Los Ranchos rises early
I love the change of seasons in New Mexico, however weirdly they manifest. I admit a preference to spring and fall—perhaps a throwback to my family’s agricultural roots with planting and harvesting. Now that spring is upon us, I’m gathering up recycled shopping bags, empty egg cartons and pocketfuls of small change. Then I’ll be driving up Rio Grande Boulevard to Los Ranchos Growers’ Market.
The powerhouse behind this popular marketplace is Sue Brawley who, with her husband Joe, has been managing and promoting the venue for 13 years. The Brawleys settled in Los Ranchos in 1998 and established the firm of Brawley and Co., with a focus on architecture, planning and market gardening.
They thrive on the gardening, growing and selling a variety of produce on a small scale including elephant garlic, music garlic (a spicy variety that lends itself to roasting), tomatoes, basil, lavender, apples and long beans (ready in June and July).
Los Ranchos Market has the longest selling season in the Albuquerque area and is second only to the Downtown market in size, boasting nearly 50 vendors each time. Brawley tells me that many of the vendors take advantage of row cover to extend their growing season. The market is open once a month on the second Saturday from December through April, and it begins a weekly schedule the first Saturday in May through mid-
This early in the season, food vendors offer a bounty of fresh herbs, root veggies, pecans, salad mix, stir-fry greens, arugula, cress, collards, chard, spinach, micro greens, peas, sorrel and mushrooms. If you want breakfast on the move, the burrito lady will be happy to accommodate with an array of goodies. Look for Hand To Mouth Foods’ hand-crafted pastries and produce, Los Osos Honey, Little Ranch Creamery, Nancy's jams and jellies, Lusty Monk Mustard, Cravin' Cookies, South Mountain Dairy, and Duke's raspberry products and plant starts.
Brawley encourages growers to sell their wares no matter how small their harvest. “If they have a head of lettuce, we’ll help them get started at the market,” she says.
There’s a lot more than food. New Mexico artists sell lotions and candles; jewelry; soaps; knitted, tie-dyed or embroidered clothing; art made from recycled materials; traditional tinwork; pottery; tiles; carved gourds; stained glass; and watercolors. Music by local groups provides the atmosphere, and seasonal activities such as hayrides make the market a family outing.
Brawley shares a fellow gardener’s recipe for garlic scapes that is reminiscent of a Spanish recipe for seasonal scallions or leeks. The scapes are tossed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, grilled, and served with lemon juice and pecorino cheese. My mouth is watering. Fresh market produce shines in a recipe like this one. I can’t wait to get my hands on some greens, goat cheese and a fresh-baked galette to tide me over.