What's your biggest obstacle to healthful eating? Perhaps you think fruits and vegetables are too expensive or just don't like the way they taste. Your local farmers markets can help you overcome these barriers.
In many cases, food at the farmers market is more affordable and tastes better than that at a commercial grocery store because it is locally grown and naturally ripened. Taste is a key deciding factor in our food choices and delicious, fresh produce can help us eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables.
Talk to the Farmer
Farmers markets are wonderful places to find ideal specimens of your favorite summer foods such as tomatoes, berries, beets and herbs, but market-goers will find joy in discovering new foods as well. And when you encounter a new fruit variety or heirloom vegetable you've never seen before, you're in the right place to find out more about it — you can ask the farmer who grew it! Ask them for recommendations on preparing and serving the food.
Talking to the farmers also is a great idea if your goal is to buy locally or organically grown foods. Some farmers say they use organic methods, but choose not to submit to the process required to legally use the term; some farmers use a mixture of organic and conventional methods; some farmers make absolutely no claim to being organic; and some small organic farmers are permitted to call themselves "organic" but are not "certified organic." If these are important factors to you, be sure to ask farmers how they grow their food.
What's in Season?
To find your local markets and learn what your local farmers are harvesting right now, consider using websites such as LocalHarvest.org and the USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food program and Local Food Directories. Even experienced farmers market patrons will benefit from these resources.
How to Shop
While many markets have sellers offering items such as free-range eggs, fresh breads and pastries, local honey, grass-fed beef and fresh-cut flowers, be sure to stock up on produce. Also, be mindful of food safety and pay attention to the vendors' food safety practices as you shop. For example, all meat and dairy products should be in a cooler with ice.There are a couple strategies to get the best results out of farmers markets depending on your purpose. If you want your pick of the most beautiful, photo-quality produce imaginable, you'll need to arrive before the crowds. If you want deals, however, go ahead and sleep in. Sometimes sellers offer discounts for produce remaining at the end of the day.