From late spring through fall, a wondrous market is just around the corner from home. I am referring to the local farmers market. Today's farmers market has grown well beyond those started so many years ago. If the name brings to mind fresh fruits and vegetables, that is a good start. However, today's markets are offering so much more!
A trip down the rows of vendors will display a variety of meats, vegetables, fruits and a variety of packaged goods. For example, there may be favorite jams, jellies, local honey, pickled vegetables and baked goods. In early summer, a collection of herbs and other plants are also available. There may also be vendors offering wares to meet special dietary needs, such as gluten free. Others may offer alternative personal care items such as farm fresh goat milk soap. If you still need encouragement to venture to the farmers market, here are several good reasons to give it a shopping try.
The freshest fruits and vegetables are found at the farmers market. Typically, fresh produce is picked the morning of market day. It is also picked at its peak for nutritional goodness. Supermarkets truck in produce that must be picked before its prime to allow for shipping time. A local farmer will pick at that perfect moment to enhance the flavor and nutritional burst from foods. Along with freshness, you will find many vendors are producing organic offerings.
Next, let's talk variety. Small local farms tend to favor variety, offering fruits and vegetables you may not be able to find in the produce section of your supermarket. Most supermarkets focus on the most popular varieties of veggies and fruit. Going hand in hand with variety is affordability. You will find the fresh produce at the farmers market reasonably priced. Often the organic fruits and veggies are less expensive than supermarket offerings.
Additionally, when you shop the farmers markets, you are supporting local family farms along with local communities. Due to the freshness factor, travel time from the farm to your table is minimal miles. Purchasing from local farmers supports local jobs and keeps money in local communities.
Finally, when shopping the farmers market, you know the history of the product you are purchasing. Farm stand workers are willing to share information about the farm's growing and processing practices. In many cases, you can even visit the farms to see how they grow and handle the produce or other items you are serving to yourself and your family.
Bottom line: If you are striving to provide the greatest nutrition value for your dollar, then consider shopping the farmers markets in the area. For the best variety of items, shop early in the day. For the best bargains, shop the later hours. Remember, the farm family has picked items at optimal freshness. They are often willing to give "end-of-day discount" rather than wasting product and the hard work that went into raising it.
FARMERS MARKET REFRESHING SALAD
1 zucchini, shaved into thin strips or julienned
2 yellow summer squashes, shaved into thin strips or julienned
3 radishes, sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
6-8+ cherry tomatoes
1 small sliced cucumber
1 or two mini sweet peppers, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
3 slices prosciutto (or favorite deli meat) chopped
1/4 cup crumbled cheese of choice (dairy free works)
Toss yellow squash, zucchini, and other veggies in a large bowl.
Whisk mint, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl; pour over squash mixture. Toss to coat.
Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat; cook and stir prosciutto in the hot skillet until crisp, about 2 minutes. (Other options: deli meat or cooked bacon)
Divide squash salad over four plates. Evenly sprinkle prosciutto and feta cheese over salads.