Farmers market favourites
In the last 15 years the number of farmers’ markets in the US has increased 300%. And markets are now selling much more than fruit and vegetables including artisinal cheeses, breads, condiments, meat, poultry and eggs. Everyone has their own reasons for shopping at the market: here are some of mine:
Market produce is healthier – usually harvested within 24 hours of being sold, it retains more of its nutrients. And because it was picked just in time for sale you get that farm ripe flavor.
You get more selection including heirloom species and other varietals that are not suited to industrial harvesting equipment and extended travel time. This protects plant diversity for everyone. And the plants have much cooler names (anyone for Tennis Ball Lettuce?)
You can discover new favorites: my farmers market introduced me to ramps, garlic scapes, husk tomatoes (better than candy, I swear) and the gloriously fractal romanesco cauliflower.
You support the local economy and keep farm land from turning into urban sprawl and strip malls. And the carbon footprint of your food is dramatically reduced if it doesn’t have to be shipped long distance, or worse, flown internationally.
You spend your money on your food: instead of having about 70% of it go to advertising and distribution (and CEO salaries). Often the food can be cheaper than that at the store: if not you know you are paying for produce not packaging.
Your food comes with stories – there are always interesting characters at the market. And the farmer can answer all your questions about how the food is produced and how the animals are treated, and can usually give you great cooking ideas.
You get in touch with how and when food grows. (I don’t consider myself a totally clueless city slicker, but I was amazed to discover brussel sprouts grow as gorgeous clusters on stems) And when you follow the harvest cycle, you get to celebrate the seasons: when I see asparagus and ramps I feel the winter doldrums completely wash away
A walk around the farmers’ market is an outing not a chore. You get to enjoy natural light and sounds instead of the flicker of fluorescent tube lighting and piped pop music.
To find a farmers market near you check out: http://www.localharvest.org