Sniff, Thump or Squeeze?
The Art of Selecting the Finest Colorado Produce
Nothing’s more delightful on a crisp fall day than exploring one of our many Farmers Markets. And in Colorado Springs they are available every day of the week. For a complete list, go to http://springsbargains.com/ colorado-springs-farmers-market-schedule/
We called on two experts to be our guides–Executive Chef Brother Luck from the Craftwood Inn and Executive Chef Eric Viedt from the Margarita at Pine Creek. So listen in as they share their secrets for selecting and showcasing the finest produce Colorado has to offer.
1. Get to know the farmers.
Viedt grew up working on a 150-acre agriculture farm in upstate New York so he can attest to the difference in flavor between farm-raised produce and that grown in warehouses.
“It’s all about knowing where your produce comes from,” he says. “Farmers take pride in what they are growing, will answer any questions, and always give you tastes.”
Luck, who grew up frequenting farmer’s markets in the San Francisco Bay Area, is also an advocate for buying from the source. “Why go to grocery stores,” he says, “when you have the option to buy fruit and vegetables from the farmers and get better prices?”
Tomatoes are a great example. “For them to reach their full potential, they have to ripen on the vine as long as possible,” Viedt says. “And farmers don’t pick their tomatoes until two days before bringing them to market.”
2. Check for quality & color.
“When picking out produce,” Luck says, “we focus on appearance and quality. Look for vibrant colors. Is it bright with a good shine? Does it have a bit of ripeness to it? Does it smell fresh? In the case of fruits and melons, can you smell the sugars?”
“Cantaloupes from the Arkansas Valley have a national reputation,” Viedt says. “To test for ripeness, they should be slightly tender and smell like a ripe melon at the stem end.”
And forget thumping.
Especially with watermelons. Viedt suggests picking one up. If it feels dense and solid, chances are it has more water weight, which means it’s sweeter.
“Always open your corn,” Viedt says. “It should have nice even rows that aren’t mangled.”
“Palisade peaches are amazing,” Luck says. “The temperature (extremes) in the Grand Valley from really hot days to cold nights change the sugar content which makes them so sweet.”
“But act now!” Viedt says. They’ll only be in season through the first half of September.
When choosing peaches, Viedt asks the farmers for “seconds.” They may not look as perfect as “firsts,” but they are still delicious and much less expensive.
“Pears should have an indentation when you squeeze them,” says Viedt. “I like them crisper. But a little blemishing is okay because it means they are ripening and getting sweeter.”
“Butternut squash should be firm, completely smooth and not bruised,” Luck says, “with a deep tan color all the way through. While acorn squash should be a nice green with a bit of red.”
“Look for raspberries that are plump, not mushy,” Luck says, “with firm, clean kernels.”
3. Know what produce is in season now then use it in order to get the best taste and price.
For a complete Colorado Crop Calendar from May to November go to http://www.9news.com/advertorial/coproud/2012/crop.asp