One of the joys of late spring and through the summer is shopping at the local farmers markets. If you haven’t visited these venues, whether large, permanent, year-round markets or the parking lot pop-ups of summer, it’s worth the trip. It’s also a colorful journey into the highest quality ingredients produced by local farmers and growers.
Greens are not necessarily the dominant color as you walk through the market, but it’s an important one. If you haven’t already enjoyed spring asparagus, now’s the time. This incredibly versatile and tasty vegetable can be prepared in so many ways. And not all asparagus is green. It also comes in purple and white varieties.
There are literally hundreds of leafy greens that can go into salads or pots or pans. Look for some types you don’t see every day: dandelions, sorrel, escarole, collards, mustards and kale. Fresh basil is a wonderful green that can go in salads, on pizza and in homemade pesto, which can be frozen for use later. Cucumbers and zucchini will soon be on the scene. And spring peas and green beans are a sweet treat. Green bell peppers are also on the way along with their colorful brothers in red, yellow and orange.
Besides red peppers, radishes, raw or cooked, can add a spike to your salad as well as a splash of color. Strawberries are out now. And soon we’ll see cherries and raspberries on the market, too. And you won’t want to forget about all those homegrown tomatoes making an appearance in high summer. If you’ve been getting by on tasteless supermarket tomatoes, you won’t want to miss all those beauties. Many local growers are specializing in heirloom varieties you don’t see everywhere. Look especially for those.
Purple may not be a color you think of when strolling through the market, but you shouldn’t overlook some of these color choices. One of the most recognizable, if not oddest looking, is the humble eggplant. This can be prepared in many ways and is a staple in lots of Indian dishes. Beets not only have beautiful color, but a sweet flavor. And the tops are great for salads or cooked like any other leafy green. In late summer, watch for the purple splash of blackberries and plums.
Yellow corn is already on the scene and will make another appearance later in the season. This sweet favorite should always be purchased with the husk on, which makes it so much easier to cook in so many ways.
In the orange spectrum, young carrots with the greens attached should draw your eye. These are usually sweeter and more tender than the larger, drier ones we see the rest of the year. And in summer, all kinds of squash will be showing up. It’s a good opportunity to see what else you can do with squash.
What are your favorites at your local farmers market? We really want to know. So, give us your comments.