3 Ways to Enjoy Local, Seasonal Arizona Summer Produce
The Farm at South Mountain, in Phoenix
We hear it all the time: Eat locally, support your local farmers, and “eat with the season.” Why is this important, and how can we do it? We have so many options in the Valley of the Sun: farmers’ markets, farms, CSAs (community-supported agriculture programs), home gardens, and community gardens. Enjoy local produce in a way that works best for you: shop at farmers’ markets, go directly to farmers, or grow your own.
Shop at Farmers’ Markets
Over the past decade, the number of farmers’ markets has grown tremendously in the Phoenix area, with weekend markets across the Valley in many communities. People often ask, “Which are the best farmers’ markets?” The best is the one that works for you. Is it convenient? Is it close to home? Does it fit within your weekend rhythm? Are your favorite farmers and vendors there? We are fortunate that many local farmers sell their produce at several different markets, which is convenient. Check out a few markets, get to know the farmers, and enjoy these markets and fresh, delicious Arizona produce with your friends, family and community.
Go Directly to Farmers
Visit a Farm. Many of our local farmers host open house farm tours, offer cooking events, and even sell their produce in small shops, often with the honor system, so you can stop by and purchase fresh veggies and fruit any time of the day or week. When we visit farms, we get to know farmers as people—hard-working and passionate—who are so dedicated to grow and harvest beautiful food for our communities. We also gain firsthand appreciation of the food we’ll be enjoying cooking and eating. As an added bonus, visiting a farm may become part of a self-care routine to slow down and enjoy nature.
Buy a CSA Share. To support local farmers, we can purchase a CSA share at the beginning of each growing season. CSAs often run for eight, 12 or more weeks, at $25-$30 per week, paid in full at the beginning of the season, financially supporting local farmers who are often small business entrepreneurs. With a CSA share, it’s fun to experiment with different farmers and receive foods growing that week. Many farmers pride themselves on growing unique, specialized produce for us to experiment with in the kitchen. This is really “eating with the season,” and provides the opportunity to cook with exactly what’s growing and ready to be harvested each week; it also brings us close to our farmers and our land.
Grow Your Own
Growing your own is so much fun and can be part of a self-care routine. Grow your own right at home, or for a community experience, join a community garden, where you rent a small plot (e.g., 10 by 10 feet or 20 by 20 feet) and grow with your local neighborhood friends. Community gardens are so inspirational because you can see, learn and be motivated by what others are growing.
Three Arizona Farm-to-Table Plant-Based Summer Recipes
Our simple summer plant-based recipes showcase what’s growing locally in Phoenix this season. The produce is very hydrating and in sync with our hot summers, where our bodies naturally need more hydration. Think tomatoes, zucchini and other types of summer squash, tomatillos, peppers and melons.
To create the recipes, the author met with local Arizona lead grower Billy Anthony at the Soil & Seed Garden at The Farm at South Mountain, in Phoenix. They carefully walked through the garden, got close to the food, and together determined produce to harvest to intuitively create these fresh summertime recipes.
Enjoy these tomato recipes with a wide variety of heirloom tomatoes grown by local farmers, such as Ceylon, Blush, Indigo Rose, White Cherry, Yellow Pear, Gold Nugget, White Currant, and Cream Sausage. Mix and match the tomatoes in the three simple, fresh farm-to-table dishes. Experiment with a variety of fresh farmers’ herbs—basil, oregano, lemon thyme and lemon verbena—and all kinds of mint: sweet mint, spearmint, orange, or even pineapple mint.
Summer Heirloom Tomato Salsa
Enjoy refreshing raw chunky salsa with the bounty of local farmers’ heirloom tomatoes. To create a beautiful salsa, choose a few varieties and colors of your favorite tomatoes. Add a few cucumbers, such as Armenian, Persian or lemon. For extra flavor, add peppers, aromatics (onions, garlic) and fresh herbs for a tasty, refreshing local salsa.
Yields: 4 servings
8-10 small-sized heirloom tomatoes, rough chopped (3 cups)
2-3 medium cucumbers, rough chopped (2 cups)
2-3 medium peppers, rough chopped (1 cup)
3-4 green onions, rough chopped (1 cup)
4 garlic bulbs, minced
½ cup fresh herbs (spearmint, sweet mint, orange mint), rough chopped
½ cup fresh lime juice
Pinch sea salt
Garnish: herbs, edible flowers
- Rough chop all veggies.
- Place all ingredients in a large bowl.
- Mix well with hands. Massage the tomatoes to release some juice.
- Season with sea salt to suit your taste.
- Garnish with edible flowers and herbs.
- Enjoy as a side dish.
- Refrigerate leftover salsa and enjoy the next day.
Roasted Arizona Farm-to-Table Summer Veggies. Arizona Summer Herb Pesto
Enjoy roasted summer veggies with fresh farm-to-table pesto at your summer cookouts. Pair a few in-season local farmers’ veggies with the freshness of the pesto for a special summer dish that embraces local produce.
Roast or grill your summer favorites—tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, peaches and even zucchini with the blossoms—and add fresh herb pesto for a beautiful, tasty farm-to-table summer dish. The roasting or grilling caramelizes and brings out the sweet flavor of the veggies, while the pesto adds a cool, fresh contrast to the dish. Mix and match the herbs in your pesto based on what local farmers are growing.
Yields: 4 servings
Roasted or Grilled Veggies
4-5 medium heirloom tomatoes, sliced
4-5 tomatillos, sliced
2 peppers, sliced
4-5 small zucchini with blossoms, sliced
1 peach, sliced
4-5 green onions, sliced
5-6 garlic cloves, sliced
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
Pinch sea salt
- Preheat oven to 425° F.
- Chop all veggies.
- Place veggies one by one into a medium bowl.
- Thoroughly coat with olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.
- Place veggies and peach onto parchment paper-lined sheet pan, veggies and peach not touching.
- Roast or grill for 12 minutes.
- Flip veggies.
- Roast or grill for 12-15 minutes.
- Remove veggies from pan when cooked.
Arizona Summer Herb Pesto
2 cups fresh herbs (e.g., Genovese basil, oregano, lemon thyme)
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
Zest from one lemon
1 cup pecans, rough chopped
½ cup olive oil
Pinch sea salt
Garnish: fresh herbs and edible flowers
- Place herbs into a food processor.
- Pulse until rough chopped.
- Add garlic, lemon juice and lemon zest, and pulse a few more times until combined.
- Add pecans and pulse to mix.
- Stream in olive oil while pulsing.
- Taste and add sea salt to suit taste.
- Mindfully plate the veggies and pesto.
- Garnish with fresh herbs and edible flowers.
Raw Zucchini. Raw Red Tomato Sauce
Inspired by two of Arizona’s bountiful summer crops, zucchini and tomatoes, this quick, refreshing recipe makes a delicious lunch or dinner side dish.
Yields: 2 servings
1 medium zucchini, spiralized
6-7 red heirloom tomatoes, rough chopped (1½ cups)
⅓ cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in water 1 hour, then drained and rough chopped
1 small pepper (corno di toro), rough chopped
3-4 green onions, minced (½ cup)
Pinch sea salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
Garnish: edible flowers
- Spiralize zucchini with spiralizer.
- Pour all other ingredients into a food processor and pulse a few times to desired chunkiness.
- Toss ¾ of the red sauce with the zucchini.
- Plate with extra red sauce, small tomatoes, fresh herbs, and edible flowers.
Melanie Albert, founder and CEO of Experience Nutrition Group LLC, in Phoenix, is the author of the award-winning cookbook A New View of Healthy Eating and plant-based recipe blog at ExperienceNutrition.com, and offers cooking events, team-building events, corporate wellness programs, and retreats. Recipes and photos courtesy of Albert. For more information, visit ExperienceNutrition.com.