Photo: Ajna Jai / Contributor
Sitting in a nondescript back corner of the Urban Harvest farmers market every Saturday morning in Houston is a disparate farmers collective named Houston Regional Growers. They are mostly home gardeners with small quantities but who sell some of the most beautiful hand-grown produce you will find in town.
For years, I walked past these farmers, but during the initial part of the pandemic when my restaurant’s quantities tanked, I began to supplement vegetables from some of them.
It was Armando Bustamante, whose kale helped boost our saag, who sold the most flavorful amaranth leaves and persuaded me to cook with hoja santa leaves. He was a Whole Foods Market produce buyer in his previous life and now enjoys the simple pleasures of home gardening in the Heights. Next to Armando is Eli, who grows peppers, eggplants and unusual greens native to his home country, Congo. On the other side is Chris, who sells citrus varieties native to China. John in the corner is usually seated with a book and has leeks and beautiful tiny Brussels sprouts. I picked up this beautiful little romanesco on Eli’s table, but feel free to substitute with broccoli or cauliflower.
Supporting local farmers is not only important to our economy, it’s just as vital to our health. For the next few weeks, brassicas including cabbages, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower with high doses of vitamins A and C, carotenoids and antioxidants will fill the market stands. If you want to get in on them, take my advice and get there early.