The secret to a great salad? “Always use the freshest local ingredients you can get,” says FARMesilla co-owner Shawna Runyan. Come spring, this delightful shop right on
Avenida de Mesilla is an ideal spot to pop in and grab some fresh produce, including many different varieties of lettuce, radishes, carrots, and heirloom tomatoes. “We’ll also bring in local apples from Mayhill. Last year, we had people from the community bring in Asian pears. We have a huge variety of stuff for making fresh salads,” Shawna adds. When picking lettuce, Shawna says to look for a nice, tight, heavy head with a vibrant color.
Lan Stong of Stong Farms in Deming concurs that the weight of a head of lettuce will play into the quality. Stong Farms produce can be found at Toucan Market, Mountain View Market Co+Op, and the Preferred Produce booth at the Farmers and Crafts Market of Las Cruces. When selecting romaine lettuce specifically, Lan recommends looking for dark green leaves with no visible damage or browning, and a heart that is pale yellow
or white. For small salad tomatoes, Lan prefers grapes tomatoes over cherry. “Grape tomatoes are more meaty and less acidic,
which is ideal for anyone who suffers from acid reflux,” she points out. “I like to cut them in half, baste them in some extra virgin olive oil,
and roast them in the oven at about 350 degrees until they’re nice and caramelized. You could throw them on a salad or toss them with pasta;
no sauce required.”
While you’re strolling the farmers’ market, you’ll also want to make a stop at the Animas Creek Farm booth where they sell pre-bagged
Salanova salad mixes. Farmer Ryan Gott explains that Salanova, which originated in Europe and has only been in the U.S. market for the past decade or so, has a longer shelf life, a more robust flavor, and a crunchier texture ideal for salads. You can also pick up other salad fixins at the Animas Creek booth, like bunches of carrots, spinach, arugula,
cucumbers, and, in late summer, melons.
To really make your salad special, draw inspiration from your favorite locally-owned restaurants; many offer up salads with distinct New Mexican flavors. At The Game, they top their salads with pecan-encrusted chicken strips. At the Pecan Grill, you can dress your salad with house-made green chile ranch. At Hacienda de Mesilla, Southwestern salad touches come in the form of roasted corn relish, cotija cheese, and chipotle Caesar dressing. If you like a little heat, throw some roasted green chile strips on your favorite salad or, as FARMesilla co-owner Arianna Swinson likes to do, sprinkle some of the green chile salt they sell in the store directly onto your creation. If you need some crunch, check out Legacy Pecans for a full array of our favorite local nut in flavors ranging from spicy to salty to sweet. You also can’t go wrong with New Mexico-made cheeses. Tucumcari Mountain
Cheese factory (available at FARMesilla and NM Vintage Wines) offers up a variety of options, from the classic mild cheddar to the intriguing green
When it’s time to dress your creation, stop into NM Vintage Market, located on the cornerof Avenida de Mesilla and Calle de Santiago. This fairly new addition to the Mesilla lineup offers only products made in-state, including a bottled salad dressing with cotija cheese made by the award-winning Paulita’s New Mexico. “One of the easiest ways to make ‘homemade’ dressing is with the Jillipepper Dress It! Salad Fixin packets,” explains NM Vintage Market owner Morgan Switzer-McGinley. “Just mix the seasoning packet with oil, white wine vinegar, and orange juice for a delicious salad dressing you won’t find on any store shelf.”