By Kristin Owens

It’s the season for shopping center parking lots filled to the brim with muddy farm trucks and pop-up canopies. NOCO boasts over 10 farmers’ markets running from May to October, and they are never boring—each week brings a new bounty of surprises. We visited a few and got the low-down on what’s fresh and how to prepare these healthy options.

Peppers

Green, yellow, orange or red; peppers have so many uses. Cut and use in a salad. Slice and eat raw with a dip. Or grill on skewers; the skins caramelize and provide a colorful addition to the plate. Add burgers or BBQ chicken and the entire meal can be cooked at once. Pro tip: If stuffing, use the male peppers. They have four nubs on the bottom which provide a sturdier base. They’re also sweeter, says Marvin from Miller Farms out of Platteville.

Broccoli

Anna Simpson from Eden Valley Farms says keep it simple. Cut off the florets and steam for a few minutes with a little water and salt. You can add slivered almonds for a little crunch. They’re also great in a stir fry, just add them last so they hold their shape and don’t get soggy. And for those who like to store ahead for winter, pop them in a quart-size bag and freeze; they’ll last for six months.

Brussels Sprouts

Who knew they could be so delicious? Fort Collins shopper Roscoe Cummins says he used to hate them as a kid, but now he can’t get enough of them. It’s all about how to prepare them. Boiling makes them mushy. He suggests pan frying them until they’re crispy on the outside and sweet on the inside. They’re ideal as a side dish or simply add to a bowl of Jasmine rice for a main course. Made a few too many? They reheat well in the microwave.

Zucchini

If you’ve ever had a home garden, you know this vegetable just keeps multiplying. Instead of trying to pawn off an overabundance of zucchini to the neighbors, just buy one at the market. Peel and slice for salads. Use a julienne peeler or mandoline and make zucchini pasta or ‘zoodles,’ a great carb-free, gluten-free option. If prep time’s an issue, simply sauté on the stove with a little garlic.