This is Part Three in the “Summer in the Kitchen” series
Part of living a healthier lifestyle involves eating food that is grown by you, or grown locally. While garden space may be at a premium in certain areas (like the Twin Cities Metro in Minnesota where we live), many places still do have places where farmers can display their wares. Over the past decade according to official records, the number of Farmers Markets have quadrupled across the United States. People are showing with their wallets that buying local is important to them. Being able to buy your produce directly from those growing the food is definitely a wonderful opportunity.
Before you run right out to the nearest Farmers Market, there are three things that you may want to know:
First of all, farmers markets area not always just about the food. In fact the larger ones may be just as much “flea markets” as “farmers markets.” Acquiring great finds is always a possibility, but they may not be of the food variety. One Saturday I arrived at the end, and I was a bit amazed at all of the produce I did not find.
Second, a list of ingredients may not be forthcoming. That scrumptious looking jar of jam may be made from frozen berries. As pineapples and mangoes are not readily grown in the Midwest, you can probably assume that type of jelly involved some type of can or purchased produce. Just because it is at Farmers Market does not mean that all of the contents in the food is homegrown. Of course, I would take a jar of homemade jelly over store-bought any day, but if you are into only natural foods, you would probably be better off buying the produce and making the jelly yourself.
Also, just in case you were also wondering, The Kitchn explains the differences between jelly, jam, preserves, marmalade, conserves and fruit butters. I must admit that I am not especially cultured as I had never even heard of conserves before. My favorite type is still strawberry-jalapeno jelly- a type you do often find at Farmer’s Markets.
This can also make a difference in baked goods. Especially those with food allergies need to know who they are purchasing from. Unless the baker understands and follows the principles to avoid cross contamination, they could be inadvertently be adding sugar or gluten to the prepared food item.
Third, when buying produce, be sure to ask questions to make sure you are getting what you think you are. Just because produce is being sold at a farmers market, you can’t always assume that fruit or vegetable is organic or even naturally grown. Gardeners come in as many varieties as what they grow.
Do a little research beforehand to determine just which fruits and vegetables you should try to buy at the market. According to Organic Gardening, buying onions locally is always a good idea. They also list seven other best foods that one should strive to buy at their area farmers markets.
When I shopped at the Farmers Market last week, I found HUGE tomatoes that were over one pound. I also found fresh cilantro, chives and green onions. I have learned that if I store fresh herbs like cilantro in a glass of water in my fridge that they last SO much longer.
What do tomatoes, cilantro and onions mean together? FRESH SALSA!
I wasn’t able to find everything I needed for the salsa at the farmers market, so I had to make a quick trip to the grocery store as well. One essential ingredient in our salsa is jalapeno peppers, and we also use lemon or lime juice. Not surprisingly, they were fresh out of fresh citrus at our market. (I am guessing that maybe you can only find those at Florida Markets). Using the ingredients from the farmers market with the few store-bought items still made for an excellent homemade salsa. Here is our favorite basic salsa recipe! I did make a few adaptations due to the ingredients that I had on hand – I will note those at the end.
Note: I made a smaller batch, so I hand diced everything. I also used green onions instead of yellow since that was what I could purchase fresh.
Next time you see these tents in your neighborhood, you may just want to take the time to stop. Your table and your tummy will thank you!
Do you already shop local or at a Farmers Market? Where’s your favorite, and what is top on your “must buy” list?