Some people say the first green shoots of spring have the most chi or energy, while others insist they're particularly cleansing for your system. No matter what the reason, most of us are yearning for fresh tastes after a plodding winter of carrots, onions, potatoes, winter squash and dried beans. So the return of the Boulder County Farmers' Market to Boulder and Longmont tomorrow (Saturday, April 6) is cause for rejoicing.
The first day always feels like a party, with farmers greeting regular customers and customers greeting each other. "Local," "organic" and "sustainable" aren't just catch words to these people: They're a way of life. The market has been around for a couple of decades, starting with a mound of pumpkins put up for sale on a green patch in downtown Boulder and morphing into a bustling event where you can shop, stroll, snack, drink beer, listen to music and -- most importantly -- do almost all the week's shopping. These days you'll find eggs, coffee, pickles, meat (lamb, chicken, pork, beef and goat), honey, mushrooms and Alaska salmon, and watch as the season unfolds in the vegetables and fruits on display.
Tomorrow, there will be seeds, plant starts and lots of leafy greens for sale -- including shungiko, which is grown by Oxford Gardens and described as "a very special edible chrysanthemum." Karen Beeman of WeeBee farms won't have her astonishing assortment of garlic available until later in the year, but she'll be selling planters of baby lettuce, chives and onion starts to set on the porch for cut-and-come salads. Randy and Regan of 2 Rs should be bringing greenhouse tomatoes and Regan's scented handmade soaps. If you go to Facebook and like Red Wagon Organic Farm -- which we named Best Farmers' Market Vendor in this year's Best of Denver issue -- you'll discover interesting articles and recipes and learn what they're planning to bring to market.
Frank Silva of Natural Homestead Beef should be behind his counter, showing off photographs of his prize cattle and handing out savory pieces of sausage. For lamb, there's the Lamb Lady, also known as Mary Miller of Triple M Bar Ranch; for succulent pork, visit Eva Teague of Plowshares Community Farm. Ela Family Farms won't have fruit to sell until summer, but I'm betting they'll be at the market with jams, sauce and dried apples. Try baking with Farmer John's locally grown whole-wheat flour, and you'll never go back to store-bought. And surely it's time to drop off those knives at Johnson Sharpening.
When I was little, my widowed mother worked at the sewing machine all day long to support the two of us. Her only break came at lunch time when she walked down to the shops on Willesden Lane with me to buy eggs, apples and bread. Fishmonger, grocer, baker, butcher -- everyone knew us. They flirted with her a little and asked me about my school work; at the deli, someone always fished a fat pickle from the barrel for me. At the market, vendors ask about your family and share photographs of theirs. They're also a goldmine of information about weather, plant health, how to cook their products, how to conserve water. They'll tease you to try a new herb or ask what you did with the baby artichokes you bought last week. In short, there's a web of human interaction here -- and a rich history and culture.
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The Boulder County Farmers Market will open tomorrow from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 13th Street between Arapahoe and Canyon and on Wednesdays from 4 to 8 p.m. starting May 1. The Longmont marke will open tomorrow from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Boulder County Fairgrounds at South Hover Street and Boston Avenue.