farmers Markets, who grew up eating sun-warmed tomatoes straight from the vine in his grandfather’s garden.
“The complex flavors and subtle sweetness of a truly vine-ripened tomato are unbeatable,” he says.
Coppom keeps his tomatoes on the counter at room temperature for maximum flavor preservation, then uses them in this flavor-packed recipe, created by Jodie Lindsay Popma, a holistic nutritionist and chef.
Roasted Pepper & Tomato Salad
- 3 sweet peppers
- 5 ripe tomatoes
- 1/2 tsp chili flakes (Picaflor is great)
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 lemon, grated rind and juice
- olive oil – drizzle
- chopped parsley – for garnish
- Preheat oven to 420 degrees. Place peppers on a baking sheet and roast. Turn every few minutes, for about 10 minutes, until the skins blacken. Add tomatoes to the baking sheet and roast for another 5 minutes.
- Remove from oven, place peppers in a brown paper bag, and set aside to cool. Allow tomatoes to cool, until they can be handled.
- Remove the skins from the peppers, carefully, then remove the seeds. Chop peppers and tomatoes, then place in a mixing bowl.
- Add chili flakes, onion, garlic and lemon. Sprinkle parsley on top with a bit of salt.
- Serve at room temperature.