All apples are not alike, as any apple-phile will tell you, and the deeper you fall under the spell of heirloom apple varieties, which number in the hundreds, the more you will hunger to try them. You'll want to start small if you don't own an orchard, though, and there's no better place to begin planting those roots than the Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project. MORP's mission is to preserve and restore Colorado's heirloom orchards, and it sells trees to fund the nonprofit's work. Currently you can choose varieties online at $60 each, but you have to pick them up, by appointment. It's a long drive to Cortez, but it's worth it.

Cortez
970-565-3099
montezumaorchard.org

Characterized as a "living laboratory," High Plains is dedicated to promoting Colorado native plants — xeric, hardy greenery and blooms that are accustomed to Colorado soil — in the garden, with a more ecological, restorative end in mind. You can tour the facility's demonstration gardens and orchard in a park-like, lakeshore-environment setting to see how well it works, then go online to purchase all the water-wise plants you need to build your own backyard native ecosystem from a selection offered from April to Labor Day. Science rules!

2698 Bluestem Willow Drive, Loveland
970-622-9676
suburbitat.org

Denver gardeners lost a major gardening resource when the Groundcovers center closed in 2019 after nearly forty years of serving the city. But plant grower Jeremy Friedman, who'd already started a seasonal retail operation in Castle Rock, grabbed the opportunity and last year expanded his pop-up concept to Golden and Denver, where he took advantage of the vacant Kmart parking lot at Monaco Parkway and East Evans Avenue to set up a temporary bedding-plant bonanza. Public enthusiasm was so high that Plum Creek is back in 2021, adding two more convenient pop-ups in Littleton and Erie.

Five metro locations
plumcreekgardenmarket.com

What began as Rebels in the Garden — a backyard produce garden in Montbello and the project of Aurora resident James Grevious and five kids willing to do the work — has morphed into Rebel Marketplace, a monthly farmers' market in the heart of Aurora's food desert. Grevious chose to keep it small and super-local by gathering other metro-area micro-business vendors like himself to join in the project. This year, you'll find the market open May through October in Del Mar Park, offering fresh produce, baked goods, handcrafted items and herbal remedies; hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every first Saturday of the month.

312 Del Mar Circle, Aurora
720-236-9611
rebelmarketplace.com

In March 2020, world traveler Michelle Lasnier planned to open Ruby's Market, an artisan bazaar selling handcrafted goods, art and food from members of the local refugee and immigrant community. Then the pandemic hit, and Lasnier instead opened Ruby's Pantry in the garage behind the market, where she stashed emergency supplies to help that same community. That led to Ruby's Market Box, a community service that enabled customers to lend support by picking up pre-packaged boxes of food and other products that members had created. But now, finally, Ruby's Market has opened, and customers can browse the shelves themselves and purchase everything from jewelry to fine art to pottery to foodstuffs made by these local-global entrepreneurs.

1569 South Pearl Street
303-733-2784
rubysmarketdenver.com

Good halal food is easy to find at local restaurants if you know where to look, but for anyone interested in cooking up traditional fare from Muslim-majority countries, Nazar International Market is the go-to halal grocery store in the metro area. The market has an extensive meat selection, with everything from goat to specialties specific to Tunisia and Turkey. The staff is friendly, the prices fair. What's for dinner?

1842 South Parker Road
303-750-8875
facebook.com/nazarinternationalmarket

Best Market for Asian Cooks, Kawaii-Lovers and Paper-Folders

Pacific Mercantile Company

Pacific Mercantile

Pacific Mercantile began as a mom-and-pop, opened by Japanese grocer and first-generation American George Inai, who moved to Colorado after spending World War II in internment camps. The market opened on Larimer Street 75 years ago, then moved next to the Denver Buddhist Temple on Lawrence Street in 1972 to help anchor the newly built Sakura Square complex. The grandkids run the store now, but Pacific Mercantile hasn't lost an ounce of charm: It still stocks everything you need to correctly prepare and serve Japanese dishes, as well as a deluge of imported treats (Pocky sticks, rice crackers, sugary Ramune drinks, Hello Panda cookies) and a beautiful array of Asian housewares, kitchen goods and gifts.

Everyone's smoking these days — meats, that is. Backyard cooking has become a passionate pastime for weekend warriors looking to emulate their favorite Texas brisket, St. Louis baby-back ribs or Carolina pulled pork. And you'll find many of these budding Steven Raichlens congregating at Proud Souls, eyeing the pellet smokers or caressing the Big Green Eggs with envy. But even if you're not ready to take the plunge with the high-end smokers, you can still find all manner of outdoor cooking gear here whether you're shopping for a new spatula or a grill tray, and the wide array of sauces, dry rubs and marinades will keep you coming back. There's even a fridge stocked with top-quality meats so you can get all your barbecue shopping done in one location. Cooking classes, outdoor demos and pro tips on the right products for your needs are part of the package, too. Like that sports car showroom, you may find yourself spending more and more time at Proud Souls just to be in like-minded company.

Best 21st-Century Convenience Store
Mark Antonation

For some folks, shopping at Choice Market might feel a little solitary, without customer service or the checkout chitchat about football and the weather. But in a sped-up world where anything is just a click away, Choice Market is the epitome of self-service. Through the use of two apps, Choice NOW and the Choice Mobile App, you can shop in-store by checking in with a QR code, or order in advance for pick-up or delivery, without ever having to wait in a line. Mom and pop's convenience store was never like this. Just don't forget the beef jerky, because you'll no longer be lured by it at the checkout counter.

Four metro locations
choicemarket.co
Argonaut Wine & Liquor

Liquor sales went through the roof during the pandemic, and our tabs at Argonaut probably account for a good half of that growth. While we've bought beer and booze at stores all around town, we keep finding ourselves going back to Argonaut not only for the massive selection, but for an ownership that's become very sensitive to the tastes of Denver tipplers (and teetotalers) over the past five decades. Always drink local.

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