With spring, comes a flood of seasonal farmers markets, which means it’s easier for you to access farm-fresh produce. If you’re wondering why farmers markets may just be the greatest thing to pop up in your neighborhood this spring, here are 3 big reasons why you should seek out your local farmers market:
1. Fresher Produce:
Farm-fresh produce tends to be seasonal and is more likely to have been recently picked, which means that you’ll be giving your body more nutrition. Much conventionally-grown produce is picked then sits on a truck, or at a warehouse for weeks at a time before you find it on your local grocery store shelf. When produce sits for a long period of time, the amount of nutrients in the produce decreases depending on how long it is allowed to sit for before heading to market. Lastly, farm-fresh produce is more likely to last longer in your refrigerator or on your counter because it’s more recently picked, so you get more longevity out of your fruits and vegetables, which means less frequent trips to the shops.
2. Fewer Pesticides:
Farm-fresh produce grown at smaller farms is less likely to have as many pesticides as conventionally grown produce. Conventionally grown produce here in the United States has to adhere to certain standards when it comes to not using certain pesticides that are known to be carcinogenic; however, produce that is coming from other countries doesn’t necessarily have to adhere to those standards. Regardless of where it comes from, fewer pesticides are better for our health, which is one of the major reasons to seek out farm-fresh produce available at your local farmers market.
3. Less Expensive:
One of the most common reasons for people to not purchase organic produce is because of its high cost. The good news with farm-fresh produce is that it’s less likely to be as costly; it may still be slightly more expensive than conventionally grown produce, but often is competitively priced with commercially-grown produce, and in some cases can be less expensive. Another great offering from many farms in the spring and summertime is to be part of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). CSA’s will be slightly different when purchased from different farms, but are usually a way to get farm-fresh produce, and whatever produce is in season, delivered on a weekly or bi-monthly basis. Another great reason to become part of a CSA is that it’s a great way to support your local economy.
How do I find a farmer’s market?
This great website allows you to search for farmers-markets in your area: http://www.localharvest.org/farmers-markets/
If you’re unable to get to a farmers market, here’s what you need to know about purchasing organic produce…
There are certain fruits and vegetables that are known to carry more pesticides, often called the “Dirty Dozen” by the Environmental Working Group. If you’re unable to purchase these fruits and vegetables from a locally-grown source, you can seek them out in the organic food aisle.
3.) Cherry tomatoes
6.) Hot peppers
7.) Imported nectarines
12.) Sweet bell peppers
13.) Kale/collard greens
14.) Summer squash
If you’re unable to purchase the “Dirty Dozen” either locally or organic, wash them well…
If you’re unable to purchase those fruits and vegetables above that tend to carry more pesticides from either a local or organic source, make sure you wash them well. Running water and a clean sponge or brush does a great job at cleaning, but so does a basic fruit and vegetable wash made from the following ingredients:
1 part water
1 part vinegar
Note: The best way to use this wash is either to scrub the produce in the wash or to pour the wash over the produce; soaking the produce in the water for a longer period of time can cause some of the nutrients to leech out into the water and be lost when the water is disposed of.
If you have extra space in your yard or at your home…
Plant your own fruits and vegetables, which can help ensure they’re grown without added pesticides. Here’s a list of easy-to-grow fruits and vegetables:
1.) Basil: Grows best in the sun or in a warm environment, and can be grown either in a pot or in the ground.
2.) Carrots: Grow best in cooler weather, and are one of the easiest vegetables to grow.
3.) Lettuce: Can also be grown in a pot or in the ground and are very easy to grow, as they grow quickly.
4.) Tomatoes: A grow-at-home favorite, tomatoes are also easy to grow and require a warm and sunny place.
5.) Peppers: Similar to tomatoes, they require a warm and sunny place to grow but are relatively easy to grow and are so tasty. They also come in many shapes and sizes.
6.) Raspberries: More delicate, but also easy to grow. They like to be grown in a minimally-windy location with plenty of warmth and light.
7.) Strawberries: A very versatile and easy fruit to grow because they can be grown in a pot, in the garden, or in a hanging basket. They are best planted in April and May and grow nice flowers as well.
8.) Squash: Also easy to grow and grows well in more sheltered locations out of the wind and weather.
9.) Cabbage: Cabbage likes plenty of water and grows best in the spring and fall, and in fact is one of the most frost-resistant plants you can grow, so it does particularly well in colder temperatures.
10.) Mint: Can be grown both inside and outside and can even grow all year long. Mint is versatile, can be added to various recipes and has great digestive properties.
I haven’t always been partial to beets, in fact my stance for the first 20 years of my life was that a palate was better served without them (and I wonder where my youngest son Bode gets his food opinions from?!?!). Maybe it was the raw beet juice my mother insisted I have as it was “good for my blood”, because for the majority of my life through young adulthood I equated beets with the taste of earth. And that is not a food experience I was looking for. Things have changed, however, quite a lot. As I got older I made an effort to have at least one slice of beet at a salad buffet and insisted that, “this beet is for my mom”. And over time I came to love these sweet, nutritious blood builders (yes, my mother was right, beets are great for the blood). It also helps that beets are one of my husband Doug’s favorite vegetables; did I really have a choice but to embrace this versatile plant? Thankfully, the earth flavor association has subsided. Come and cook with us!
Red beets get their color from a compound called betacyanin, it’s the compound in the messy juice that stains your hands and clothes and is a potent cancer fighter. Orange varieties, on the other hand, are rich in xanthin, another antioxidant. Beets are a good source of betaine and folate, two nutrients that work synergistically to reduce potentially toxic levels of homocysteine, a naturally occurring amino acid that can be harmful to blood vessels and, thereby, contribute to the development of heart disease, stroke and dementia. Beets are loaded with potassium and magnesium, and even a tiny bit of vitamin C. Unfortunately, beets are high in sugar so they are on the no-no list if you are diabetic.
What’s great about beets is that they are versatile and easy to cook. Beets can be baked, boiled, steamed, and shredded raw to be added to salads and slaws. There are many preparations for these gems, though you can never go wrong with a simple drizzle of good olive oil and sea salt on steamed, sliced cold beets. My personal favorite preparation is definitely not juiced, but rather, as a salad with goat cheese and some fresh baby lettuce. It reminds me of my first years in New York when beets and goat cheese popped up on every respectable restaurant menu in the city. Oh, and if you get beets with leaves still intact, eat them! They are higher in nutritional value than the roots, especially in calcium, iron, vitamin A and vitamin C, so make sure to turn them into a nice side of greens.
As luck would have it, the door bell rang as I sat at my desk writing this post and my two dear friends Karen and Heather came to bring me a bag full of freshly harvested beets from their plentiful garden. I don’t know if it’s their generosity or wit that makes that garden hum, but either way I am blessed for having such good friends. Come and cook with us!
Avocado, Beet and Orange Salad
This salad mixes beets and oranges, which are a great combo; if you’re feeling adventurous, add a ripe pear or some cherries to the salad, which will give you even greater variety of color and taste.
1 lb beets, trimmed
2 avocados, sliced
2 navel oranges, peel and pith removed, segmented
2 cups spinach
1 tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 teaspoons balsamic or champagne vinegar
Salt and fresh pepper
Heat oven to 425F.
Place scrubbed beets on a large piece of foil on a baking sheet. They should all be the same size, so you might need to halve the large ones to allow for equal baking time.
Drizzle with 1 tsp olive oil and fold foil around beets crimping the ends to form a packet.
Roast until tender when pierced with a knife, about 45 minutes.
Let cool, remove skin and slice.
Whisk vinegar, orange juice and remaining olive oil.
Drizzle over beets, avocados, oranges and spinach.
Season with salt and pepper.
Top with sunflower seeds and serve.
For the complete post and more recipes, visit Come and cook with us!