Saturday mornings in Socorro’s historic Kittrell Park are a swarm of activity. The growers’ market is teeming with fresh, late summer produce, goats’ milk soaps, baked goods and the biggest okra you’ve ever seen, and it’s all encircled by a big, buzzing mass of retail vendors–some junky, some treasure-filled. For a more relaxed but still produce-packed market, hit the park up on Tuesdays from 5 to 7 p.m. Read about they they do things down in Socorro in Ari LeVaux’s “Locovore Market Report: Socorro.”
Growers’ markets have an oasis-like feeling to them. They’re sanctuaries of foliage, magnets for cool people and hives of activity. That effect is heightened in Socorro, where the surrounding landscape is sculpted by hot wind and sunshine. In the town’s charming plaza, cool green grass is shaded by immense cottonwood trees. On Saturdays, when the market is in full swing, it feels like a festival—or a barter fair.
Start Labor Day Weekend with an insanely juicy peach. From 4 to 7 p.m., the Bernalillo Farmer’s Market (held at Our Lady of Sorrows Church, 301 Camino del Pueblo, Bernalillo) is selling several varieties of Pueblo chiles (with free roasting, of course) melons and fruit pies; tamales and burritos; okra, garlic and cool heirloom tomatoes; and bushels of Montoya Farms’ deliciously messy peaches. Read all about it in Ari LeVaux's Locovore Market Report: Bernalillo.
Each time I show up at a growers' market, it’s like coming home. Even if it's one I've never visited. As soon as it comes into view, I feel like I already know the people I'm about to meet, like I've slipped into a recurring dream that’s always different yet familiar. That’s why if, during the next few weeks, you don’t find yourself reading about too many restaurants in this space, I hope you understand. I haven’t been eating at restaurants much. Instead I’ve been haunting the markets, bringing home the goodness and cooking it into 10,000 permutations of green chile, corn, calabacitas, garlic and meat, and washing it down with melon juice.
Ten miles north from Bernalillo, right by theexit ramp for the San Felipe truck stop and casino, the San Felipe market convenes on Wednesday evenings. The vibe is funky, jovial, relaxed and no-nonsense, with a slightly lawless feeling: Some vendors drive into the market while it’s going full-swing to set up their booths. It’s also a reminder of what an amazing melting pot New Mexico is.
Only about eight booths long, the Cuba Farmers’ Market has a big heart. And since there’s not always enough booty to go around, getting there early is recommended. Cuba is a hub for a large, beautiful and funky area. The market is a distillation of the surrounding mountains, canyons, valley and scrubland, and it foments a sense of community that’s been waiting to happen. Locals are “over the moon about it,” says Shari Smoker of the UNM Prevention Research Center, which helped create the market last year. “They just love it so much. It’s giving people a place to have a sense of community and talk to their neighbors and get to know their growers.”
Throughout the growing season, New Mexico is home to fresh food markets every day of the week. You can follow the progression of summer by watching the diversity of produce unfold like a kaleidoscope on vendors’ tables. And you can travel to markets around the state and marvel at the differences that elevation and latitude make in what can be grown.
Reviving an ancient farming tradition starts at home
By Ty Bannerman
Sarah Montgomery holds an ear of corn in each hand.
"These look like two ears of white corn to most people," she says. "But they're totally different."
Montgomery is the founder and director of The Garden’s Edge, a nonprofit that promotes sustainable agriculture within the state and in Guatemala. A central piece of that puzzle is preserving an ancient farming technique that's endangered: seed saving.
The corn in her left hand is Hopi, she explains, a dry land variety from New Mexico. "Farmers plant it far underground to get the moisture, and the seed is adapted to getting rained on only a few times a year." The other ear is Guatemalan. It's the Hopi corn's opposite, she explains, which is eager to soak up tropical rains and moisture. "Each one is adapted to its particular bioregion."