Nearly every Saturday in the summer, you can find me browsing the farmer's market, usually with my dog (she only goes for the free cheese samples, though). I can easily spend a few hours though between browsing between the stands completely covering the city hall park and adjoining road, running into friends, and sampling food or having lunch there.
The main reason I go there, though, is because of the fresh, local foods.
It's my favorite place to get fresh produce in the late spring, summer, and fall for so many reasons. Firstly, it's outside in the sunshine rather than in the cold grocery store.
1. Local food is higher in nutrient content.
The average produce in the grocery store travels thousands of miles to sit for days in the sprayed containers. Once produce is picked from the fields, it starts losing some of its nutrients, especially when exposed to light and time. That means by the time the spinach you buy actually gets into your salad bowl, it won't have nearly as many nutrients as the day it was picked.
Instead, many farmers' markets will sell produce that was picked the day before or even the day of! It's pretty cool to be able to buy fresh greens at the market and be able to go home and make a salad for lunch with them.
2. It's more sustainable.
Buying local produce, meats, eggs, or other products supports local farmers and businesses rather than large-scale farms or factory farms, which can be harmful to the environment and inhumane to the animals.
I do eat a small amount of meat, but I prioritize local, more humanely raised, and grass-fed/pastured ones. I happily pay more for local meats knowing I'm getting food that is richer in nutrition, free of antibiotics and hormones, and supports local farmers. Overall, I'm paying more for the meat but eating less meat overall.
3. I get a wider variety of produce options.
The best part of the farmer's market is seeing all the heirloom products! There's tomatoes of all different colors, several different types of kale, and gorgeous purple cauliflower. Seriously, whole foods can be so beautiful!
Years ago, I didn't even realize that there were more types of tomatoes than regular red round tomatoes and cherry tomatoes. Luckily, the farmer's market has opened up my eyes to so much more produce, and it all comes in different shapes and sizes compared to the grocery store which only seems to sell 'perfectly shaped' produce. Body diversity exists in plants too - I joke, but it does. :)
4. It's seasonal.
Eating seasonally is a great way to get in a wide variety of nutrients throughout the year. Summer is obviously amazing for fresh produce, and eating the rainbow with all the fresh berries, greens, and more.
Nature is therapeutic and really gives us what we need to take care of our bodies through seasonal food. For example, in the summer, there's tons of fresh produce that is also rich in water (like juicy cantaloupe, cucumbers, and greens) that help keep us hydrated. In the winter, the root veggies like potatoes and beets are easy to store, can last longer, and are hearty. I know I definitely crave raw salads in the summer and hearty soups with root veggies in the winter.
Eating seasonally also allows you to choose a wide variety of foods, so you don't get sick of the same few fruits and veggies. While I don't eat completely local and seasonal (I love avocados and mangos, which are definitely not local to New England), I do like to get creative in the kitchen with seasonal produce.
As an extra bonus, eating seasonal is great for the wallet. It's much cheaper to eat in-season produce - it's exactly why I don't try to buy fresh berries in the middle of the winter. Plus, they never taste as delicious as juicy just-picked berries!
5. I get to talk directly with the farmers.
I always think of the scene from Portlandia (the only one I've really seen) where a couple is out to eat, and they ask where the chicken is from, then want to go check out the farm to see if it lived a good life.
When I go to the grocery store, I have no idea where my food came from, except seeing idyllic scenes of farms and happy cows on the front of packages. I already know food marketing can be extremely misleading, which is why I love chatting with people (often the farmers themselves) directly at the farmer's market.
I can get an idea of how the food was raised - if it's organic - and even to get ideas for recipes for different veggies. One thing I've realized from chatting to people is a lot of stands don't have the 'organic' label but grow their food in an organic manner.
6. It keeps me creative in the kitchen.
Most of all, going to farmers' markets keeps me creative in the kitchen. I love thinking up new ideas of how to use the produce for meals or even making unique salads.
One of my intentions around food is to play in the kitchen and make it fun and creative. I definitely get in food ruts every so often, but I actually love cooking Trying out new recipes or making my own combinations is a great way to have fun with food and enjoy food mindfully. I highly recommend cooking with your favorite music playing, then you can dance around while you're cooking too.
To help you explore some new produce, I'm sharing 7 seasonal recipe ideas for summer.