If you go
What: Boulder County Farmers Markets sixth annual CSA Fair
When: 5 p.m. Feb. 25
Where: Sanitas Brewing Co., 3550 Frontier Ave., Boulder
More info: bit.ly/BCFMCSAFair
Meals don't need to be dictated by a growing season in order for people to utilize local products. While some off-season steps take pre-planning and preparation, others can be more impromptu.
First, let's define local: Some equate local by mileage, some by the percentage of local ingredients in a product and others define it by whether is was produced in Colorado. The Boulder County Farmers Markets pros like to see a mix of all of the above.
Overall, the goal of buying local is keep to Colorado agriculture supported and robust. This means buying directly from local farmers and ranchers — or at least knowing the sources you buy from.
Persevere with preserving
If you missed the boat for saving and storing produce from last season's harvests, now is the time to plan ahead so that ship doesn't sail again.
What is it you are you missing and craving from the growing season right now? Asparagus, peaches, green beans, corn, tomatoes? No problem. Pickling, freezing, drying and canning are great ways to preserve local crops. First, identify the season your favorite items grow, then figure out how you want to preserve them, and lastly secure the materials you'll need.
For example, sweet corn is a summertime essential, but the ones in the reserves will come in handy if you want to make a winter shepherd's pie. For freezing these delightful kernels, you'll need to take into account the quantity you'll want to preserve. Blanch the ears for 2-3 minutes, remove them from the cob and put the kernels into airtight bags. Single-serve portions are suggested, so you can break into them periodically.
Having these plans ahead of time will help set you up for success.
Buy Colorado goods
Colorado is lucky to have a wonderful, burgeoning natural foods industry — and many businesses care about sourcing locally. This gives buyers options to spice up dishes with fermented hot sauces that are made with local peppers (Picaflor), or to boil pasta that's been hand-rolled in Denver (Pappardelle's Pasta), and to drink up fruit-infused kombucha (Happy Leaf).
Take the extra step in learning the ingredients local brands use; They'll do some of the preserving work for you, and you can enjoy the benefits. Check out bcfm.org/vendors for local farmers and businesses to try out while you await the local farmers markets' season kick-off in April.
Many local brands can be found at grocery and neighborhood stores. Lucky's Market, King Soopers, Niwot Market or Marczyk Fine Foods are great places to start.
Sign up for a CSA
While the benefits of Community Supported Agriculture won't sprout until May, you'll be assured knowing that your pantry will have fresh, local produce for weeks after. CSAs help to get farms up and running for the season and there's no better way to support local farmers' hard work than to be a shareholder. Join Boulder County Farmers Markets at 5 p.m. Feb. 25 for its sixth annual CSA Fair at Sanitas Brewing Co., 3550 Frontier Ave., Boulder. The fair will feature more than 10 farmers and ranchers talking about CSA programs.
Local chefs are key supporters of Colorado agriculture and many of them frequent the farmers markets each week. Many of these chefs also level up on preserving so they can showcase and extend local goods throughout the winter months.
Wading through the restaurant scene can be daunting. Some restaurants claim they use locally sourced goods, and the growers end up finding their names on menu boards of restaurant's they've never heard of.
Here are some suggestions of restaurants that are true local sourcing mavens. Try out Seeds Library Cafe in the Boulder Public Library for lunch. (Disclaimer, BCFM is a managing partner of the cafe, but that's how we know they walk the walk all year round.) For dinner, Arcana on Walnut Street is a must-visit, as the restaurant features local meats on their winter menus as well as produce chefs have preserved from the growing season.
There are other restaurants truly committed to the mission of sourcing Colorado goods. Supporting the local food system supports the local economy. It keeps dollars circulating within the community, and in turn fosters a thriving one. Happy eating.