The farmers market is a seasonal rite of passage for so many people. If you’ve never been, there’s no better time than now to discover one.
Nearly every town has a farmers market. Some are small, quaint affairs showcasing handmade cheeses, fresh breads, and farm-fresh eggs. Others burst at the seams with a bounty of the freshest, most delicious veggies and fruits of the season. From afar, all farmers markets may seem the same. But you’ll find that each is unique and carries something special from that local region.
The kind of fresh produce you’ll find at a farmers market depends on the season and what part of the country you live in. And that can be half the fun. You might discover something new every time you visit.
When you choose in-season produce, that means it’s harvested at its peak time. It hasn’t been sitting in a warehouse waiting to ripen. It’s fresh, perfectly ripe, and delicious. Along with better taste, you’ll get more nutrient-rich food. Because of the less distance traveled, the higher the vitamin and nutrient levels in vegetables and fruit. So, you could reap greater health benefits from a visit to the farmers market.
So, head to your local farmers market this weekend. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you visit.
Be a connoisseur
When you spend a morning or afternoon at a farmers market, take the time to soak in the atmosphere. Stop by a gourmet cheese stall and sample the goat cheese. Pair it with a fresh loaf of artisan rosemary bread and fig jam. Whatever your tastes may be, own it.
Make it an enjoyable experience as you peruse a fresh bunch of radishes, baby spinach, or green beans. In time, you’ll become somewhat of a farmers market expert. What culinary creations will you be inspired to make with this season’s harvest?
And remember, you don’t have to buy the first ripe strawberries or peas you find. Ask for samples and see if they suit your tastes. Learn about a fruit or vegetable that is new to you. You might discover a new favorite!
For instance, gooseberries make for an excellent jam. Or kohlrabi, which is similar to cabbage or kale, is an outstanding coleslaw ingredient. And if you hit the right market in the right season, why not experiment with jackfruit!
It’s easy to take for granted that most grocery stores today have nearly every type of produce, no matter the season. Strawberries or corn in winter? Why not! While that may seem great, there are a few drawbacks to eating produce out of season.
For starters, many of those foods are shipped from other parts of the globe. Shipping fresh produce requires the food to be picked before it is fully ripe so as not to spoil before it gets to market. So, it may not be as fresh or nutritious; it may also be more expensive, depending on the market, and likely not as tasty. There’s also the environmental toll of transporting foods all over the world.
On the other hand, produce from the farmers market is usually grown within a hundred miles or so. That means local farmers deliver what they can grow in the area during that season. So, if you can’t find strawberries in late June, be open to the quality fruits that are available.
Talk with the farmers
Often times the same people selling the produce are the ones who grow it. The farmers know every last detail about the vegetables and fruits they grow. They take pride in their harvest, and they’re eager to have you taste what they’ve grown. You might come away with a few new recipes and other ways to prepare them.
They can also tell you what time of year certain foods grow (and taste) best. And they often have great tips about how to store and prepare the foods they grow. (For instance, don’t rinse your strawberries before refrigerating—this encourages mold growth!)
Bring your own bags
Not only will you help save the farmers a little money, but you’ll do the environment a favor, too. Look for reusable and washable mesh bags for produce so you end up with less plastic, and you can bring along an insulated bag and ice packs if you need to keep any dairy or meats cool.
Remember, when you shop at a farmers market, you are not only buying fresh, seasonal foods; you’re also helping local farmers and your community, too. The money you spend stays in your area and helps support the local economy.
If you’re not sure whether there’s a farmers market in your area, go online and visit LocalHarvest.org to find a market near you.
This information is not intended to take the place of regular medical care or advice. Please check with your doctor before using this information or beginning any self-care program. Images used for this article do not depict any members of the Silver&Fit Program.
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This article was written by Jason Nielsen, edited by Kimberley Reynolds, and clinically reviewed by Elizabeth Thompson, MPH, RDN.