Your Summer Farmers Market Shopping List!
We love summers in Colorado for so many reasons. More mountain sunshine than ever, outdoor pools, and concerts at Red Rocks make the summers in Denver arguably the best in the nation. But our favorite part of summer in Denver is definitely our wide array of farmers markets!
From the award winning Cherry Creek Fresh Market, to the more urban feeling Highlands Square Farmers Market, to the quaint and cozy South Pearl Street Farmers Market, there’s no shortage of options for those looking for fresh produce and vibrant, family-friendly fun. (For those looking for a list of nearby farmers markets, we recommend checking out this list from Denver.org, which includes several options and high level descriptions of what to expect in each neighborhood.)
But with so many options for stands and things to buy, where should you focus your attention? With plenty of experience in shopping for our families and classes, we’ve been able to narrow down what you should prioritize shopping for within your nearby market. Whether in Denver or anywhere else in the nation, many of these options should exist, but please note that this list is focused on what is in season and if available near Denver, Colorado.
10 Things to Add to Your Farmers Market Shopping List
While carrots from the grocery store can be delicious, you may notice that the ones in the farmers market look a little… different. And for good reason! While we’ve become used to carrots being orange, the truth is that they come in a variety of colors (purple and yellow, for example) and these other colors can be higher in beta carotene and antioxidants than many of those plain old orange ones you find in the store.
2) Berries - Raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, any berry!
If you take a good look at the berries you buy in the store, you’ll notice that they typically travel a pretty long distance, sometimes even across oceans, to get to you. During this time in transport, they’re losing nutrition and, unfortunately, flavor. We believe that nothing can compare to that sweet flavor of locally grown berries. Just try one and you’ll be hooked!
While we’re big fans of asparagus in general, you may notice that a lot of it comes from South America, specifically Peru. The USDA requires that all imported asparagus is sprayed with a pesticide known as methyl bromide. Unfortunately, while this pesticide does kill plenty of germs, it is also a neurotoxin that has been suspected to cause cancer. Ick! So, just in case, it’s worth it to purchase asparagus from your nearby farmers market whenever you have the chance.
Rhubarb is surprisingly difficult to find, even on grocery store shelves. But baked within pies, cobblers, and crisps, especially when paired with strawberries, it becomes a savory treat that can’t be turned down. So stock up if you can while rhubarb is in season, because it’s an ingredient that you may not be able to find for several months afterwards.
Quite simply, farm fresh eggs are just healthier. They contain less cholesterol and saturated fat, but more vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin D, beta carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids than their store-bought counterparts. While the jury is still out on whether or not they taste “better,” we prefer going with the healthiest option whenever possible.
6) Grass Fed Beef
We’re extremely lucky with the quality of meat in Colorado, especially when you’re buying local. Grass fed beef has been shown to offer higher levels of antioxidants, as well as a healthier ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids than their grain-fed counterparts,. Plus, most (not all) grass-fed beef is also organic, meaning that the grass that the cows are eating is also pesticide free. So if you spot some grass-fed, organic beef at the farmers market, you know that it’s the healthiest meat you can buy,
7) Fresh Herbs
The truth is that this item is purely economical. While some believe that fresh herbs taste better, the bundles of herbs that you can get at the farmers market are often twice as big and half the price of what you may otherwise buy in stores. May as well get all of your shopping done and save a little cash while you’re at the market!
8) Local Honey
Honey purchased at the store is often filled with several synthetic sweeteners and harmful chemicals to help bring out the taste we’re expecting But if you can get local, straight-from-the-beehive honey, we can pretty much guarantee that you’ll taste the difference. Though, before you buy, we do recommend asking a couple of questions, For example, ask the person at the stand about their beehive, their location, and their harvesting practices. In a rather sketchy practice, some stands may be re-selling store-bought honey, so it’s worth it to make sure that you’re getting a high-quality, filler-free product.
While we teach a class on foraging for your own mushrooms, we know that the time it takes may not always be ideal. So a simple solution would be to purchase your fresh mushrooms at your local farmers market! You’ll likely notice that the mushrooms at your market come in a much greater variety than at the store, as well as offering varieties that are local to your area. And feel free to ask the person at the stand about their location and practices - because most of these folks will be very passionate about their mushrooms.
10) Ice Cream
While there are few things as pleasant as a cool ice cream cone on a hot summer day, we do have other reasons behind picking ice cream for this list. Specifically, locally made ice cream is typically better for you than the store-bought treat. The ingredients used, such as berries and flavorings, are usually organic and local with less additives and preservatives. What’s more, many locally-made brands use milk produced from local, grass-fed cows, so you can validate your treat knowing that it’s a healthier option than you might be storing away in your freezer.
Did You Know…
We have an entire class built around using local Colorado fare in delicious and unique ways. Executive chef Justin Goerich of Elway’s Steakhouse will be teaching this seasonal class on June 28th and there are only a few spots left. Click here to get the details and to sign up!