Eating in Season Made Easy
Aug 23, 2011 04:35PM
● By Anonymous
Navigating a Farmers’ Market
There’s no shortage of farmers’ markets in our area, each offering fresh produce and herbs. Some even sell locally-raised meat, homemade jams, and freshly baked bread. Take advantage of these markets by visiting them regularly. There are two schools of thought as to when to visit a farmers’ market: One is to get there early for the best selection of produce such as ripe tomatoes and fresh-picked corn; but people who prefer great deals should arrive toward closing time because a vendor might be willing to let those few remaining zucchini go for a little less money than advertised rather than schlep them back to the farm.
Take a sturdy, reusable bag each time you visit the market. If you forget to bring one, the vendors will have plastic bags for you to use. But taking your own is really part of the eco-friendly experience of shopping at farmers’ markets. You should also bring cash, preferably small bills, for easier and faster transactions as it’s unlikely you’ll be buying more than a few dollars’ worth of goods from a single vendor.
Finally, get to know the various farmers at the market. They’ll have tips about the best items to buy that particular day or how to prepare some vegetable you’ve never seen before. Don’t be afraid to ask questions—if you’re curious about what pesticides may have been used, the farmers will be happy to share that information.
Make a CSA Work for You
Many conscientious shoppers make it their goal to eat local produce in season, but getting to the farmers’ market or produce stand regularly to purchase fresh, local food can prove difficult due to time constraints.
Enter Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA), which makes it easy to cook and consume locally grown produce throughout the harvest season. Here’s how the concept works: Before the season begins, the consumer purchases a share of the CSA. (CSAs are typically offered in both the summer and fall, which means you would sign up during the spring and summer, respectively.) Once the harvest season begins, a box of fresh, seasonal produce (and sometimes other goods, as well) is available each week for pick-up, either at the farm or at a convenient location in your area.
“There’s a great latitude in the way CSAs work,” says Marian Fry, managing partner of Maryland Sunrise Farm in Gambrills—which operates under the authority of the Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks, and is the state’s largest certified organic farm—and the advantages for the consumer are plentiful. “They have an opportunity to have fresh, wholesome food,” she says. “The best-tasting food is often what’s freshest, and what is freshest is often what’s closest to home.”
Joining a CSA might also help you expand your culinary palate. You don’t necessarily get a choice as to what types of produce will be in your assortment of goodies from week to week. So while you might not buy rainbow chard or collard greens at the supermarket, it’s more tempting to try a new recipe when these unfamiliar vegetables show up in your CSA box. After all, they’re already paid for. “Some of the vegetables they [CSA members] might really like, and some they don’t care for, but CSAs almost always broaden their eating horizons,” Fry explains.
So whether you get local produce from a farmers’ market or CSA, it’s never been easier to eat fresh produce—and there are no more excuses when Mama tells you to eat your vegetables.
What’s in Season?
Availability of produce varies depending on weather and other factors. While certain items might be available at other times of the year, the list below offers peak growing months.
August: Blackberries, black-eyed peas, cantaloupe, corn, eggplant, grapes, plums, summer squash, tomatoes, watermelon
September: Apples, broccoli, grapes, pears, peppers, potatoes, raspberries, tomatoes, watermelon, winter squash
October: Apples, broccoli, honey, pears, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, turnips
Take a trip into the Chestertown Farmers' Market with our Events Editor, Karly Kolaja...