If you have been following this blog, it’s no secret that I love fresh produce, and especially summertime farmers markets! And if this is your first visit here, now you know that I love fresh produce! =)
As such, when I moved to Colorado from Ohio, one of my first priorities was finding local markets. There actually was one right on my campus the first summer here. It was super convenient, but unfortunately not enough interest to continue it this summer. So I had to find new places to explore and get my fruits and veggie fix.
Wherever you are, Local Harvest has a great farmers market finder. You can also find farms, and local CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) through their site. In Colorado, I’m so thankful that people love fresh, local produce as much as I and there is a website called Colorado Fresh Markets that lists several in the Denver area.
I live quite close to the Cherry Creek area, so I enlisted a good friend of mine, and we set out one sunny Saturday morning to explore. We were greeted by amazing smells, quiet happy noises, and slow-roasting of the locally famous Hatch chiles.
The Cherry Creek Shopping Center at the corner of 1st Avenue and University Blvd. fences off a huge area of parking lot for all the vendors. Open every Saturday from May 3 – October 25 from 8am – 1 pm and on Wednesdays June 18 – September 24 from 9am – 1 pm, you have two chances to enjoy the local bounty.
As we walked around there was a good-sized crowd of people from all walks of life. There were many moms pushing strollers and holding toddler hands, ladies still pregnant with their husbands sweetly carrying bags and boxes, older couples, professionally dressed people, people in gym clothes or yoga pants, plenty of dogs on leashes. Everyone was simply enjoying the day, no rushing, chatting with friends and strangers. Something about a Farmers Market turns everyone present into friends and time becomes irrelevant.
The range of vendors was just phenomenal. There were mutiple vendors touting hand-made soaps, candles, belts, clothing. Of course I was most interested in the foods, and there was food galore. Many different farmers were set up with tables laden with farm-fresh produce. Tiny plants, flowers, and herbs. Tomatoes, heirloom and not, cucumbers, watermelon, beets, carrots, potatoes, onion, lettuces, corn, exotic looking fruits.
And there were so many types of cheese! Hard cheese, soft cheese, wedges, wheels. Cheese that was hard outside and liquid inside. Most vendors offer samples so you can try for yourself how silky smooth the “Snowdrop” cheese is.
Live music is found in at least two different locations. Singers, guitars, and drums keep the mood calm yet festive.
And the pastries! The breads! The rolls, cakes, doughnuts, pretzels! It’s a carbo-loader paradise. The homemade farm-fresh bread looks artisan and beckons to your nostrils to buy a loaf. And at 2 for $10, why not?! They are huge, and far healthier than a bleached, fortified store-bought bread could ever be.
This doughnut company had such a clever name, “Glazed and Confused“. And they had very unique and interesting doughnuts, including the wildly popular right now maple bacon. They also had one inspired by the Girl Scout “Samoa” cookie.
Crazy elaborate doughnuts seems to be a foodie trend that is not going away anytime soon. Luckily for them, because they are celebrating the opening of their brick-and-mortar location at 5301 Leetsdale Drive in Denver as of June 13th!
I had to sample a dumpling from the Pierogies Factory, because due to my Polish/ Hungarian/ Solvak heritage, I have had literally dozens of pierogis in my life. I must say, their pork pierogi was the bomb. Not the same as a soft mashed potato pierogi like mom makes, but the pork was a totally unique flavor bursting with salty, herby goodness.
And then we have The Real Dill, a local artisan pickle company. From Habanero Horseradish Dill to Jalapeno Honey, from Caraway Garlic to their Bloody Mary mix made with pickling juice, their flavors will blow your mind.
And of course they offer samples of each! IF you try the Habanero or Aji Chile, may I recommend having lemonade or bread nearby?
Then we started to realize that all these great smells and tiny samples had started our bellies to rumbling. The Farmers Market draws a crowd of food trucks, eager to impress. Each is as fascinating and unique as the next, but we eventually settled on Gyros.
Oh. My. Word. This gyro meat…. so perfectly seasoned and flavorful, bursting with onions, garlic, and herbs. Piled onto thick, warm, homemade pita bread, and then slathered in dressed greens, tomato, feta, and kalamata olive.
The half-size was more than enough, but they offer a full size, chicken, falafel, and vegetarian options as well.
An example of some of the brighter characters that Farmers Markets attract.
We were both looking to restock our honey stores, which had gotten low over the winter due to high tea consumption. And then we found these people. The lady who runs the stand is just the sweetest, friendliest woman you’d hope to meet. She regaled us with stories of beekeeping, and why bees are so critical to the future of our food.
The tall, white-haired gentleman beside her is her son-in-law, and the inspiration for the name “Bjorns Colorado Honey”. Originally from Sweden, he met the lady’s daughter in Austria and they fell in love. She convinced him to move to Boulder and get married, and he became part of the family honey business. Ah, love. A jar of the honey ended up in both of our bags that day.
They also make hand cream from parts of bee life usually discarded, the “propolis”. It is a resinous substance made by the bees to protect and seal their hives. It has many biomedical and cosmetic uses. According to WebMD, “Propolis seems to have activity against bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It might also have anti-inflammatory effects and help skin heal.” Clever.
The huge hot pretzels for sale.
Fresh hand-made strawberry lemonade to quench your thirst.
My friend and I headed home after a long, fulfilling day at the Cherry Creek Farmers Market!
All in all, the farmers market was a blast. I went home with a huge loaf of farm-fresh bread, chive and garlic goat cheese, a jar of Colorado honey, and a belly full of happy. I also got a little hint of a tan! Bonus.
Farmers markets are a great way to make new friends, relax, and support local businesses and farms. Check out one near you this weekend!