Eating well - Support your local farmers’ market

Written by Laurie Syring, RD/LD. Posted in Taking Care of Your Life

It’s that time of year again—late spring/early summer when we all get excited about good weather, the end of school, graduations, vacations, etc. For healthy food aficionados like me, another exciting event that happens at this time every year is the return of farmers’ markets!

For my money, there’s no better place to buy fruits and vegetables. The freshness and flavor of their wares are inarguable, plus patronizing these markets—more than 10,000 strong nationwide, representing over 50,000 farmers—is a great way to get to “know your food” as well as your local small-scale farmer, who just might happen to be your neighbor.

Here are more good reasons to support your local farmers’ market:

The freshness factor

When it comes to freshness, there’s simply no comparing the produce sold at the supermarket with that available at your local farmers’ market. In fact, most farmers’ market fruits and veggies will last two to three times longer than those sold in stores.

Tasty inspiration

Not only do farmers’ markets offer the freshest, tastiest produce possible (short of growing your own), but they also introduce their customers to new foods they may have never seen before, opening up all kinds of possibilities for fun and experimentation in the kitchen. Plus, the farmers often have simple recipe ideas that they’re happy to share. You might just find that one special food you can take home and make a mundane meal really great. If you love to cook, the farmers’ market is the place to be!

Seasonal eating

The farmers’ market follows the seasons, so it’s worth coming back week after week to see what’s been harvested recently—asparagus in spring followed by strawberries, tomatoes, and corn, then the squash and peppers of fall.

Healthy eating

The health benefits of a plant-based diet abound, and as regular readers of this column know, I often emphasize the importance of developing a healthy eating pattern and filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables. There is no better way to achieve that than to visit the farmers’ market and load up your basket with produce. Be sure to put some fresh fruit in a bowl on the counter so it’s convenient for the whole family. The colors, textures, and delicious flavors of fresh fruits and vegetables far outweigh anything you can find in pill or smoothie form. Not to mention, when you buy and cook with farmers’ market foods, you can control exactly what (and how much of it) you put in your meals, such as salt.

Community support

The benefits of the Farmers Market go way beyond your health to something larger for the entire community. Small growers thrive on the local market. Your support helps ensure the farmer is economically viable and will remain in business year after year.

Sustainable agriculture

Small farmers have been instrumental in reviving growing techniques that are safer for our environment, often using very few fertilizers and pesticides. Their hard work helps prevent contamination of rivers, streams, lakes, etc., which is something very near and dear to our hearts here in Toledo. We are just beginning to understand the important role small farmers play in finding solutions to our environmental challenges.

Just for the fun of it!

Last but not least, the farmers’ market is just a fun place to be! It’s a place where people come together to shop, talk, eat, and discover new foods—often seeing friends as well as making new ones in the process.

As a dietitian, I know that a diet built around fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables is the cornerstone to prevention. Chances are, there is a terrific farmers’ market or community-supported agricultural program nearby where you can buy a certain amount of produce from a local farmer each week. You can also learn something new about foods each time you shop there–where they came from, how they were grown, how to prepare them, etc.

So what are you waiting for? Stop at a farmers’ market, cook something healthy—like the recipe for oven-roasted asparagus below—and enjoy the taste of eating right!

Laurie Syring, RD/LD, is Clinical Nutrition Manager at ProMedica Flower Hospital.

Oven-Roasted Asparagus

1 bunch of asparagus spears, trimmed

3 Tbs. olive oil

1½ Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

1 clove garlic

1 tsp. sea salt (optional)

½ tsp. fresh ground pepper

1 Tbs. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Place asparagus in plastic freezer bag or mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, toss to coat, then add cheese, garlic, salt, and pepper. Arrange in baking dish or baking sheet in a single layer.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until just tender. Sprinkle with lemon juice just before serving.