Pick Up Fresh Produce at the Farmers' Market
TEXARKANA, Ark. –
The summer is when all the fresh produce hits the farmers markets. At the farmer’s market you may see fresh cut flowers, baked goods, local honey, and locally grown, farm fresh produce. It is satisfying to drive a few miles to pick up fresh produce and other products rather than at a supermarket.
If asked why you should shop at the farmer’s market, I’d say why wouldn’t you?
Here you will find fruits and vegetables picked at their prime. Fruits and vegetables you find at the grocery store are often several days old before they even reach the produce aisle. Before produce hits supermarket shelves, it is shipped in refrigerated trucks, many times from thousands of miles away.
Farmer’s market produce, on the other hand, is generally picked the day before you buy it, so you know the food is as fresh as you can get it outside of growing it yourself.
Shopping the Farmers Market builds a sense of community by supporting local farmers.
Here you can ask the grower for suggestions on preparing the produce. I recently purchased Yard-Long Beans from the Gateway Farmers Market. I was not familiar with them so I asked the grower, Ms. Mae, what they were and how I should prepare them. She told me that they were used in Asian cooking and grow on climbing vines and the pods can grow many inches in one day; the average length is anywhere between one and one and a half feet long. She also told me the best way to prepare them and they are now a favorite of mine!
Before you head to the farmers market, it’s helpful to bring a few items with you.
- Although most vendors supply plastic bags, bringing your own bag or basket will save on packaging that is going into the landfill. A basket can help prevent produce from getting bruised or crushed. Always put the heaviest at the bottom of either your basket or bag.
- With the high temperatures we are having, a cooler might be a good choice if you are not going straight home. Produce will ripen quickly in this heat, but putting it in a cooler will allow you to shop longer. You are likely to find eggs and other ready to eat foods that will benefit from a cooler.
- Cash is king is an old saying and rings true at the farmers market. While some vendors might take debit cards, not all do. Shopping is easier and faster with cash, but please do not bring large bills.
For the very best selection, remember to shop early in the day. The best and most popular items are likely to sell out first. In Texarkana, Jamison’s peaches is one example. I see disappointed shoppers every time I am there because they show up several hours after the market is open hoping to get fresh peaches, only to discover they are sold out.
Bring your children and grandchildren.
There is no better way to introduce your children to new foods than to let them pick them out. Just this week at the market, I saw one child ask for purple hull peas, another for a cantaloupe and yet another for squash and zucchini. Allow them to pick out a fruit or vegetable they would like to try. The vendors love to see the kids at the market, they are their future customers after all.
Asking questions is a great way to learn more about the produce. Farmers and vendors love to share what they know and how they prepare the produce. Many will have recipes to share as well.
Many vendors accept WIC and SNAP benefits at the Gateway Farmers Market. Look for the green signs by the vendors’ booth that show you can use your benefits there.
If you would like to receive a copy of “When It’s in Season,” contact the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609 or visit us in room 215 at the Miller County Courthouse. We're online at email@example.com, on Facebook at UAEXMillerCountyFCS/CarlaDue, on Twitter @MillerCountyFCS or on the web at uaex.edu/Miller.
This recipe for Italian Zucchini Skillet contains all vegetables you can find at the Farmers Market. It is very tasty and aromatic while it cooks.
Italian Zucchini Skillet
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 medium zucchini, diced
- 2 medium yellow squash, diced
- 1 1/2 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan
- Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat.
- Add zucchini and yellow squash and sauté for 2 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, Italian seasoning and garlic powder.
- Continue to sauté until the squash is tender, about 3 – 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle half the Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper. Stir and top with remaining cheese.
Yields: 4 servings. Per serving: 119 calories, 7 grams protein, 10 carbohydrates, 7 grams fat, 457 mg sodium, 3 grams fiber.
By Carla Due
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854