Happy Tuesday! It’s getting chilly here on the farm so I’ve got my warm sweater on, sipping Moroccan mint tea while looking at the front garden’s palm trees and gardenias. Sounds like heaven right? It is (most of the time) but today I realized that for the first time in my life I’m not going to experience fall in the East Coast. Fall for me is as much about the color of the leaves changing as it about going to the farmers’ market. There’s something about being bundled up in the chilly weather, hunting for treasures in a sea of color and all the possibilities of great meals to look forward to that make farmers’ markets in the fall so special.
If you’re reading this, you probably already know the great benefits that come with supporting farmers’ markets. Aside from being better for the planet, it’s a great chance to get your kids involved and emotionally connected with healthy seasonal foods from an early age, not to mention an opportunity to expand their taste palate.
Consuming produce from a farmers’ market can also be an easy and direct way to increase your family’s nutrient intake. I found this great article from Harvard’s Center for Health and the Global Environment that goes into detail about these benefits**:
- Variety: Supermarkets (that have more middlemen and overhead costs to cover) decide which produce and varieties to offer based on efficient yield, profit margin, consistent appearance (those apples need to look perfect and identical) and shelf-life, among other things. Having so much overhead cost and extra transportation time doesn’t leave much room for prioritizing taste and nutritional value. Farmers’ Markets do, however, have that luxury.
- Healthier farming methods = more nutritional value: The methods used in local farms vs industrial produce farms allow the plant to absorb and sustain more nutrients
- Harvest Time
Peak ripeness is when nutrients are at their highest. The earlier the plant is picked the less nutritional value it has. Harvesting prematurely is necessary when foods have to travel far to extend shelf-life.
Any damage done to a plant can lower its nutritional value. Bruising is probably the most common problem which is hard to avoid with industry practices such as mechanical harvesting and moving them with trucks and forklifts.
If a bruise can affect the nutritional value, you can image what cutting can do. The second the plant is altered, it starts losing its nutrients. That why it’s best to consume fruits and vegetables sooner than later once you’ve ‘processed’ them somehow (cut or blended). Buying pre-cut foods can save time but it does affect the value. However, if that’s what works for you, pre-cut veggies are certainly better than no veggies! You can work around this by eating your pre-cut foods earlier in the week or ideally the same day.
- Longer storage and transportation time
Plants start losing their nutritional value from the time they’re harvested. Also, the longer it takes to transport, the harder it is to prevent damage along the way.
Getting there: Saturday morning rolls around, my comfy sweats and Netflix are enticing me to stay in. “What time is the market open ’til?” My husband and I have a leisure debate about that until we know it’s too late to go. ‘Next week’ we say.
Farmstand app no longer lets us get away with that. It tells you where the closest market is and what time they’re open. Did I mention it’s free?
What’s in Season? Check out this great interactive map from Epicurious. It allows you to easily select your state and month to give you a heads up for what’s in season. LOVE!
Now that you’re fully armed with all this info., grab your coats, enjoy every second of the market, every sip of hot cider, knowing that these are small yet invaluable steps to keeping your children happy and healthy!by
**This is a summarized version of the article. If you do have the time, it’s well worth reading through it.