06 Aug Navigating the Farmer’s Markets
Last week you saw how I make the farmers’ market a family affair, but with so many new foods and booths popping up it can get overwhelming. Here’s a look at what you may find and tips on easily navigating through all those booths.
Why Buy Local?
As popularity and interest grows in fresh produce and other naturally made products, Farmers’ Markets are becoming increasingly popular. The farmers’ market is not only about the fresh food, but also the importance of eating local and having a positive impact on the environment. We have become more food savvy then every, and at the farmers’ market you’ll find the greatest selection and best quality foods.
With so many fresh and seasonal veggies available, you’ll have no trouble making half of your plate veggies as the USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend. It’s also a perfect opportunity to meet the growers who take pride in everything they grow.
Walk through the farmers’ market and you’ll find yourself coming up with several meal ideas for the week. I sometimes find myself getting out of control and coming up with more than 5 dinner ideas. Remember, the market will still be there next week.
Once you’ve decided on your fresh produce and other goodies, keep these “how to pick” tips in mind.
Look for fresh produce that is firm and bright in color.
- Corn: look for husks that aren’t dried out or wilted.
- Lettuce: the leaves should be crisp and not wilted.
- Tomatoes: should be firm and free of blemishes. When you get home, store them at room temperature. Refrigerating tomatoes makes them mealy and diminishes their fab flavor.
- Beets: make sure the greens are attached as use them as a side dish.
- Carrots and kohlrabi: have a longer shelf life than most other veggies,
Don’t forget to scout out seasonal herbs which you might find sitting in water to keep them fresh.
During the summer, the market is overflowing with fresh fruit.
- Berries: Choose firm berries and avoid those that are mushy and soft. Look for berries that are uniform in size. Avoid washing berries before refrigerating (it makes them more susceptible to mold). Instead, wash before eating.
- Melons: should be firm and have a fruity smell. Look for the indent where the stem was attached.
- Apples: are starting to come into season. Pick apples that are firm, crisp and well colored. Choose a variety that suits your needs—whether for baking or eating (ask the grower if you’re not sure).
Believe it or not you will find some of the best dairy items at the farmers market. I have experienced the most flavorful goat cheeses and organic yogurt from my local market. Check how the dairy products are stored— either a cooler with ice or on a refrigerated truck. Freshly laid eggs are also available, keep them in the cardboard carton which helps keep them fresh longer.
It’s also important to ask if the dairy is pasteurized (heat treated to kill harmful microorganisms). This is especially important if you’ll be serving them to young kids, older folks or pregnant or breastfeeding women. These folks have a weaker immune system which makes them more susceptible to illness.
The artisan selection is a potpourri of items like homemade jams, pickles, and breads.
- Jams and jellies: look for an airtight seal, otherwise it could be a breeding ground for botulism (a very potent germ).
- Breads: many are fresh (sometimes still warm!), but since they don’t have additives they won’t last as long as store bought bread. Eat within a few days or wrap it and place in the freezer.
TELL ME: What’s your favorite food to pick up at the farmers’ market?