Market happenings: Spice up your September by heading to Pepper Day this weekend at the Longmont Farmers Market. In addition to a pepper tasting and chef demo, there will be plenty of pepper-themed activities, including a pepper variety matching game and screenprinting pepper puns on tote bags. The first 50 people in line to screenprint will receive a free tote, after that, totes will cost $5. Be sure to stick around until the end of the market to see which winning farmer grew the tastiest pepper.

This weekend at the Boulder market will be the annual Boulder Valley School District Day at the Market, complete with a meet-and-greet for BVSD families and farmers who grow produce for the school district. There will be samples, facepainting, trivia with prizes and more. The first 100 students at the market will receive a free bag of fresh produce. Stop by the BVSD tent in the food court (on the southeast corner of the market, next to the Dushanbe Teahouse).

In season now: Patrons of the market can enjoy freshly harvested apples, basil, bell peppers, beets, cabbage, carrots, celery, cauliflower, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, green beans kale, lettuce, melon, mint, onions, peaches, peppers, plums, potatoes, radicchio, spicy greens, sweet corn, Swiss chard, summer squash and tomatoes. Also available is honey, baked goods, eggs, beef, lamb, goat, pork, chicken, cheeses, ferments, preserves and mushrooms.

Lots of this, please: From spicy to mild, red, green, yellow, purple and more, peppers are in season, making our tastebuds tingling and eyes overflowing with vibrancy.

The farmer says: Peter Piper picked a peck of … well you know the rest. If you’ve toured the local markets lately (which we know you do each week), you may have noticed the abundance of peppers available.

Very generally speaking, peppers can be split into two different categories — sweet and spicy. It’s so much more complicated than this, but we’ll keep the genuses and species out of the conversation.

Sweet peppers range from the classic bell, the pimento cherry and different Italian varieties, like Jimmy Nardello or pepperoncini. These types of peppers are good for roasting, stuffing, sauteing, or eating just plain raw.

Hot peppers, or chili peppers, are bred to pack a punch. The peppers are commonly measured by their number of heat units on the Scoville scale, which measures the concentration of capsaicinoids in the particular hot pepper.

Jeremy Marsh of Rocky Mountain Fresh grows ghost peppers, one of the hottest peppers in the world. Ghost peppers measure in more than a whopping 1 million Scoville units. (In comparison, a jalapeno’s Scoville heat units range from 3,500 to 8,000.)

“We don’t eat ghost peppers on their own,” said Marsh.  “I’ve only done just a slice. Otherwise, we mix them into a tomato-based hot sauce.”

If you’re new to hot peppers, like the ghost variety, and you’d like to try it out, Marsh suggests rubbing a slice of the pepper on an orange to sample the heat.

Marsh said he didn’t have a great pepper year due to the  chilly spring and late-cold May, but he said he will have mini-bells, shishitos, fresnos and a limited amount of ghost peppers available for Pepper Day this weekend in Longmont.

There will be no shortage of peppers at the market, where patrons can find a variety of different varieties from the following farms: Aspen Moon Farm, Black Cat Farm, Brown’s Farm, Cure Organic Farm, Ollin Farms, Miller Farms, Pope Produce and more. If you’re in Denver this weekend, head to our Union Station market downtown and check out Thistle Whistle Farm’s market stand for a wide range of unique pepper varieties grown on the farm along the Western Slope.

How to prepare:  Most of us know the process of deseeding and slicing out the ribs of peppers for salads or sautées. When preparing a hot pepper, remember to wash your hands thoroughly — and don’t rub your eyes (eek, it’ll burn). When roasting a full pepper, it only requires a hot flame, and you don’t even need a grill to do it. Just place the chili pepper over the flame and let it blacken for 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the pepper and roast it the same way on the other side. Note: Don’t allow the pepper to catch fire.

Goes with: Peppers pair well with beef, pork, melon, peaches, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet corn, chard, summer squash and goat cheese.

How to store it: Buy the peppers firm and store them in a plastic bag inside a vegetable drawer for up to five days. If you purchase the peppers in bulk during peak season, you can preserve your favorite varieties by freezing them, quick-pickling them or making a hot sauce or jam.

Good to know: This list represents a general overview of the week’s harvest, not every item that is being produced locally. Some farms do not grow or have ready some items on the list.

Boulder Farmers Market

13th Street and Canyon Boulevard

4-8 p.m. Wednesdays through Oct. 2

8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays through Nov. 23

Lafayette Farmers Market

400 Block of East Simpson Street

4-8 p.m. Thursdays through Sep. 26

Longmont Farmers Market

Boulder County Fairgrounds

8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays through Nov. 23

Union Station Farmers Market

Denver’s Union Station

9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays through Oct. 26

Roasted Pepper and Tomato Salad

3 sweet peppers

5 ripe tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes (Boulder company Picaflor’s is great)

1 red onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 lemon, grated rind and juice

Olive oil

Chopped parsley for garnish

Brown paper bag

Directions: Preheat oven to 420. Place peppers on a baking sheet and roast. Turn every few minutes, for about 10 minutes, until the skins blacken. Add tomatoes to baking sheet and roast for another 5 minutes.

Remove from oven, place peppers in a brown paper bag, and set aside until cool.  Allow tomatoes to cool, until they can be handled.

Remove the skins from the peppers, carefully, then remove the seeds. Chop peppers and tomatoes then place in a mixing bowl.

Add chili flakes, onion, garlic and lemon. Sprinkle parsley on top with a bit of salt. Drizzle with olive oil.

Serve at room temperature.

-Source: Chef Jodie Popma, Smart Food Made Simple,

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