“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.” – Julia Child
School is winding down, summer is starting, and living is easy. This summer do yourself a favor and shop around for a local farm near you. One way to keep pace with today’s changing realities is to invest in yourself, your family, your community, and the environment by shopping locally at farm stands or farmers’ markets. Even if you live in a city, you can often find a Farmers market if you look around. When I was attending school in New York, I loved going to the Farmers Market right across the street from Lincoln Center and buy my lunch along with all kinds of fresh goodies to bring home to my family. They even had egg-free, fresh fruit pies for me to bring home for my son, Danny. You can purchase fresh, nutritious foods, save money, protect the environment, and spend quality time with family and friends in a fun and relaxing atmosphere.
Why Buy Local?
Buying locally is buying seasonally. For garden-fresh, good-tasting food, plan your menu around what is being grown in your area. Get to know what is in season and when. By eating with the seasons, you will be enjoying foods when they taste their best, are the most plentiful, and cost less. Not only will you save money buying this way, but also you will find food that is more nutritionally complete as it is picked at peak ripeness, often the night before.
Did you know that the produce you buy at your local grocery travels an average 1500 miles from the countryside to your counter? Every time you choose a food produced locally over one shipped globally, you reduce your reliance on fossil fuels thus helping lessen the risks associated with pollution. In addition to preserving the environment, you are also helping the individual grower. Because local farmers can bypass expensive labor, shipping, and handling costs, they can bring you produce more cheaply as well as minimize their own costs, thus maximizing their profits. Keep in mind that when produce is being shipped long distances they are exposed to many more chemical sprays in order to survive the trip and still appear attractive and nutritious.
By shopping at farmers’ markets and stands, you are investing in the local economy. For every dollar you spend buying fruits and vegetables, twice as much income is generated and reinvested back into the community. Purchasing produce from these marketplaces also helps to financially aid small family farms struggling for survival against the super stores. Supporting local farmers links you directly to the people who grow the foods you eat and connects you to the rhythm of the changing seasons, offering you the opportunity to experience the exceptional flavors and unusual variety of locally grown produce.
Fun Family Outing
Finally, an outing to one of these markets can be an enjoyable family affair. Many of these sites are family friendly as they maintain picnic areas as well as sponsor activities and attractions for children. Depending on where you live, farmers markets may even offer fun events like produce tasting, live music, cooking demonstrations, and farm animal exhibits on weekends. Giving your family the opportunity to help select and buy fresh, colorful produce from farm stands or markets makes eating at-home a healthy, nutritious alternative to eating out and gives your family the chance to share in quality time.
Then, when you get home get the kids involved in the kitchen. cleaning the berries, chopping fruit, making fresh whipped cream, or a simple fruit platter.
Food Focus – Berries
If you have ever had the opportunity to pick your own berries, you already know how wonderfully fresh and delicious they are. Their natural sweetness makes them so easy to prepare. Just rinse them under water and serve as a refreshing snack or dessert. Their beautiful, deep pigments of red, blue, and purple are not only pretty to look at but also contain densely packed nutrients called phytochemicals, particularly flavonoids. These nutrients help reduce your risk to certain diseases and some cancers as well as maintain healthy vision and boost immunity in the body. They also contain vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, folate, and potassium; are low in calories; and have a low glycemic index – all of which make berries a good choice for diabetics.
When choosing berries, a visit to your local farmers’ market will usually bring you the freshest and tastiest of the season. Many times these berries are harvested that morning, and at some places, you may even be able to pick you own.
Chilled Honeydew Soup
Vegetable Heaven-Mollie Katzen
- 1 medium-sized honeydew melon, 4 1/2 lb perfectly ripe, cut into chunks (about 6-8 cups)
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh mint
- A few blueberries, limes slices and/or mint for garnish
Place everything except the optional blueberries in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. You will probably need to do this several batches.
Transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid, and chill until very cold.
Serve in bowls or in glasses with a few whole blueberries to garnish.
Yield: 5-6 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes, plus chill time
Mixed Berry Salad
- 2 tablespoons organic yogurt (try key-lime or lemon)
- Juice of 1/2 lime (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, torn
- 1 cup cubed cantaloupe
- 4 medium strawberries, stemmed and quartered
- 1/4 cup raspberries
- 1/4 cup blueberries
Whisk the yogurt, lime juice, and mint together in a medium bowl. Add the fruit and toss to combine. Serve.
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