By Carolyn Brown, MS, RD
The month of August may mean summer has passed its peak, but it’s the height of the season for super sweet, flavor-packed fruits and veggies – or as I like to think of it, dirt candy. Depending on where you live, watermelon, peaches, nectarines, plums, avocados, corn on the cob, and/or tomatoes could be in season; to find out what’s in your area, check out this great Epicurious map.
So, you know that farmers’ market you always drive or walk past and swear you’ll stop at? If there were any time of year to finally hit it up, it’s right now.
I know all of the “locavore” lingo (*locavore = a person who eats local food) can be intimidating or even discouraging, especially if the concept of going on a farmers’ market adventure is new to you. Maybe you don’t even know where any nearby market is, in which case, Local harvest to the rescue! While working with NYC Greenmarkets I was blown away by the unexpected neighborhoods, parking lots, and even private backyards that transformed into nutrition jackpots for a couple of hours every week. So even if you’re in a rural area, I bet there’s something closer than you thought.
Once you’re at the market, produce may only be the start. You might stumble upon top notch meat, dairy, poultry, fish, fresh baked breads, sweets, and even local specialties. And if you’re lucky, you’ll also find lots of samples for tasting.
I know the organized, clean, sale-laden aisles of your grocery store are familiar and comfy, but that farmers’ market dirt candy has had more time to ripen on the vine – which means you get more flavor and more nutrients. By purchasing food that’s traveled an hour down the road versus on a flight around the globe, you also reduce your environmental impact – not to mention supporting small and local businesses. With all the healthy benefits and good karma, you’re well on your way to being a greenmarket guru – here are a few final tips:
- Shop early or shop late – if you’re after the best selection, find out when the market opens. If you’re a frugalocavore like me, the end of the day is the best time for deals.
- Bring cash: some markets are credit card equipped, but to be safe, bring the green to buy the greens.
- Brainstorm a recipe: just like when you go grocery shopping, don’t wing it entirely or you might end up with a fridge full of food and nothing to eat. Most markets have an info table with seasonal recipes available.
- Befriend the farmers/purveyors: Don’t be shy, chat up the people who grew your goodies. Find out what they recommend, how to prepare it, or what that weird looking vegetable is. Ask the silly questions – you’ll be glad you clarified cilantro vs. mint come dinnertime.
- Try something new, and remember that dirt won’t hurt. Things will look a little different than they do at the grocery store – lettuce and beets are naturally dirty. But you’ll never stumble upon something as cool as “popcorn on the cob” in a supermarket, I promise.