To All Farmers Market Newbies
May through November you sure will find me at the farmers market every Saturday. Farmers’ market is an affordable way to eat pesticide free and organic (mostly uncertified) produce. Despite growing up in Ukraine on seasonal produce, eating clean since 2011 and blogging about health for almost 4 years, I discovered farmers market (5 minute drive from my house) only last year…Huh?! I guess it was only when we decided to eat organic on a budget (after all research I have done since my mom had a tumour). Before then I thought “Why bother if I can get everything at one grocery store?!”.
So, it is never too late, my friends, to start eating local real food and support your local farmers. And PLEASE…there are no silly questions to ask a farmer. I still do and do it quite confidently. Nobody will think you are a dumb-dumb. A farmer will be only happy to tell you all he/she knows about his “fruits of labour”. You might even find some stories too long.
Last Saturday I woke up early and went for a run at the dykes. Alex slept in and kids behaved. After a lazy breakfast outside we all headed to the farmers market. I assure you I prefer to go alone because what kids like grocery shopping?! Duh. But I needed Alex as a photographer. Kids came along by default.
Farmers Market Tips and Tricks
Honestly, there are no special tricks and tips for farmers market shopping. It is not a Black Friday.
When going to the farmers market I always make sure to have cash (I spend about $60-70), reusable bags (I am an environment recycling nazi) and kind of an idea what I am cooking next week. However, reality of farmers market is I show up there and grab what I feel like and what is in season. So, no shopping list for me. But up to you. I cook with what I have on hand most of the time.
I do not bargain with farmers. Farmers work hard for their money.
It is a good idea to learn what produce is in season. Just so you know.
About Organic and No Spray
Before I show you what I got on Saturday, I want to tell you the most important piece of information about farmers market – get to know your farmer! It is my second year and I know what kale hasn’t been sprayed and what eggs are from free run chickens eating worms running around the garden. Just ask questions whether farmer sprays produce with anything or feeds grain to chickens. Usually farmers are very honest about it. Depending on the season’s weather and type of produce you will hear different answers. Some spray, some do not spray at all, some spray with organic fertilizer, some use egg shells etc.
I can guarantee you will not find certified organic produce at the farmers market. That label costs over $200,000! So, just ask. To me, farmers market produce is good enough. Maybe even better than certified organic apples that travelled from Chile.
Zesty vegetable that is perfect for dipping in sweet potato hummus, lunch boxes, ground chicken tacos and Greek yogurt potato salad. Oddly enough my 9 year old loves radish which is bizarre to me because it is spicy. I will take it.
#2. Garlic Scapes
Garlic scapes are new to me this year. I love produce discoveries. Farmers cut off garlic stems from garlic plants to keep more nutrients in the garlic bulb itself. So, think green onion – white and green part. Scapes are green part and garlic that matures later in summer/fall is the white part.
Farmer I bought garlic scapes from said she just chops them and adds to a salad. Another Russian lady we met said she sautés them with tomato paste. Very traditional Slavic cooking method. Note raw garlic scapes are zesty a bit, less intense than garlic itself. We sautéed them and added to a salad. Very mild and tasty. I am sure full of nutrients too.
#3. No Spray Strawberries
Strawberries top the Dirty Dozen list. Conventional strawberries have been found to contain up to 30 chemicals on their delicate skin that do not come off during washing. I buy only organic, no spray or no chemical strawberries. Whatever farmer calls them.:) I always ask.
We love strawberries best raw. I can’t bring myself to cook them. Maybe only in healthy almond cake once in a while and even then they are raw. I do not feel a need to add more sugar to my strawberries and body when strawberries are already sweet enough.
This week I bought green and Romaine lettuce for salads for throw everything together kind of salad, like chickpea salad with avocado or simple lettuce salad.
#5. Baby Zucchini
In June, zucchini you see at the farmers market are greenhouse grown. Local though.
#6. Hanging Flower Baskets
I bought mine at Costco in April (couldn’t wait) but good to know farmers markets carry them too.
#7. Eggs and Cheese
Know your farmer applies right here the best. I know this girl’s mom because our boys were in the same class. Then they moved to an acreage and now she farms. She honestly told me how her chickens are raised and I am happy to eat real free run eggs. I occasionally buy cheese they sell from local grass fed cows. Uncertified organic but it doesn’t get better than this.
#8. Organic Bread
This loaf of rye bread from A Bread Affair is the closest it can get to childhood. Our loaves were round, hot from the oven, crusty on the outside and soft inside. To me this is what I know bread to be like. Not sliced in plastic bags. I buy every weekend! And I eat some, of course!
#9. Young Carrots
As a kid, grandma would always pull out a young carrot from the garden, scrape it, wash it and give it to us with the greens attached. We pretended to be bunnies. I do the same for my kids. They love it!
#10. Baby Dill
Dill…how can I skip dill?! A Ukrainian meal without dill and garlic is like Mexican without cilantro and lime.
#11. Green Onions
We add green onions to salads and soups. Green onions (especially the white part) are rich in flavonoids that support immune system and may help prevent cancer. Eating raw is the best. I even add a small amount to kids’ smoothies. In Ukraine, it was popular to take a sprig and dip it in salt. And eat, maybe with a lot of rye bread and Ukrainian borscht. I am sure no one was kissing after that or who knows…Sometimes a shot of vodka was involved if there was an occasion or maybe not…
#12. Local Raw Honey
I love raw and unpasteurized honey. If I can get local I go for it. Sometimes, I grab one at Costco but local is better.
A few weeks ago I bought fireweed honey which is a champagne of all honeys. So, I kept asking this guy and tasting different honey and ended up buying this jar of alfalfa honey for $16. Grown without sprays. It is very light in taste. Amazing!!! Who needs stevia?! Raw honey is extremely good for us – all minerals, nutrients and it can even help cure allergies (local honey only).
My favourite kale is dinosaur kale and for some reason I have a hard time growing it in my garden. I don’t get very upset because I pay only $2.50 for this bunch. I now planted some curly kale and it is growing no problem.
Kohlrabi not “kholorabi”.:) Anyways, kohlrabi was another produce discovery of 2016 for me. It tastes like a core of a cabbage. They are definitely related. In Ukraine, we ate a lot of cabbage – lazy cabbage rolls, healthy coleslaw, pan fried cabbage with apples and sauerkraut. After mom or grandma were done with shredding cabbage, kids usually got the core to snack on. Kohlrabi tastes exactly the same. I made a salad with kohlrabi and watermelon and it was to die for.
#15. Fragrant Tomatoes
OK, I could buy 15 tomatoes at a time at the farmers market. Beefsteak, heirloom and roma are my favourites. Have you ever smelled real local tomatoes? They smell! Very good! In summer, I just love to slice them and sprinkle with salt and pepper. That is it. Of course, they are green house grown in June but still so much better than any store bought.
And of course, blah-blah-blah. Talking to people about food is another awesome part about going to the farmers market…when I go by myself. Honestly, at this point things started to spiral downwards – me deciding what to buy, Alex taking photos of me, kids grabbing bread from my bag, someone telling me their scapes recipe, another person selling me life insurance…What the heck is going on?! Just let me buy my food! So, I like to go by myself LOL.
#16. Sweet Bell Peppers
I buy sweet bell peppers year round because they are perfect for school snacks and add a ton of flavour to meat without extra calories => baked chicken with peppers, stuffed pepper casserole, ground chicken stuffed peppers.
#17. Ukrainian Treats
A farmers market with Ukrainians in mind.
Orange bun for orange hair boy. It was lunch time and kids couldn’t say “no” to a sweet bun for lunch. I stayed away because I was planning to eat some rye bread, drink some wine and taste test my vanilla ice cream later in a day. Moderation and balance is key.
By the time we were done it was almost 2PM. Very hot. We chilled under umbrellas and kids played in a play zone. There is also free cold water. I didn’t mention but there is a whole other section of the market we missed – personal care items, handmade items and sweet stuff. I am mostly interested in food because other stuff I have plenty or don’t need to have.
I clearly need to hit the beach more. I am so pale OMG. I should work less. Soon – July and August.
What is farmers market like in your town? What do you buy in June? Do you go to farmers market at all?
I encourage you to Google “farmers market your town” right now and visit ASAP. Let me know once you do. Would love to hear your thoughts. Also check out my farmers market haul in August.