Make the Most of Farmers Markets

Fruits and Vegetables
Farmers market produce
Farmers market produce

Make the Most of Farmers Markets

There’s no doubt about it – a visit to your local farmers market is a great way to spend a summer morning. Your local farmers market can serve as an inspiration for delicious, healthy meals that focus on whole plant foods all year long.

Farmers markets also have the advantage of delivering nutrient-rich, flavorful food harvested a few short hours before you purchase it. Most farmers markets get food to your plate without the need for a “sell by” date.

In addition to that important factor, a farmers market keeps the tax base close to home. Dollars spent locally with vendors who grow and operate in a local community benefit a local community.

With so many reasons to shop at your local farmers market, it’s time to schedule your next trip with our handy guide.

  • Buy produce that appeals to you, keeping in mind how much your family consumes in a week.
  • If you’re not a cook who can master preparing any produce you bring home, learn what’s in season before you visit the farmers market. Have some basic ideas of ingredients you’d like to purchase for your favorite dishes.
  • Once you’re home with your produce bounty, keep it fresh with these tips.
    • *Soak all leafy greens, then pat or spin dry before storing in refrigerator.
    • *Refrigerate berries and wash just before serving.
    • *If fruit is very ripe, eat immediately or slow down ripening by refrigerating it. Note that refrigeration can make some fruits, like peaches, mealy.
  • Turn any seasonal fruit or vegetable purchase into a shining success with these culinary techniques:
    • Drizzle a simple vinaigrette dressing over beautiful salad greens.
    • Prepare greens by boiling, steaming, or sauteing with a small amount of olive oil, herbs, and garlic.
    • Roast a variety of fresh summer vegetables (as well as root vegetables during the winter) in a shallow, oven-proof dish; drizzle with a simple dressing and roast at 400 degrees until crisp-tender.
    • Preserve fresh berries by freezing them or making jams and jellies to extend the season.
    • Preserve stone fruit like plums, peaches or cherries by freezing or canning to enjoy later.
  • If you end up buying too much produce, preserve it, or share it with a friend or neighbor. If it ripens before you can use it, compost it and give it back to the earth.

Food Safety at the Farmer’s Market

Farmers market sign

Farmers’ markets have traditionally had relaxed methods of food handling because the produce was uncut and would be cleaned at home.

Now that they’ve become social events complete with tastings, you need to pay more attention to food safety.

  • Sample foods only from booths where there is evidence of clean hands at work. Look for gloves, hand-sanitizing gels, or even a bowl of clean water.
  • If foods are being cut on site, separate knives should be used for meat and other foods, and they should be cleaned between uses.
  • Don’t eat samples that are clustered on a plate, allowing passersby to pick up a piece. This is a breeding ground for cross-contamination, thanks to dirty hands. Only eat samples that are pre-toothpicked.
  • Skip a sample if flies are buzzing around; they can carry Campylobacter jejuni, the leading cause of bacterial diarrhea in the United States.
  • Wash before eating. Those grapes you eat on the way home may not be clean.

Author: Jeni

Certified by the Professional School of Fitness and Nutrition in March, 1995; honored for exemplary grades. Practicing fitness and nutrition for over 20 years. Featured in the Feb. 1994 issue of "Shape" magazine. Featured in Collage in the spring issue of 1995 Low fat recipe's published in Taste of Home, Quick Cooking, and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, among others. September, 2001: Featured in "Winning The War on Cholesterol" By Rodale Publishing