Sunday, June 15, 2008

Farmer's Markets and In-Season Produce

If you've never been to a Farmer's Market or local produce stand, you are missing out! Here in the Southeast, at least, these places start becoming veritable cornucopias about this time of year.

Strawberries are gone and asparagus is waning, but greens, lettuces, green onions, peas, and early summer squashes are proliferating daily. Soon, we'll begin to see mountains of zucchini, yellow squash, berries of all sorts (blueberries are beginning to trickle in even now), and tomatoes of every shape, size, and color (did you know there are yellow and orange tomatoes?). Cucumbers and corn will start piling up. Then, the melons hit! What a glorious season! Peaches, plums, and cherries are our first tree fruits--cherries are kicking off the season now with peaches close on their heels. By the end of the summer, we'll be seeing early apples and pears. MMMMmmmmm.....

So, why go to the trouble of making an extra stop on your grocery run? Here are a few good reasons:
  • economical: most Farmer's Markets offer great prices on their produce; in addition, more of the money you pay goes back directly to the farmer
  • variety: have you ever seen Lady Peas in Kroger? Or even fresh green peas?
  • taste: I hardly need mention that the produce in these places is so much tastier than its storebought counterparts because it was picked when it was ripe--rather than very early and allowed to ripen in transit; it also lasts longer because it's usually so fresh
  • health: I've learned to eat more vegetables this way; for instance, I thought I didn't like "greens." Well, whaddya know?! I DO like baby greens (sort of like baby spinach)--I tried out some baby mustard greens this past week and they were mighty tasty!
  • local money: there's just something neat about supporting local businesses and farmers, I think
  • environmentally friendly: even if you don't buy organic produce, you're still sparing needless gasoline used to power big transport trucks from California or Florida
Periodically this summer, we'll feature a "Farmer's Market" week during which we'll highlight recipes that feature in-season produce in our neck of the woods. Enjoy! Try something new!!

You can check what's in season in your neck of the woods at this website: Field to Plate. Then, ask around for places supplying local produce in your city. We have a couple of Farmer's Markets, but we also have a local produce store which offers the usual California carrots and such in the winter, but brings in a lot of locally grown produce during the growing season.

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