You might not make it there as often as you’d like, but you should make regular trips to your local farmers market part of your food shopping – if you want to have the freshest and most long-lasting flavors of the season.
Fruits, vegetables and a wealth of new choices: that’s what almost every farmers market provides for the shoppers who visit them. But what’s the best way to make use of these treasure-laden spots? Avera Heart Hospital Registered Dietitian Lauren Cornay is a big fan of Sioux Falls-based farmers markets, and shared some tips with us how they can enliven your late summer kitchen adventures.
Her insight can help you save money and perhaps put some new favorites in place with your family. One of the best parts of any farmers market is the variety.
“In many cases you’ll find the produce will last longer because it had less shipping time and less processing,” Cornay said. “The veggies and fruits you find at farmers markets look honest and fresh – they don’t have coatings or preservatives to make them look ‘perfect’ – so you avoid those things you don’t need.”
Bring the whole family to the market, and give kids a chance to make choices for everyone, Cornay said. “Kids may see things there they’ve never seen before, so maybe they want to try the purple green beans or the heirloom tomatoes that look like they have zebra stripes,” she said. “Let them have control or help pick out some new items.”
More fruits and veggies are never a bad thing. Another great aspect is that when something kooky is on a table you can find out what it is, how it tastes and the best way to prepare it. “Growers at markets are proud of what they bring to the table and can usually give you lots of advice on how to make anything they sell the most delicious,” Cornay said. “But freshness most often brings with it the best flavors – think snap peas and sweet corn – the best flavor makes a difference, no matter what you try.”
There are pitfalls at farmers markets as well, she said. Freshly canned products still will have lots of salt, and the bakers who sell at markets will have plenty of sugary treats. Ask for the 100-percent whole-grain breads instead. Jams and jellies in trendy glass jars are tempting, but remember moderation when enjoying them.
Of course plenty of fresh herbs are almost always a part of any farmers market and give you the chance to super-charge a wide range of dishes. “They are great to add flavor without all the salt,” Cornay said. “You can get fresh tomatoes and basil, then add your favorite balsamic vinegar and some fresh mozzarella and you’ve got a complete Caprese salad, which is a great summer treat for supper.”
Fresher, longer-lasting, better flavors. Farmers markets can bring all that – and more – to any family willing to give them a try. Cornay said she’s found some of the “best we’ve ever had” treats at Falls Park Farmers Market. You can do the same!
“Make it part of the overall shopping experience – hit the farmers market, then go to the grocery store,” she said. “Variety is a great way to eat better.”