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In Iowa, the Dog Days of Summer Mean Bountiful Farm Stands and Spicy Salsas

This is the time of year we flatlanders pine for the snows of January, when it's a full 100 degrees colder than it is right now, and all the humidity is frozen to our windshields. August in Iowa may be unbearable for humans, but vegetables love it -- the hot, sticky dog days bring us sweet corn (different from the "field" corn that feeds confined hogs and ethanol plants), hot peppers, and the very first tomatoes. At this time of the year in Iowa City, you can shop at farmers markets every day of the week, if you pay attention to the schedules and know the locations. The markets range from just a couple of awnings in a parking lot to massive affairs with cooking demos and live music.

As I've written before, fresh produce was not always so easy to find here in farm country. When I moved to Iowa City 16 years ago, people looked at me quizzically in the one small farmers market as I walked through in my chef's uniform. What was a chef doing in a farmers market? There was nothing imported from France here!

But things changed relatively fast. By 2004, Iowa had more farmers markets per capita than any other state, and the chef's distinctive double-breasted coat had become a far more common sight...

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