Don’t wait until Earth Day on April 22 to visit your local farmers market to get in touch with the deliciousness of Mother Nature. Most farmers markets are open year-round and feature fruits and vegetables that grow according to the season. However, springtime is a time of feast for fresh ingredients like artichokes, brussels sprouts, dandelion greens, horseradish, strawberries, apricots, and a variety of other fresh herbs that are plentiful and ripe in April. Use this excellent time to experiment with new, healthy recipes in your kitchen.
Before you head out to the farmers market, gather a few canvas or cloth grocery bags so you can separate your purchases. Place the hard, tough vegetables or fruits together, and the tender items, like berries, alone safely in a satchel. Saturday mornings tend to be the most popular time for public shopping as it’s a great way to introduce you to what the market has to offer. Once you’ve become acquainted with the market’s layout, ask around to see when it’s open during the week and which local vendors participate on which days. Due to the high number of visitors on Saturdays, vendors are more likely to bring a greater variety of items to sell, which may include organic, free-range eggs, goat cheese, fresh flowers, grass-fed beef, and honey.
Make Market Day Memorable for Everyone!
Make a day out of a farmers market trip, whether you’re solo, with friends or pulling your children around in a wagon. Some vendors may sell breads, baked goods, soft cheeses or coffee. Take a picnic blanket and enjoy a good book or some family time while munching on fresh market goodies. Buy some of the produce upon first arrival, since some items like berries, peaches, and arugula greens might go quickly. Taking the time to spend outdoors at the market and do some of your local grocery shopping for the workweek is an excellent way to unwind and enjoy a simple Saturday.Another idea for a day at the market is to invite friends for recipe swapping. Shop together or meet up after you’ve finished shopping to go over ideas for healthy recipes. Bring along a pen and notepad so that you’re able to write down ideas that your friends may have, whether it’s creating better consistency or new flavors that your children will not turn their noses at. The farmers market is an excellent place for your little ones to explore and be able to touch, see and smell the produce. Most farmers markets allow you to sample a piece of their in-season specialties, so take advantage! Exposing your children to nutritional fare can help them associate and identify fruits and vegetables, now and in the future, as smart food choices that are also delicious.Avoid Overbuying Produce with Preparation
It’s smart to plan a potential menu before you go to the market so you can stay away from overbuying. Planning a menu ahead of time will allow you to practice mindfulness and gain an idea of your estimated costs. If you buy more than you consume, you’re creating food waste and spoilage when the items could have been used by someone who wanted it more. Eating with the season can help add new variety to your diet. Due to the fluctuation of items throughout the year, from root vegetables in the fall to fresh berries in the spring and summer, you’re able to get creative with a healthy and nutritious diet.Keep in mind that some items are offered year-round while others serve as good candidates to freeze for later use. Get to know your local market vendors by asking questions.Questions to Consider
- What fruits and vegetables do you grow?
- When are your produce items available?
- Is any of your produce organic-certified?
- What sort of pesticides or insect repellent sprays do you use?
- Will this freeze well?
- Do you have any tips on how to peel, open or prepare this item?
As you get to know vendors and find favorites of your own, you’ll be able to start planning menus for the week around what you know they will have and when. If you find it necessary, you can try stocking up on fresh herbs like cilantro for corn salsa, or basil for pesto, which you can freeze to use later on in pastas, cold salads, and Italian-flavored soups.
Navigating a farmers market and paying attention to what’s in season will help you save money because you’ll only buy what’s available at the time. In-season fruits and vegetables are more flavorful because they are ripe and ready to be eaten.
Let’s Cook with Spring Goodness
Try two of my recommended spring recipes inspired by a recent market visit! The first recipe uses apricot as a sweet but healthy option for dessert or a snack. It is a delicate, yet versatile fruit that can be used in desserts, jam preserves, and savory dishes as well. The fleshy fruits are rich in vitamins C, A, E, and beta-carotene.
Dark Chocolate and Toasted Coconut Apricots 10-12 apricots, cut and pitted
First start by cutting the apricots similar to an orange wedge and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set your oven to 200 degrees (or 175 degrees) and let the warm heat create dried apricot wedges. Give your wedges at least 6 to 8 hours to warm (it’s a long time, but worth it!)
(You could also purchase a food dehydrator or try drying the apricots outdoors like the famous dried apricots from Turkey)
2 70% Cacao dark chocolate bars
1/4 cup of organic heavy cream
1 cup (or more) of dried coconut
In a nonstick pan, stir in 1 cup of dried coconut flakes and toast slowly on a low heat setting. The coconut will begin to turn light brown in color once it’s ready. In a double boiler, pour in the heavy cream and begin to crumble both chocolate bars into the mix. Continue to stir at medium heat until the chocolate sauce is smooth (don’t burn it!). Use your fingers to dip each apricot wedge into the melted chocolate (half or the entire piece) and then lay directly on a dry piece of parchment paper. Sprinkle your toasted coconut flakes across the chocolate before it cools. Let cool and enjoy a sweet treat!
Spring is an excellent time to introduce artichokes into your kitchen. The spiky and odd-shaped vegetables may look intimidating, but the tender, buttery taste of their petals is worth the exploration. Try this simple recipe for roasted potatoes and artichokes with lemon.
Roasted Artichokes and Potatoes 2-3 fresh artichokes
1/2 lb of fresh red skin potatoes
Olive oil or butter
Fresh herbs like parsley or thyme
Salt and pepper