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Finally - farmers' market is back! 

Is there anything more appealing than a bowl of Colorado-grown cherries, warmed by the sun, brought home from the farmers market and left on the kitchen table for grazing? Maybe a bowl of buttery soft peaches, later in the summer, or pears in the early fall.

Farmers' market season is here -- three months of fresh produce, grown nearby, not shipped thousands of miles in refrigerated trucks from Lord-knows-where. In Colorado Springs, we're blessed with a great market, recognized in passing in Deborah Madison's new cookbook, Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets (Broadway Books: New York; $39.95/hardcover).

Madison, one of the most important cookbook writers of her generation, is the author of the now classic Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, the book that proved once and for all that you don't have to be Alice Waters, living in Berkeley, to prepare vegetarian dishes with full flavor, imagination and flair. On Saturday, she'll sign her newest book in Colorado Springs.

In Local Flavors, Madison takes us to farmers' markets across America, from Santa Fe, where she lives, to Atlanta. Madison talks with farmers, gives shopping tips and offers a bundle of fabulous recipes, breaking the chapters down by food types (i.e.: Greens Wild and Domestic; Vining Fruits and Vegetables; Stone Fruits: The Warm Heart of Summer).

Colorado Springs' market is mentioned in her recipe for Pear Upside-Down Spice Cake in Molasses Cream. Specialty foods like the molasses she found at the Springs market, home-brewed wine vinegars and hand-crafted goat cheeses receive attention in the book as well, reminding us of the possibilities for discovering new foods and stretching our tastebuds when we shop at the farmers' market.

More importantly, Madison reminds us that shopping at the farmers' market is one of the best ways to actively support local agriculture, a pure and diverse food supply and a threatened way of life. Farmers' markets, says Madison, enrich a community and deserve our whole-hearted support.

-- Kathryn Eastburn

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