From now until the end of September, the Highlands Square Farmers' Market takes over West 32nd Avenue between Lowell Boulevard and Newton Street every Sunday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Get there now and enjoy the more than thirty vendors who line the promenade, from candle makers to garlic farmers to sweet bakers. Here's a look at what's in season, plus a few vendors who always have something tasty.
All the good stuff is booming right now. You can find Colorado peaches from Morton's Orchards, Eat a Peach Farms and, for organic fruits, the Tate Orchards stand. Other stone fruits are available, too: On a recent Sunday, Eat a Peach Farms had a variety of plums for sale, and Tate Orchards sold firm red nectarines. Unlike rock-hard grocery store fruit, these are all good for immediate eating and are great for canning, too, in case you can't get through a $45 box of eighteen pounds of peaches.
While peaches hit the sweet spot, vegetables were also popping up. Miller Farms in Platteville displayed all sorts of fresh options that customers stuffed into the farm's $10 fill-it-up bags. Prime picks included three kinds of peppers, green beans, pickling cucumbers, kale, heads of cabbage and lettuce, carrots, potatoes and squash. Eat a Peach Farms had a variety of tomatoes, from heirlooms to green tomatoes (for frying) to "grown in the dirt" types that tasted like fresh churned soil and sunshine.
As the morning heated up, so did market, and unfortunately the heat was on Topping Out Farms, an urban micro-green venture run by Harlan Blynn. The health department showed up and decided his micro-greens were a commercial food instead of a farmed food, shutting him down for the day and disappointing many of his regulars who stopped by for their power greens fix. One woman gave him a satchel of her homegrown lavender to help keep the mood calm. The inspector didn't have a chance to get to the other micro-green seller, Evergrow MicroGreens Farm from Longmont, who packed up before the inspector could make it to that end of the market.
That appeared to be the only drama of the day; in contrast, everything was coming up roses at the Longmont-based Lucky Bee Cut Flowers. Well, more like coming up sunflowers, which is just one of the blossoms this colorful vendor sold from the bed of a charming red truck.
No other flower sellers graced the market, but we did find Kelley Gallagher of Emerald Acres in Erie selling a variety of flavorful garlics as well as some lesser-known potatoes like Purple Viking and Adirondack Red. Nearby Ikigai Farm from Wheat Ridge peddled golden beets, bell peppers, red Russian kale and four types of beans, each with a different color.
Of course, if you aren't at the market for fresh fruits, mushrooms and veggies, there are plenty of other reasons to visit. Food trucks like Wasko's breakfast sandwiches, Wong Way Veg and Pasty Republic convened at the west end of the market. There was also Auntie Ang's Shave Ice, a stand selling the Hawaiian staple that not only looked pretty, with streaks of strawberry and mango syrup, but helped cool off the hot crowd and made for great bribes to keep small children quiet and happy. And between the knife sharpener, honey stand and tamale outpost, there were plenty of other non-farm options.
One of the best ventures of the day was Garden of Youth, a Denver Public Schools program that teaches students with special needs about gardening, plants, food and managing a small plot. The students take care of vegetable gardens in school yards around the city, working for both experience and money. The haul the group had might not have been the biggest, but it was the most memorable of all the stands — and you can bet they sold out.