It is so encouraging to see how many farmers’ markets have sprung up in our area over the past 10 years.  According to the Smithsonian, prior to developed infrastructure and refrigeration, municipal markets served as the primary resource for food in larger communities.  With roots in California and New York, the revived interest in locally produced and distributed food grew largely out of a concern over farmland preservation.  Interest has now extended to the health implications of shopping at farmers’ markets.  Overflowing with fresh, whole foods, markets represent what most of our diet should be – plants.  Consuming a diet that is at least 75% plants is one of the best ways to ensure optimal health through nutrition.

The trend of healthcare professionals prescribing food as medicine is a trend we’re happy to see sticking.  So, here’s your prescription for this week:  Grab your sunhat and hit your local farmers’ market with plenty of water! Warning:  Side effects may include more energy, weight loss, improved digestion, enhanced mood, and glowing skin.

Follow these tips to maximize each trip to the farmers’ market this year:

  1. Know what’s in season. Research when local vegetables and fruits are in season. Some early summer produce to look out for:  Lettuce, beans, radishes, berries, collards, garlic, and cucumbers.
  2. Explore before you buy. Make at least two rounds to check out what the farmers market has to offer that day. Keep an open mind and be flexible. You may be inspired from certain produce that is available that day. Don’t worry so much about shopping for a recipe – fresh, simply prepared veggies always have a place at the table.  Toss with some olive oil and salt and place on the grill, using a grill basket for smaller vegetables such as broccoli florets or green beans.
  3. Get to know your farmers. The farmers’ market isn’t just a place to buy local produce. It’s an opportunity to form relationships with the people who feed you and learn how they go about their trade. You’ll have the opportunity to learn which items are at their peak, which are nearing the end of their season and which are almost ready, then plan your purchasing accordingly.  If buying organic is important to you, do not be afraid to ask the farmer how their produce is treated.
  4. Bring reusable bags and some wheels. Bring more bags than you think you may need. It’s also a great idea to bring a chilled freezer tote, just in case you are not heading home right after and items need to be refrigerated.  A two-wheeled city grocery cart is the best way to remain hands-free while shopping and can really improve your experience.

Written by Julie Harrington, RD, CPC

Reviewed and edited by Jeanne Petrucci, MS, RDN