Fields of dreams

On opening day, the Farmers Market brings local back to the table

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Susan France

If you are a longtime Boulder local, you already know what this Saturday means.

If you are a newcomer — someone who has moved to Boulder County since November — we welcome you to the nexus of the Boulder food scene, where chefs, farmers, sustainable living advocates and foodies converge and create community and lunch.

Frankly, I’m jealous of you. I wish I was seeing spring in Boulder County for the first time, especially the Boulder County Farmers Market (BCFM), which opens for the season Saturday, April 6 in Boulder and Longmont. It is the longest farmers’ market season in Colorado. The Boulder Wednesday market opens May 1, Union Station’s on May 11 and Lafayette’s June 6.

The markets will be jammed, and BCFM Executive Director Brian Coppom offers one piece of advice: “Dress for the weather.” Coppom notes that on previous Market opening days it has ranged from cold rain and snow to windy, sunny and hot… sometimes all in the same spring day. Layers are the answer.

This week, the fresh, local produce items will include overwintered spinach. “I love overwintered spinach,” Coppom says. “It’s so sweet. It’s my favorite. It looks like the farmers have a good supply. There will also be some overwintered carrots and onions and some good early-season crops growing in hoop houses.” 

Even as a Market legend, Oxford Gardens’ “Carrot Guy” Peter Volz, has retired, two new farms join the family: Brown’s Farm and Oxford Farm. 

Since its inception 33 years ago, the nonprofit BCFM has insisted on being as local as possible. You can’t pick up pineapples at the Market because they are not grown in Boulder County or in Colorado.

It has always been more challenging for the vendors in the food court to use the locally grown produce being sold at the market. “If you serve a spinach salad, we’d like you to use locally grown spinach if you can,” Coppom said.

More often vendors use market produce in specials because an ingredient on the menu isn’t always in season here. Another challenge has been health department rules that prohibit Market food vendors from using the fresh produce from a farmer who is selling 100 feet away from them. It has to go to a health-inspected kitchen to be washed first and then brought back.

New this year in the food court will be chalkboard signs for each vendor detailing the local produce and ingredients they are using that day. All of the familiar foods from dumplings to tamales will be back, along with the newest food vendor: Pupusas Familias.

The BCFM has received grants to continue its program of making fresh, local produce available to low-income families. WIC and SNAP benefits are accepted and the Market provides up to $20 additional in fresh fruits and vegetables for SNAP purchases.

Among the new tastes in the vendor booths (both permanent and guest) are Micro Tea (microgreen teas), Table Mountain (goat milk caramels) and Bolder Bites (protein bites). There is a fresh oat milk booth and lots of fermentation and probiotics, with two pickle-makers, three kombucha brewers and St. Vrain Cidery.

Local Food News

Basta’s new Dry Storage is open at the southeast corner of The Peloton, offering fresh breads and pastries made from heirloom grain flour milled in-house. Toast is served with house-cultured butter and jam. The lunch menu includes mushroom onigiri, egg salad “sandos,” miso soup and prosecco on tap. … Boulder’s Ginger Pig isn’t quite going brick-and-mortar, but the Asian street food truck is now setting up shop Wednesday through Saturday at Lafayette’s Isabelle Farm store. … The Colorado Jewish Food Fest is Sunday at the Boulder JCC with tastings, workshops, farm tours and exhibits on sustainability. coloradojewishfoodfest.com … If you are wondering what to do with mystery vegetables in your CSA share box each week, Boulder’s Food Lab is offering the Using Your CSA (June 19) class series partnered with Cure Farm’s CSA. foodlabboulder.com. … The only local James Beard Award semi-finalist to survive the Ides of March is Frasca Food and Wine, a finalist for Outstanding Service along with Brigtsen’s in New Orleans, Saison in San Francisco and Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor. … I never did take the Coors brewery tour when it was free. Now, the tasting tour of the giant MillerCoors plant is $5 for Colorado residents, $10 for others, and under-21 non-tasters and military are free. … Louisville’s Moxie Bread Co. stocks 18 varieties of local organic seeds ranging from cucumbers to amaranth from the MASA Seed Foundation, a regional seed project founded by Richard Pecoraro, who helped launch the first 100 percent organic non-hybrid seed company. … Coming soon: Washington-based Locust Cider taproom, 5446 Conestoga Court, Boulder.

Taste of the Week

I experienced fried chicken near-nirvana at Julep, a hipster Southern eatery on Larimer Street in Denver. It was more than worth the wait for genuine fried chicken to arrive with a perfectly crunchy crust and fall-off-the-bone moist meat goodness; Julep also serves admirable baked-to-order buttermilk biscuits with house-made preserves, marmalade and sausage gravy. I added a side of sorghum. The quintessential starter: Pimento cheese ball crusted in toasted pecans with Triscuits.

Words to Chew On

“The exact taste of buttery corn, tomatoes so ripe they split and sweeten the air, beans so crisp they snap between the teeth, gravy like mother’s milk singing to your bloodstream.” — Dorothy Allison

For 20-plus years John Lehndorff has hosted Radio Nibbles at 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 AM, kgnu.org). Podcasts: news.kgnu.org/category/radio-nibbles