Tips for Shopping at Your Local Farmers Market
Madison, Wisconsin – Spring is finally here and local farmers markets are open in communities across Wisconsin.
Visiting the market is a great way to get the family outside and moving while enjoying healthy and fresh local fruits, vegetables and other delicious homemade products.
UW Health dietitians share why you should consider shopping at your local farmers market.
Better Tasting Fruits and Vegetables
Locally grown food is generally grown and bred for flavor, not for appearance or long shelf life. For example, the locally grown, seasonal strawberries, although smaller, are usually much sweeter than the large strawberries you can get year round. Better flavor could translate to you and your kids eating more fruits and vegetables.
Commercial produce is often harvested before it is fully mature so the produce doesn't rot and stays unblemished while in transit to your local grocery store. However, researchers suggest that food picked at peak ripeness is higher in vitamins and other healthful phytonutrients (plant-based antioxidants). Tomatoes, for instance, are higher in Vitamin C when they are allowed to vine-ripen. In general, small, local farmers will let their produce ripen longer, resulting in more nutritious products for you.
Less Potential for Contamination
The biggest benefit might be location. Locally grown produce is usually grown within 50 miles of its destination. Compare this to commercially grown produce that may be transported from more than 2,000 miles away. Because of shorter distances and less handing, local produce, may have less chance for damage and contamination (i.e. potential food-safety issues) from harvest to washing, shipping, and distribution, than products that are transported from other states and other countries.
Keeping it Local
Buying from local farmers helps support the local economy and keeps your dollars circulating close by. It also may reduce use of fossil fuels, pesticides and fertilizers that often are used at large industrial farms. UW Health has bought into the local food initiative and partnered with REAP Food Group, to take a hard look at what is served to patients, visitors and staff inside the hospital and in all retail food locations.
What's in Season?
Unsure of Unique Veggies?
Garlic scapes? Ramps? Celeriac? What do you even do with them?
There are a lot of over-wintered vegetables, such as spinach. Over-wintering produces a larger and heartier crinkly leaf that tends to be darker in color and sweeter. To survive freezing temps, the starches in the spinach convert to sugar (its own form of anti-freeze), leading to a more concentrated flavor. Spinach is a great source of Vitamins A, C and K, and a good source of folate, iron and manganese. It’s also low in calories and provides soluble fiber.
There are also ample root vegetables, like parsnips, turnips, beets, potatoes, and winter radishes. You can also spot apples, hydroponic tomatoes (grown in a nutrient solution rather than in soil), cucumbers, popping corn; Shallots, dry beans, hickory and black walnuts, honey, maple syrup, vinegars, pickled goods, jams, and even sweet corn gelato.
Local meats and dairy such as venison, grass-fed beef, eggs, cheeses, are offered as are baked goods that tend to be available all year round. Home gardeners, can find lots of interesting varieties of seedlings, including tomatoes, lettuces, herbs, and tons of flowers.
One unique vegetable you might find includes ramps, a type of wild leek that sprouts in early spring and has a garlicky flavor. But if you want to try them, you’d better hurry, because the harvest period is extremely short. If you're uncertain about how to prepare a vegetable you find, many farmers market booths have recipes and other information on how to prepare their items.
Date Published: 05/12/2015