Heading to Market
A few years ago, a friend of mine decided to grow his own produce in a grand backyard garden that he built using simple, but purposeful, tools and his own two hands. He grew an abundance of different vegetables like tomatoes, assorted greens, carrots, peas, peppers—among many others. I looked forward to harvest, and enjoyed many deliciously fresh meals that offered flavors indescribable compared to those made with store-bought counterparts.
Going even further back in time, I can remember my mom’s herb garden on the side of our house where she grew chives, basil, parsley, mint, etc. Every time I would walk by, I’d alternate which leaves I would grab to taste. There was really nothing quite like enjoying the fruits of your own (or your mother’s, or your friend’s) planting labor.
I’ve given my green thumb a try, but regretfully, I’ve never been able to master the art of gardening. Luckily for me, and perhaps some of you, summer yields something for the wannabe farmers in all of us: the farmers’ market.
The farmers’ market is a wonderful means of getting your hands on locally grown, organic fruits and vegetables. It’s also a great way to get to know your community and to learn more about how the foods you’re about to consume are grown, and exactly where they come from. It’s hard to beat growing produce right outside your door, but when the resources aren’t there, the farmers’ market’s got your back.
If you’re like me and take your business to market, make sure you’re getting the highest quality produce possible by doing your research and asking questions. Avoid buying produce that is contaminated with chemicals and GMOs, and also avoid buying fruits and veggies that are not locally grown. Not only does buying local mean you know exactly where your food is coming from, but you're also supporting the economy closest to your home.
As you’re making your Saturday afternoon trek, consider this: The Environmental Working Group suggests going organic with certain produce in particular—“the dirty dozen”—because these foods are usually found to have the highest pesticide levels:
>>Sweet Bell Peppers
Another thing to keep in mind when browsing aisles of crops is how to decide which ones will give you the most bang for your buck. Is the color right? Or the smell? Here’s a short guide to get you started, and to help maximize your buying and eating potential:
>>Strawberries: These berries don’t continue to ripen after harvest, so pick up the ones that are red all the way to the top.
>>Kale: Springy, deep green leaves that don’t show signs of wilting or discoloring make a good pick. Keep in mind that the smaller the leaves, the more mild the flavor.
>>Cantaloupe: The answer lies within your nose: sniff the stem end—there should be a strong melon aroma.
>>Cucumbers: This delicious veggie begins to turn yellow as it ages. Pick the ones that have completely green skin.
>>Corn: The husk should be moist and bright green. Run your hand over it, and you should be able to feel individual kernels. The silk should be dark and matted.
>>Avocado: Don’t go for the ones with dents or bruises. This fruit should be slightly soft to the touch, but not squishy.
>>Apples: Choose deeply colored, firm, and naturally shiny fruits.
>>Cherries: Plump and dark in color is the way to go. Note: Cherries with stems still intact have a longer shelf life.
>>Bell Peppers: May your peppers be firm, glossy, and deeply colored. The less you see green, the sweeter your peppers will be.
>>Green Beans: Look for bright colors and smooth skin. Your beans should also be stiff—if it snaps when you bend it, you’ve got a winner.
>>Raspberries/Blueberries: For both of these berries, first check the container for stains; this indicates berries are beginning to soften. Berries should be firm to the touch, but have a slight give when squeezed.
Samantha Fischer is an editor for Natural Solutions and Alternative Medicine Magazines. You can follow the magazine on Twitter @NaturalSolution or follow Sam @samanfisch.