On a cool and cloudy Saturday morning at 9 a.m., the Union Station Farmers' Market bell rang for the first time, officially opening the market's 2018 season. More than twenty vendors, new and old, comprising farmers, artisan food makers, chefs and bakers put up stands to peddle fresh vegetables, hot sauce, cheese, chocolate, pie and more.
In season now are green garlic, bright pink-red radishes, rhubarb, micro-greens, chives and tender early lettuces. Pea shoots were found at Boulder's Cure Organic Farm, as well as spicy greens like arugula. Micro Farms, an organization that brings together produce from tiny urban plots, had shiny sunchokes. Kiowa Organic Farms, out of Roggen, was the only farm in the whole market offering asparagus, the only vegetable they were selling.
Thanks to a greenhouse, the Denver-based teaching farm ACRES at Warren Tech had more variety than most, with bok choy, green garlic, rhubarb, beets and radishes making colorful appearances. And, new to the market and the farming way of life is Harlan Blynn of Topping Out Farms, a micro-green grower out of Globeville. Blynn was in finance before quitting that life to start his mini-farm company as a way to get more nutrition into his diet and to help bring access to good food in his neighborhood.
Some vendors started up again after taking a break. For example, Ollin Farms in Longmont is back at Union Station after missing last year, kicking off the season with a pile of beautiful radishes. Also after a year hiatus, David Kaminer of Raleigh Street Bakery had a stand selling elegant loaves of bread — all baked in a wood-burning oven located in his garage.
"I missed the market," he says. "I missed the community and the food I get to bring home. It's my business and it's a great market."
For those looking to start their own gardens, you could find ready-to-plant basil, mint and other herbs mixed in with the hanging flowers at the Fresh Herb Company. Cure also sold purple basil, zucchini squash and eggplant starts. Rocky Mountain Fresh had a whole rack of tomato plants ready for planting.
Then, there were the food vendors. New this year was Bao Bao, a Chinese steamed bun shop selling buns stuffed with barbecue pork, veggies and custard, as well as cucumber salad and rice bowls topped with roast pork. Also new was True West Tacos, owned by Steuben's alumni Cam Mengel. Each tasty $3 taco could be made "golden style" (where the cheese is cooked on the flattop before the tortilla is placed on it) and topped with handmade salsas, beef barbacoa, pork carnitas, pulled chicken, beans with bacon, or beans with rice.
On the west side of the market was Boulder Tortillas, a two-year-old company run by Stefan Gomez. He was there as a guest vendor for the month of May, and shoppers were downing his fresh-made Colorado blue corn tortilla chips with salsa. Get to Union Station in the next couple weeks to try the goods, or look for Gomez's chips and tortillas at the Longmont and Boulder markets, as well as local grocery stores. Another guest vendor was On Tap Kitchen, an artisan pretzel company out of Boulder selling pretzels flavored with with sriracha, salt and malt, and cinnamon sugar, to name a few.
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Long-time vendor Long i Pie dished out seasonal favorites such as strawberry-rhubarb and berry-chocolate pies. Carlos Ruiz's Chiporro Sauce Co. set up shop with five tasty options, including the Peruvian-inspired Uchu Hot, made with the addition of Peruvian black mint. Upstart Bloombox Foods also launched a stand to sell shelf-stable salad dressings designed for topping specific greens; flavors included smoked paprika for spinach and cumin-coriander for arugula.
By 10 a.m. the sky had cleared, the space was packed with shoppers and already Cure had sold out of rhubarb. Next week, market-goers can expect Morton's Orchards to join the fray, and on May 26 the popular Ela Family Farms will also open a booth in Union Station (you can already find Ela at the Boulder market on Wednesdays and Saturdays). Soon more vegetables such as peas and turnips will start popping up, and we can expect cherries to debut as the first spring fruit. Right now it's a great time to make going to the farmers' market part of your weekly shopping run, whether you choose Union Station, Boulder, Longmont or one closer to you. Shop local, eat fresh, and enjoy the perfect weather.
For more photos of the Union Station Farmers Market season debut, see our complete slideshow.