Now that we’re in the middle of summer, chances are you’ve had the opportunity to visit a local farmer’s market or two. Eating locally and seasonally helps strengthen your local economy and reduces your carbon footprint. However, perhaps you've, come home with a few produce items that didn't make it onto your dinner plate; either because you weren't sure what to do with them, or you overestimated your family's produce-eating potential. We get it - farmer's markets can be pretty overwhelming. But if you go in with your nutritional goals in mind, and maybe a meal idea or two, your farmer's market trip can be much more satisfying. And just in case you're in need of some produce inspiration, we have our top farmer's market tips to help you on your next outing.
- Know what to get
Those little baskets of berries and bags of plums don't just look pretty. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches, and plums are some of the best farmer's market purchases you can make. Berries are less likely to have been exposed to excessive pesticides and are more likely to be in better condition and be less expensive than the grocery store varieties that have traveled hundreds of miles to sit in your grocery store. And stone fruits such as plums, peaches, and nectarines, are likely to be much tastier when you buy them locally. Stone fruits will ripen, but not sweeten, on your countertop. So when your local farmer picks them when they're ripe and sells them directly to you, you'll appreciate their fresh sweetness.
- Know what to make
Been eyeing those oddly-small cucumbers or yellow watermelons? Shopping at the farmer's market is an ideal time to get information on unique produce items and how to prepare them, straight from their grower's mouth. Many times the sellers have wonderful recipes to share. Don’t hesitate to ask.
- Know what's in it for you
Did you know that the levels of vitamins E, A, and C begin to decrease in fruit as soon as they are picked? Add in the variations in temperature, artificial lights, and exposure to air and pesticides that are inevitable with most types of imported produce, and the product you end up with is less-healthy, less-tasty food.
With the benefit to your health, the boost to your local economy, and the exciting variety to your meal rotation, shopping at your local farmer's market is a positive, responsible practice. We encourage you to take advantage of the summer season, with all the bounty it has to offer.