Farmers’ markets are a great place to find new ingredients. Photograph by Douglas Merriam.
OVER THE PAST YEAR, many of us have found ways to get closer to our food, including at the excellent farmers’ markets throughout the state. But even the most ardent foodie has spied an unfamiliar ingredient and frozen. What is that? You can either move on or—and we highly recommend this option—take a brave step forward, smile, and ask, “What can I make?”
Founded on a 19th-century farm in the Pojoaque Valley, Avery’s Farm grows a variety of organic fruits, herbs, and shallots. But husband-and-wife owners and Santa Fe Farmers’ Market regulars Gloria Coequyt and Christopher Selser specialize in heirloom garlic. They use hard- and soft-necked varieties to make black garlic by subjecting the bulbs to low heat for several weeks in a special processor. With a more delicate fragrance than regular garlic, the sticky date-like cloves impart a hint of umami and soft molasses-like flavor to pastas, roast chicken, or mashed potatoes.
Also known as sunchokes or sunroots, Jerusalem artichokes stump even some seasoned chefs. A species of sunflower whose roots look like oversize ginger, they can be a great low-carb potato alternative. “I love their crunchiness,” says Jennifer Fresquez, president of Monte Vista Organic Farm, in La Mesilla. The second-generation farm, with a booth at the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market, grows 80 varieties of tomatoes, heirloom corn, and the knobby tubers among its crops. Try them raw in salads or “roasted like potatoes in olive oil until crispy on the outside and softened on the inside, with a mild taste of artichokes.”
Monroe Seibel became fascinated with gourds while serving in the Navy throughout Southeast Asia and the Philippines. When he retired, Seibel began growing and selling Chinese water spinach, calabaza squash, bitter melon, and other gourds at the Farmers & Crafts Market of Las Cruces. Although the thin, pickle-like bitter melon has a unique texture and taste, it’s one of Seibel’s favorites. “Just peel it, cut it in half, scrape out the seeds, and sauté it with chicken, garlic, and onions, then serve over rice,” he says.