I’m like a kid in a candy store in the summer. There are SO many farmers markets to visit, and it gives me the opportunity to sample some unusual fruits and veggies that I may not have tried before. Plus I always learn something new. For example, last weekend I learned that palisade Bing and rainier cherries grown in Colorado are only in season for a few weeks (end of June – 1st week of July), so we have a small window of time to purchase them locally.
July – October is the height of the growing season in Colorado and so local fruits and veggies are in abundance. Strawberries and lettuce are the earliest crops (in-season starting in June). This month we’ll start to see more tomatoes (to me they are the sweetest in July!) and some sweet corn. Some farmers sell peppers now, but they are baby sizes. The real sweet and hot peppers aren’t in season until August.
Why local produce? First of all you can meet the farmer that grows your food or even visit their farm. A lot of local produce is grown organically – even if it’s not certified organic – which means no pesticides. It doesn’t travel very far from the farm to your table, so to me it tastes fresher. Generally, it’s sold at neighborhood farmers markets, which is a way to bring the community together. And lastly it’s good for the local economy.
So what do you do with all of this amazing produce grown locally?
Why grill them, of course. You may have heard that grilling meat releases chemicals called HCA’s that have been shown to cause cancer. Fruits and vegetables do not release these chemicals and actually supply cancer-fighting nutrients instead.
Spring Onions: Two of my favorite grillers are spring onions and garlic scapes. Spring onions look like scallions but have large bulbs at the top. They are the beginning of a regular onion, but are harvested before they develop into a large, round mature onion. They are called spring onions, because they are planted in the fall and harvested the next spring. They have a highly-flavored, sweet taste that makes them perfect on the grill. To eat, cut the top off and if desired the bottom green stem. Slice like you would a tomato into thick pieces and grill with some olive oil and salt and pepper. Spring onions are extremely high in Vitamin C and A and a good source of fiber, potassium, calcium and iron. They also contain a small amount of protein.
Garlic Scapes: Have you ever seen a garlic bulb attached to a long, green, scallion-looking stem? Well these are called garlic scapes. They are harvested in late spring and you can generally find them throughout the summer. The garlic bulb attached to these scapes has a milder flavor and doesn’t seem to cause as many digestive issues as regular garlic. The stems are great grilled and have a light garlic flavor. Please note: The garlic bulb has a fibrous outer coating that needs to be removed first before grilling. Grill as a bulb or separate the cloves and grill them individually.
Since there are many, many, many more in-season fruits and vegetables to write about, there will be more to come soon!