For those of us who enjoy fresh foods, you can’t beat what summer has to offer. The wide availability of great-tasting produce and fresh herbs makes it easy to incorporate into almost every dish. Couple this with our increased awareness of locally grown and organic versus conventional, wild versus farmed, and grass-fed versus corn-fed, and it’s no wonder that Farmers’ Markets have nearly tripled in the past 10 years. What used to be a local sampling of fresh fruits and vegetables has now expanded to specialty foods like meats, fish, cheese, wine, breads, honey and flowers too.
Farmers markets are a great way to learn about your local farms. Here you might have an opportunity to talk to vendors about their pest management whether it's integrated pest management (no spraying unless tests show pest infestation), following organic practices or certified organic. You may inquire about whether the farm has any pick-your-own options for berries, peaches or apples in the fall. Some of these farms may participate in CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) as well. CSA’s are a great way to invest in local agriculture where farms put together a variety of locally grown produce for you on a weekly or biweekly basis that you pick up throughout summer months and early fall. The key with CSA's signing up in early spring as many farmers have a limited number of slots they can supply each summer.
While this may not be the venue for bargains, I encourage you to see what’s available in your area even just for added inspiration to your weekly meals. Spice up your salads with fresh fruits, herbs and goat cheese, make a fruit salsa to add to your fish, or pick up a new ingredient you’ve never tried and incorporate it into your meal. Many town websites offer a vendor list of who is at the market, the products they offer and even include various recipes to try. The best part is most of them are open until October so you’ll really get a sampling of all summer and early fall have to offer. Just remember your Zone principles: stick primarily with the produce and protein and keep the breads, pastries, jams, and wine to a minimum.
Tips for Navigating Farmers Markets
Go at the Start (or Go at the End): If you want produce at it's freshest or a better selection go at the start. Markets tend to be less crowded at the beginning and at the end too. There probably isn’t much haggling that can happen but if you are looking for a better price shopping at the end would be the time. Many vendors are less apt to want to lug things back with them so they might be more willing to offer a slight discount. The caveat is that the selection might be limited.
Know What's In Season and Plan Ahead: If you only go to a farmers market periodically then it's fun to just stroll through and be spontaneous with your purchases. If you go more frequently, knowing what's in season and planning ahead can make meal planning much easier. Have a few recipes ideas in mind before you go, and grab ingredients to incorporate into your week night meals. In addition asking questions while there about what might be offered in the week(s) ahead or your town website might list the offerings too.
Walk the Whole Market: Before buying anything walk the whole market as a few vendors might be selling the same thing so this gives you a sense on pricing and offerings. If you frequent the markets weekly, sometimes waiting a week or two on new arrivals (berries, peaches, zucchini etc.) where more vendors have a supply could lessen the price.
Get to Know the Vendors: Talking to the vendors is a great way to learn more about the what they supply. This can be a good opportunity to ask questions about produce you might be unfamiliar with, tips for preparation and recipe ideas too.
FREE recipe cards below.
Fruit Salsa : Instructions:
- Combine all ingredients.
- Refrigerate for a short time.
- Serve on top of chicken, fish or protein of your choice to add some summer flavor to your meal.
Nutritional facts per serving (daily value): 8 servings (approximately 1/3 cup)
Calories 25cal; Protein 1g (1%); Total Fat 0g (0%); Carb. 6g (2%); Fiber 1g (4%).
Cheesy Lemon Zucchini : Instructions:
- Spray a skillet with cooking oil. Heat olive oil in skillet over high heat; stir in zucchini, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes.
- Cook for about 2 minutes add stock as needed.
- Stir in salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper; cook and stir until zucchini is tender, about 5 minutes.
- Stir cream cheese into zucchini mixture; cook until cream cheese begins to melt, about 1 minute.
- Remove from heat and stir in oregano.
Nutritional facts per serving (daily value): 4 servings
Calories 91cal; Protein 6g ; Total Fat 3g; Carb. 13g; Fiber 4g.