Even though I’m living in a high-altitude town where the growing season is shorter than the latest celebrity marriage, there is no shortage of farmers’ markets. Starting on Friday, if you’re in Summit County, you can attend Dillon’s market; Minturn and Edwards hold theirs on Saturdays; Vail’s market, hailed as the largest in the state, is on Sundays.
The Vail Farmers’ Market started on June 17 and will end on Sept. 16, affording guests only a few shorts weeks to gather the best of Colorado’s produce. Sunday was the first day that I’ve been able to make it to Vail’s market and I was pleased to find some of my favorite vendors still in attendance. Vail’s market is billed as a “farmers’ and art” market, which means that there are fewer produce stands than craft stalls, restaurant stalls and activity booths. No matter–I know where to head.
Carol Morales of Morales Farms in Granby, CO, is my favorite vendor, by far. She’s passionate about her produce and isn’t afraid to ensure that customers respect the veg. Local chefs like Kelly Liken depend on Morales for micro greens, lettuces, herbs and other staples for their menus. Regular patrons, like me, can learn about the vegetables and herbs that she grows and take home a bunch of radishes or verdolaga for the upcoming week.
Verdolaga, also known as purslane, was a new one for me. It’s a succulent and, though I had read about it in a book somewhere a few years ago, I’d never tasted it. “It has more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable or plant,” Carol informed me. “You can saute it with onions and tomatoes and pork if you want to go the Latin route, or in olive oil, garlic and top it with some Parmesan if you want a Mediterranean dish.”
I took the proffered sample: it was crisp and slightly sour, but almost lemony. Yum. I bought the last bag.
Radishes are another veggie that I thought I should like (I like spicy and peppery things), but I never know what to do with them. “Slice them and saute them in butter,” Carol said. “Or just slice them and put a bit of salt on them. That’s what I do.”
The long, skinny radish that she held out (French Breakfast Radish) was still peppery, but not as overwhelming as a regular radish. I bought a bag of them as well, with a few regular ones thrown in. Sauteed in butter, as suggested, was almost as perfect a dish as I’ve ever tasted.
Chatting with Carol as other customers peered at bags of salad greens, I found out she was originally from Melbourne, FL.
“When I’m not out here, I live on the panhandle,” I said. “It’s a tiny town, you’ve probably never heard of it…”
“Is it near Mexico Beach?” she asked. “I love that place–gorgeous white sand beaches. I’d love to move there.”
My jaw dropped. “How do you know about Mexico Beach?” I was flabbergasted.
Carol grew up on the water. “It just stays in you–here” she said, thumping her heart. I know what she means. The saltwater courses through your veins and even with more than 30 years in Colorado, it calls to its children.
With my canvas bag filled with radishes, verdolaga, honey from Winter Park, a fresh sourdough baguette from Avon Bakery and a promise to return to Carol’s stand next week for arugula and spinach, I headed home. On the way, I called my mom to tell her that even though I was far from Mexico Beach, I’d found a little connection to the beach in the middle of the mountains.
If You Go:
- Technically, the Farmers’ Market starts at 10 a.m. However, many of the produce vendors are there early and are willing to sell prior to the official opening time. Take advantage and get there early for the best looking fruit and veggies.
- Many of Vail’s top restaurants have booths on Sunday, selling smaller versions of their signature dishes or new creations just for the market. Sampling from these booths is a fun (and cheap) way to try big names like Matsuhisa Vail, Larkspur and The Left Bank. Other favorites are Crepes a la Cart, the gyros stand and Wildwood Smoke House.
- Park in the Village or Lionshead parking lots. They’re free for the summer and it’s infinitely easier than trying to find parking elsewhere.
Interested in what I’ll be looking for at the Farmer’s Market? See below for the Colorado Crop Calendar.