How to shop smarter at your local farmers market

Below is an excerpt from a health column by Charles Stuart Platkin that appeared in The Sun Chronicle, Aug. 17, 2011, for the complete article CLICK HERE.

Eat Fresh and Local: Buying at a farmers market ensures that you are eating the freshest foods, and that you are choosing locally grown. To find out what fruits and vegetables are in season check www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/?page_id=674.

When you’re deciding what to prepare for dinner look online and find recipes that use the fruits and vegetables in season. Here are some websites with recipes. Allrecipes.com (www.allrecipes.com):  a Reader’s Digest Association (RDA) brand. [More links are available in the column to right of this article]

Myrecipes.com (www.myrecipes.com): Has recipes from magazines and cookbooks you love and trust, including Cooking Light, Southern Living, Sunset, Coastal Living, Real Simple and Health.
Food Network (www.foodnetwork.com): Click on the Healthy Eating tab on the top navigation bar.

EatingWell (www.eatingwell.com): A Vermont-based website and magazine.

Epicurious.com (www.epicurious.com): Go to the Recipes & Menus tab and select Healthy.

Talk It Up: Get to know the farmers. Ask them what is the best of the seasonal produce that week and how to prepare it. Farmers are foodies and many will have great recipes and tips, says Kathleen Hiraga, president and founder of Organics Rx ( www.organicsrx.com).

Find out Who Grew It: The idea of going to a farmers market is to buy locally grown, fresh-picked produce.

Fresh Picked: Be sure to ask the farmer when the produce he’s selling was actually harvested.

Bring Cash: Not all farmers take credit cards. Make sure to visit an ATM or call and find out ahead of time.

Go for Quality, Not Beauty: If the product looks decent and comes from an organic farm that consistently gives you great product and taste, that is the grower you should support. We have been trained by vegetable and fruit associations to think that the perfect tomato looks a certain way. But if you’ve ever tried an ugly heirloom tomato, you know that it will be the best tomato you’ve eaten in years.

Be Community-Minded: Talk to the person standing next to you. You’ll be surprised at what you can learn simply by asking a question, making a comment or offering a smile. “Farmers markets create a great opportunity for community-mindedness. You can learn a lot by striking up a conversation with a person nearby, such as new recipes, ideas, shopping tips, new fruits and vegetables to sample. The list is endless,” says Michael Hurwitz, director of the Greenmarket Program in New York City ( www.grownyc.org/greenmarket).

Try Something New: “Farmers markets carry hundreds of varieties of fruits and vegetables that are not available in supermarkets, so don’t be afraid to ask. Farmers always have some new discovery or something interesting to discuss,” says Hurwitz.

See the Market Manager: Go to the market manager’s stand and ask questions. “The market manager will more than likely have new recipe ideas, know the weekly deals, which fruits and vegetables are in season, which are the new farmers and/or new products, and will be able to tell you about cooking demonstrations taking place at the market. The managers stand is a great place to interact and to get your market bearings,” says Hurwitz.

Just Wait: It’s not always a good idea to buy new fruits and veggies when they first arrive. Instead, wait 10 days to two weeks into the season for the finest picks.

Is it Organic? You can ask to see the farmers certification, but it’s important to note that it takes three years for a farm to become certified. Many farms are in transition and aren’t using pesticides, but they may not have their certifications yet. Its a matter of trust, looking the farmer in the eye and believing that he or she is telling you the truth. Trusting your farmer is very important, says Ann Gentry, author of Vegan Family Meals (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2011).

CHARLES STUART PLATKIN, Ph.D., M.P.H. is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of DietDetective.com. Copyright 2011 by Charles Stuart Platkin. All rights reserved. Sign up for the free Diet Detective newsletter at www.DietDetective.com.

Author: DRL

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