On Saturdays for the past ten weeks or so, I’ve worked at the Drake Road Farmer’s Market in Fort Collins, Colorado selling locally grown organic vegetables and fruits to eager market-goers. It’s been a blast and an incredible experience. That is why when Steve Maitland, the farmer at Fossil Creek Farm, asked me several months ago if I could help him out at the Saturday market, I jumped at the opportunity.
Teaching people about how food is grown (especially fresh vegetables), where it comes from, what to look for, and how to prepare it at home has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Even as a Fort Collins Nutritionist though, nothing could have prepared me for my encounter on Saturday!
I was busy arranging, tallying, and chatting when a little girl about 4 years old saw the big beautiful bunches of carrots we were selling and approached me and matter-of-factly said “Excuse me. We are looking carrots today, but carrots are supposed to be orange.” I cracked up– couldn’t help it!
One of the most amazing things about organic vegetable farming or small to medium-scale vegetable growing in general is that the farmer gets to decide what he/she will grow. Steve at Fossil Creek Farm happens to like growing heirloom vegetables that surprise and excite people about eating veggies. Here are just a few examples:
- Heirloom carrots that are multicolored and usually yellow or orange when you cut them
- Graffiti cauliflower that is bright purple (no we didn’t spray paint it, it grows that way!) **See the graffiti cauliflower coconut curry I made on the right**
- Cheddar cauliflower that is bright orange
- Dragon beans (purple and green striped beans)
- Giant yellow and orange swirled heirloom tomatoes
- Purple potatoes (yes, the centers are purple)
Heirloom varieties are plants, vegetables, or seeds that were typically grown in home or community gardens prior to the explosion of mono-culture agriculture in the 1950’s. Heirlooms have evolved and adapted over time and to their environment. For example, heirlooms are often grown in specific regions due to their adapted drought-resistance, heat or cold tolerance, or other helpful characteristics. They are not genetically modified or altered in any way. . . they evolve over time with respect to what people like and what people plant.
Heirlooms may or may not be available near you but one thing is for sure, you won’t find them at the grocery store! Check out Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) opportunities for next year’s Spring and Fall season now if you are interested or go to your local farmer’s market. Many are winding down for the season now, but if they are open, keep your eyes open for some really cool fresh vegetables and fruits that haven’t tried. And you know. . . it’s okay to play with your food!