Top 5 Produce Picks in July

Corinne Garcia, Co-op Member Owner

July 19, 2016

‘Tis the season for local eating, as farmers’ markets and produce shelves are about to be bursting at the seams with locally-grown goodies. As the summer progresses, more local and regional produce is hitting the Community Food Co-op’s shelves.

Here, according to Co-op Produce Manager, Steve Fladhammer, are some of July’s best scores.

Flathead Cherries

“Flathead” is the region that these delicious cherry varieties come from — Vanns, Lamberts, Rainiers and Lapins, among others — around the Flathead Lake area in northwestern Montana. This region provides the perfect cherry-growing climate, with cold evenings and hot days, rocky, well-drained soil and glacier fed waters.

“They have a pretty good crop going this year, so we should have a good supply,” Steve says, explaining that he buys organic cherries for the Co-op from the Western Montana Growers Cooperative, which sources them from farmers all around the Flathead. “They’re a big draw, a really sweet red cherry that’s very popular around here.”

Twin Spring Peaches

For the most luscious, mouthwatering peaches of the season, Steve recommends scoring the ones he specifically orders from Twin Spring Farm in Rice, Washington. “We’ve been buying from this one orchard for many, many years; they are the best,” he says. He explains that the Twin Spring farmers pick them when they are perfectly ripe, whereas many others pick them when they are still fairly firm.

Once a peach is refrigerated, the ripening process stops and they may not be as sweet as they could be. “These farmers pick them ripe, ship them immediately, and we get them when they are perfect,” Steve adds. Grab some to devour, make pies and peach crisp with them, and freeze them when they become too ripe for use in smoothies.

Nasturtium Microgreens

If you’re a fan of those nutrient-packed baby greens, you’ve probably noticed that the Co-op typically stocks more common microgreen varieties from Gallatin Valley Botanical, Cloud Nine Farm and other local growers.

New this season, is Gallatin Valley Botanical’s Nasturtium microgreens, the small shoots from the Nasturtium, an edible flower. “They are very spicy, probably more spicy than a radish sprout,” Steve says. “They’re full of phytonutrients and just taste fantastic on a salad.”

Heirloom Tomatoes

These funky tomatoes are just starting to come in from Western Montana growers and local heirlooms should be on the shelves any day now, many from Alpine Organics in Three Forks along with other farms. These tomatoes come in a variety of shapes and colors, and are known for their sweet, juicy flavors. “A lot of the tomatoes we get for most of the year come from Mexico and California and are bred for shelf life,” Steve explains. “They may look beautiful but they may not have the best flavor.”

Heirloom tomatoes are the old fashioned ones that everyone grew years ago, he explains, and some are almost purple in color, yellow or brandy red, while others have green zebra stripes. “You get a variety of different sizes, that may be misshapen,” he says. “They’re not bred for looks or shelf life but you can’t beat the flavor.”

Local Bouquets

Add some color to your life, with a bouquet of locally grown, organic flowers, with varieties and colors shifting weekly as different types bloom. Most are coming from Three Hearts Farm and Strike Farms in Bozeman, with other farms bringing some in here and there.

“Right now, I have an abundance of local bouquets and the ones I’m getting are organic. That’s kind of unusual, because you’re probably not going to eat them but knowing they aren’t sprayed with a lot of stuff is nice,” Steve says.

Throughout the other times of the year, he gets flowers from a Spokane, Washington produce company that sources flowers from a number of farms. “I try to avoid the big commercial growers, so I don’t bring in the ones sprayed with a lot of stuff,” he says. “They are normally sustainably grown but the local ones we have right now are totally unsprayed, with no chemicals.”