Sweet! Cherries come to the Boulder Farmers' Market -- with a bonus Potager recipe!
The Boulder Farmers' Market sees the first Colorado cherries on Saturday. The strawberries are gone for now, though we'll eventually get a second flush (and I discover some later that day at the new market in Louisville just down the road); we're unlikely to have any Colorado apricots this year; and we've also heard the cherry crop is sparse. But here they are, at the First Fruits stand, and farmer John Ellis also has some from his Orchard Durazno. The cherries are a little tart but fresh and sweet -- and they'll get sweeter as time passes and later varieties kick in.
Kristen and Casey at the Kropp family's First Fruits stand.
See also: Teri Rippeto shops for Potager at the Boulder Farmers' Market
I've bottled cherries before with brandy and spices like cardamom and star anise, but pretty much all I do with fresh ones is eat them out of hand or make pies or jam. I run into Teri Rippeto, owner of Potager and a chef who's so devoted to fresh, local food and working with farmers that she almost always comes to this market, and I ask what she plans to do with her cherries. She describes her version of a caprese salad -- you know, that ever-popular mini-tower of mozarella slices, basil leaves and fresh tomatoes.
Teri Rippeto with Wyatt Barnes of Red Wagon at the Boulder Farmers' Market last year.
Rippeto alternates slices of mozzarella or -- even better, if you get your hands on it -- burrata with pitted cherries and roughly torn basil leaves, then adds a drop -- "And I do mean a drop, or at least very, very little," she says -- of balsamic vinegar, followed by a dash of extra-virgin olive oil. She seasons with salt and pepper and tops with cracked toasted almonds.
I buy five pounds of cherries -- you really have to load up on the first picking -- from Kristen Kropp at First Fruits. Located in Paonia, First Fruits was founded by two brothers, Kris and Kevin Kropp, who grow several varieties of peaches, nectarines, pears and apples. Kristen is Kris's daughter; beside her at the stand is Kevin's son, Casey. I've been reading that agriculture is in trouble because so many young people are leaving family farms, so I'm curious about Kristen's feelings growing up in a farming family.
Kristen loved it, she tells me. The business was started in 1987; the brothers had been helping with a small orchard owned by her grandparents. "That's where we grew up, all my cousins," she says. "My mother home-schooled all of us -- there are five kids in my family, four in my uncle's. I don't remember ever being bored or lonely. It's a big, agricultural community and we had lots of friends. We ate tons of fruit. Our friends always wanted to come over so they could go into the orchards and pick fruit.
"My dad had us helping him when we were small -- though I don't know how much help we actually were. Mostly we were being kids. But we were surrounded by the seasonality and the cycles of farming, and you come to understand them. You understand that the time to get ready to go is the spring, summer and fall are crazy, winter is recuperation time."
Keep reading for more on First Fruits.