Shop Smart at Farmers' Markets
There are more than 3,000 farmers’ markets operating in the United States currently, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Is there any difference between buying from a chain supermarket and your local farmers’ market? Yes, says E Magazine, the online environmental magazine, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is your family’s health.
We hear all the time that eating fresh fruits and veggies are good for you, why? Well, some of the benefits of eating more fresh fruits and veggies are: reduced risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, obesity, and some types of cancer.
So, why isn't the produce we buy from supermarkets as good? Hmmm, think about this-produce can be shipped from across the country, trucked many times, and before it reaches you, the consumer, it can be dipped in wax and treated with chemicals to ensure that it is good to go when you get it. Oftentimes it can be weeks old!! Therefore the levels of nutrients have degraded. You will get the best nutrients from fruits and veggies soon after they are harvested.
Locally grown food travels only a short distance from farm to table. It’s pulled from the ground or plucked from trees and bushes 24 hours before consumers purchase it, and brought to market in reusable containers.
The benefits of farmers’ markets are far-reaching: They help preserve farmland and the rural landscape; insure the continued economic viability of the small family farm; counter the growth of agribusiness with its devastating impact on people and places, while supporting clean, environmentally sensitive farming practices; conserve energy; help maintain biodiversity in food plants; and contribute to regional prosperity.
Here are a few basic guidelines for handling, serving and saving fresh produce:
* Buy only the amount you can use in a short period of time.
* Look for produce that is free from unusual odors or colors and signs of spoilage (ex.mold).
* Handle produce gently to reduce bruising. Bacteria can thrive in the bruised areas.Cut off any bruised parts before eating
*Remember that buying under-ripe produce isn't always the best option. They may soften but not ripen (ex. nectarines, peaches)
*When buying cut produce, keep it cold during transport. Put it in a cooler with ice if traveling a distance.
* Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water before handling produce and any other food.
* Wash all fruits and vegetables with cool running tap water right before eating. Don't use dish soap or detergent
* Scrub melons with a brush and running water. Bacteria can be transferred from the outside of the melon to the inside by a knife.
* Don't cross-contaminate: Use clean utensils and cutting boards when peeling or cutting up produce. Wash cutting boards with soap and water, rinse and sanitize between uses. A solution of 1 teaspoon bleach per quart of water is considered safe and effective.
* Cut away bruised parts before eating. Remove the outer leaves from lettuce and cabbage.
* Keep fresh cut produce cold by placing serving containers on ice. Perishable food should spend no more than two hours in the "danger zone" (40 to 140 F).
* Store produce in containers that are free from excess liquid.
*Refrigerate cut produce and use within a few days.