Local produce arrives ahead of schedule

For anyone dedicated to buying fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables, you’ve probably noticed something strange at the farmers market or fruit stand. That mid-summer delight, the Palisade peach, is here already. So are Colorado cherries. Corn and tomatoes will arrive this week. Asparagus is long gone.

So what’s going on?

“Everything is early this year,” said Matt Hauser, who sells fresh fruit and vegetables from his family’s Palisade farm at the corner of Durango High School on Main Avenue. “Most of my produce is running three weeks to a month earlier than usual.”

It wasn’t just us who enjoyed those 70 degree days in March and the extremely warm spring that followed. Sweet peppers and watermelon are two weeks ahead of schedule, predicts Jennifer Wheeling of the Gardens at James Ranch, and tomato plants are blooming earlier than normal, too.

But what Mother Nature gives on the one hand, she can take away with the other. Crops that don’t like a lot of heat are folding their tents early – so no more rhubarb, spinach is getting finicky and sugar snap peas are decidedly unhappy.

“My peas are late because of the heat,” she said. “I thought I’d have them two weeks ago. My customers think I’m holding out on them.”

The key to buying seasonal, fresh and local during this heat-stricken summer? Get it while the going is good.

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