Ah, farmers markets. There is nothing like shopping for fresh, quality food products outdoors, and a trip here is as close to “straight from the source” as it gets.
The markets are popping up everywhere and are especially popular during this time of year.
And you know what that means, don’t you?
You have access to food products that are as fresh as outside of growing them yourself. They are riper. They taste better. They are more nutritious. They are organic (and non-GMO). Non-industrial. Affordable. Better for the environment. A means to support local family farms and your local economy in general. There is more variety. You have a handle of the provenance.
And, of course, it’s loads of fun! Whiling your afternoons away at a farmers market just has a way of making you feel more alive.
Unfortunately, the popularity of local markets has seen vendors of all types grace the stands in a bid to make a quick buck. So then, what are some of the healthiest farmers markets’ purchases you should make?
Below, the holy grail!
Store-bought tomatoes cannot measure up to fresh-from-the-vine produce found in the farmers markets. The latter are richer in lycopene and vitamin C, two key ingredients your body desperately craves.
Whether eaten alone, as part of a vegetable salad or alongside a succulent steak, nothing beats the taste of fresh, organic tomatoes from the farm. Plus, there are likely to be more varieties at the market than your local grocer’s.
Who said carrots have to be orange in color!
Typically, most grocery stores will carry your usual carrots, but did you know they are available in other colors as well? The idea of white carrots may sound unusual to some, but these are one of several varieties you are likely to come across at your local market.
Some of these varieties, the purple kind for example, pack higher amounts of beta carotene and other antioxidants than the regular orange carrots. And the best thing is that you won’t even notice a difference in the taste.
Speaking of orange…
Another product you should definitely pick up on your trip to the farmers market. Dubbed America’s forgotten fruit, the papaya has earned a loyal legion of followers last couple of years so much so that states like Ohio even have an annual festival in its honor.
Although it’s tastiest around spring and summer, papaya is a year round staple. Which means you won’t have trouble finding it lying on the produce aisle of your local grocer.
But here is a reason this may not always be your best choice.
Most Hawaiian papaya (more common than Mexican variety) is GMO. But you won’t know that because, well, the law does not require labeling of GMO produce. By shopping at the farmers market, however, you can ask the farmers firsthand if the fruit is organic. Or not.
Opinion is still divided over which eggs taste better: store-bought or free-range?
Regardless of which side of the divide you lie, one thing that’s been proven to be true is that the latter tend to be healthier. Eggs fresh off the farm are said to be richer in vitamins A, E and D, not to mention beta carotene and omega-3 fatty acids.
Besides, they also contain less cholesterol and saturated fat.
Anyone who has had the chance to sample both will admit grain-fed beef cannot sit at the same table with its grass-fed counterpart. The taste aside, meat from free-roaming cattle is naturally lower in fat and calories than penned cattle’s.
Grass-fed also works wonders, nutritionally-speaking. Comparisons of the two have shown that both contain similar amounts of Omega-6 fatty acids, but grass-fed trounces grain-fed beef when it comes to Omega-3 quantities, boasting as much as five times the amount and twice as much CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) whose benefits to the body are well known.
The added bonus with buying at the farmers market is that you can chat up the vendors with regard to how the animals are raised and what they are fed. Don’t forget that grocery store beef labels may not be the most reliable.
The taste of honey is dependent upon geographic location. Reason is because the flower pollen used by bees to produce honey has a bearing on the flavor of the end product. So don’t be surprised if the honey you find has a different taste from what you have tried before.
One thing you can count on though, is this: fresh, natural honey will work your taste buds a treat. It’s also healthier, so make sure to ask your local vendor where the honey is sourced from as there are those who sell the store-bought version to unknowing customers.
*While you are at it, check to see if they’ve got some pollen as well. Famous for its antihistamine properties, bee pollen can be used in salads, cereals or smoothies. It’s a superfood brimming with amino acids and vitamins like B, C, D and E. But you may want to avoid it if you are allergic.
Unlike papayas or spinach, rhubarb is a seasonal vegetable which you won’t find readily in many grocery stores. And even if you do, once it’s gone, it’s gone.
So, next time you come across it at your local market, make sure to stock up while you can!
Sure, the grapes you find at the grocer may look like straight-off-the-food-magazine stuff: big, juicy and all colorful. But that’s just about it.
Grapes from the farmers market may be smaller (and seeded), but they most certainly are the tastier and more flavorful of the two.
Grape dessert, anyone?
As with grapes, your line of favorite berries may look yummy on the supermarket aisles, but most are imports from far-off lands like Canada and Mexico; Poland even.
Locally sold varieties – blueberries, strawberries, raspberries et al – are not only fresher, but also give you the opportunity to reduce your carbon footprint while supporting local growers at the same time.
Surely, how better could it get…
Chances are you’ve bought some rock-hard avocados at the grocery store only to find they went all dark on the inside by the time they are completely ripened. It’s a bummer, why lie.
The truth is, most of these avocados are commercially grown and are usually picked before they are fully mature. This means the fruit will not ripen as it should, and store-freezing them only exacerbates matters.
In comparison, avocado from a local farmer has a higher likelihood of being picked more recently. It may be a little costlier (understandably) but the buttery, silky, velvety taste of a well matured, well ripened avocado is just...Epic. Truly a home run.
If you can find a reliable source, you will be laughing on your trips back home.
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