Sunday, July 20th: Melons, More Corn, Heirloom Tomatoes, Nectarcots & More!

Yellow Doll watermelons from Lyall Farms. Photo copyright 2011 by Zachary D. Lyons. Just when you thought this summer couldn’t get any more amazing, Lyall Farms brings the first melons of the season to your Ballard Farmers Market! These are Yellow Doll watermelons, and this is the earliest we’ve ever seen them here, by more than two full weeks. Wow. They also have more traditional red watermelons, sweet, juicy and ripe, and ready for you to devour.

Tomatoes from One Leaf Farm. Photo copyright 2014 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Woohoo! The tomatoes from One Leaf Farm are coming in early, and with a vengeance! Four varieties so far, and more to come. Besides the sungold and heirloom cherries, above left, they’ve got Black Krim and Paul Robeson, above right. They are so ripe and juicy and delicious. While I’ve been devouring sungolds straight out of the container and in salads for a week now, last Thursday, I enjoyed some of the Black Krims simply with some salt and some mayo. Not highbrow, just classic.

Organic sweet corn from Alvarez Organic Farms. Photo copyright 2014 by Zachary D. Lyons.

More sweet corn has arrived this week. This is certified organic sweet corn from Alvarez Organic Farms, and because I care, I have already done some serious quality control testing on it, and I can assure you, it is awesome!

Here is a tip for chosing corn: instead of pulling open the top to see if it is filled out, simply run your thumb over the outside of the husk. You can easily feel the mature kernels inside. See, when you actually tear the corn open, you are actually ruining it either for yourself or the next person, because the minute you do that, all the delicious sugars in it that make it so sweet begin to turn to starch. So please, never tear open the husk to examine it before you buy it. If you need help choosing the best ears, just ask. Our farmers are more than happy to lend you a hand.

Nectarcots from Collins Family Orchards. Photo copyright 2012 by Zachary D. Lyons.

These are nectarcots, from Collins Family Orchards, and as the name suggests, they are a cross betwixt nectarines and apricots. And of all the various stone fruit hybrids, I’d say these guys might be the most difficult to pick out their genetic lineage without us telling you. They kinda look like a yellow-orange plum, and they taste super sweet and are super juicy. They don’t have the fuzzy exterior of the apricot, or its deep flavor, and they don’t have that texture that nectarines have. It is as if somehow, someone was able to cross them and get them to contribute their best flavor notes while giving them the texture of a plum and the sturdiness of a pluot. Bottom line is, they are amazing, but they’re only around for a few weeks, so don’t you dare miss them!

Baby summer squash from Growing Things Farm. Photo copyright 2014 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Every summer, Growing Things Farm brings the most beautiful summer squash to your Ballard Farmers Market. In fact, they size it for you, so that it is easy for you to pick out the perfect sized squash for your plans. Like these baby summer squash that are perfect for a quick sauté or grilling.

Spartans blueberries from Whitehorse Meadows Blueberry Farm. Photo copyright 2014 by Zachary D. Lyons.

We welcome the return of Whitehorse Meadows Blueberry Farm from northern Snohomish County today. They grow some extraordinary organic blueberries, including these SpartansJerseys and Rubels, a close cousin to the wild mountain blueberries on Northern New England and Maritime Canada. Whitehorse Meadows is actually located several miles east of Oso, on the far side of the slide zone on SR 530, which recently reopened. We imagine they’ll be thrilled to be able to get out and see us again, so let’s give them a big welcome back today!

Sweet onions from Stoney Plains Organic Farm. Photo copyright 2014 by Zachary D. Lyons.

It has been a bit of a tough year for sweet onions so far -- kinda surprising given how good it's been for just about everything else. But we finally have some seasoned sweet onions for you at your Ballard Farmers Market. These are from Stoney Plains Organic Farm. These sweet onions are from Walla Walla sweet onion seed, but we call them "sweet onions," without adding "Walla Walla" in front, because the name, "Walla Walla sweet onion," is protected by a federal USDA Marketing Order, only to be used for onions grown within a 50-mile radius around Walla Walla. Still, these are plenty sweet.

Flavor Supreme pluots from Tiny's Organic. Photo copyright 2014 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Here’s another of those cool hybrid stone fruits: Flavor Supreme pluots from Tiny’s Organic. Remember, pluots are genetically 70% plum and 30% apricot, but they definitely favor plums in structure and appearance… well, except that pluots come in an extraordinary diversity of colors, flavors and sizes. For instance, Flavor Supremes have a greenish-red skin, but a deep red flesh (see above). And they are fantastic. Enjoy!

Pink turnips from Boistfort Valley Farm. Photo copyright 2014 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Gorgeous pink turnips from Boistfort Valley Farm are a close cousin to some of the other Asian turnip varieties we see here at your Ballard Farmers Market, only these guys are just a bit more flamboyant. And they taste good, too!

All beef hot dogs from Skagit River Ranch. Photo copyright 2013 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Do you have a hankering for a good all-beef hot dog, but you fear what's in it, where it was made and how the animals used in it were treated? Well, be afraid no more! These uncured beef franks are from Skagit River Ranch. That means the cattle were grass-fed on lush pastures, treated well, raised organically, and processed with respect. It also means that they are delicious!

Chinese spinach from Children's Garden. Photo copyright 2011 by Zachary D. Lyons.

You may have heard me refer to Treviso radicchio as the second most beautiful vegetable on earth and wondered to yourself, "what is the most beautiful vegetable on earth, then?" This is! Meet Chinese spinach from Children's Garden. It is only grown by two farms at your Ballard Farmers Market, both Hmong, and the last two summers have been kind of hostile to it, so we haven't really seen much of it since 2011. It can be simply sautéed with some garlic. Or you can just invite your friends over to sit and look at it.

Cauliflower from Summer Run Farm. Photo copyright 2011 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Your Ballard Farmers Market is loaded with lots of heirloom and exotic crops grown by adventurous farmers. But what Summer Run Farm specializes in is growing lovely organic produce standards -- the stuff you could find at the Big Box store, but that would pale by comparison to Summer Run's. Like this cauliflower. Sweet and crunchy, and wonderful roasted, made into soup, dipped in hummus or cocktail sauce, or however you enjoy it best.

Slicing cucumbers from Alm Hill Gardens. Photo copyright 2014 by Zachary D. Lyons.

There’s nothing like a cucumber to cool you off during the hot days of summer, a phrase we don’t get to say too often. But this year is one for the record books, so let’s get our cucumber salads on, people. Let’s crank out some cucumber sandwiches. Let’s add it to our ice water and make cocktails and gazpacho out of it. They babies are from Alm Hill Gardens. Pick some up today at your Ballard Farmers Market!

Bell peppers from Colinwood Farm. Photo copyright 2014 by Zachary D. Lyons.

These bell peppers from Colinwood Farm are so fragrant that they seem to steal the show for your olfactory glands as you examine the farm's tables. Pep up your salads, stuff some, or throw them on the barby. This is going to be a phenomenal year for peppers!

Artisan breads from Tall Grass Bakery. Photo copyright 2013 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Don’t forget to grab a loaf or two of artisan bread from Tall Grass Bakery today. They have a wonderful selection, from deep, dark pumpernickel, to chewy, moist Baker Street sourdough, to earthy, sweet oat and honey and challah that will complete your sabbath meal or make for amazing French toast on Saturday morning.

Spicy whole dill pickles from Purdy Pickle. Photo copyright 2014 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Let's finish off this week's epistle with this brand-spanking-new release of spicy whole dill pickles from Purdy Pickle. You can't get these year-round from Purdy, because they are using local ingredients when they are at their peak of freshness. And that means, when they run out, they run out. Lucky for us, this is a very early year for local pickling cukes, so Purdy should be able to put up quite a few jar. But don't let that cause you to hesitate. Get your pickle on now!

There is plenty more local deliciousness waiting for you today at your Ballard Farmers Market. Just check What’s Fresh Now! for a more complete accounting of what is in season right now.