Tag Archives: vegetable

Three tips for visiting the farmers market this weekend (and a story)

It’s the weekend and I hope you’re heading to a farmers market. The best ones are always on the weekends. Lots of farmers and variety, as well as crowds, but if you arrive early you can avoid them and get the best selection. Here are a few tips for shopping at the farmers market this weekend.

Hold your cash in one hand and the food in the other. I use this trick all the time. As a regular at the market I know exactly what I want and I usually know the farmer. But that doesn’t give me any special privileges. I have to wait in line with everybody else and sometimes that can take forever. A new person asking lots of questions or ten people in line. But if you walk up to the front and show your cash and food – you can skip the line. I know it’s cutting in line and a cheat, but with exact change you can complete the transaction in second. And with the growing crowds of people at the market it can be needed to get in and out quickly.

Save everything you get from the market, from little ties and rubber bands, to fruit and egg boxes. You can return all of them for a smile and nod of appreciation. Look closely at every market and you will see this happening. Someone returning a collection of thirty rubber bands or another with 5 empty egg cartons. It’s the sustainable side to the market. And the farmers love it because it saves them a few dollars on supplies.

Look for the special item at every table. I’ve learned a secret about farmers that I can share with you. Each one has several products that are their specialty. They grow lots of them and have great variety – their staple crops. But they also like to experiment, grow something new, or cook something different. Usually just a small amount to see if it sells or for their own family. Which means they quickly sell out, but if you can find one, take a look. It’s usually exotic or rare and you probably won’t know what to do with it, but it’s always a treat.

Finally, a quick story about one of my experiences. A few years back, I found a farmer with a single walnut tree in his yard. His father had planted it 40 years ago so his family could have walnuts, but now it was so big they couldn’t eat all the fallen walnuts. So he began selling a few of them at the market for dirt cheap prices, but he always placed them in the corner and sometimes didn’t even put them out. I learned all this as I began buying from him, and they were delicious. The best walnuts I ever had.

Soon my girlfriend was eating them and I was buying double. Some weeks I would walk up with a huge bag and buy every single walnut he had. At this point he realized walnuts could sell and gave them more table space with a big sign. To my chagrin, they did sell and I was now fighting other market shoppers for walnuts. Some weeks I would get some and others not. The price went up a little, but every time he saw me I would get a discount and a smile.

 

Do you have a tip or story, please share in the comments? 

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Research: nutrient levels in U.S. food supply are dropping

I’ve written a lot about the benefits of shopping entirely at farmers markets, the difference between organic/GMO/seasonal, and how food is more important than working out. These topics have interested many people with many asking for more data.

Here is one piece, possibly the most important in explaining our obesity epidemic. The findings reveal farming practices and seed choice that have led to lower quality food. Compared on a nutrient-nutrient basis it can be a 1/3 drop in nutrient level for some foods.

This means that the typical person will need to eat 3x as much to obtain the proper nutrients. If true, that would provide the ideal explanation for our overweight problems. It’s not so much our sedentary lifestyle or even our poor choices in food, but our simple desire to get the nutrients our bodies need.

The report is worth a read and I will be sharing several more like it over the coming days.

 

 “Nutrient levels in U.S. food supply eroded by pursuit of high yields” 

Full Report (pdf)

2-page Newsletter Summary (pdf)

“High yields and jumbo produce deliver more water, starch, and sugar per serving, but less vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.”

4-page Research Summary (pdf)

“Farmers have doubled or tripled the yield of most major grains, fruits and vegetables over the last half-century. They have done so by capitalizing on the work of plant scientists, crop breeders and companies manufacturing a wide range of inputs—from fertilizer to water, pesticides, sophisticated machinery and diesel fuel.

But American agriculture’s single-minded focus on increasing yields over the last half-century created a blind spot where incremental erosion in the nutritional quality of our food has occurred.  This erosion, modest in some crops but significant in others for some nutrients, has gone largely unnoticed by scientists, farmers, government and consumers.”

 

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The benefits of raised bed gardening

It’s springtime and I’ll be out doing some planting today. Yesterday, at the farmers market, I picked up four seedlings: Pepper, Heirloom Tomato, Thai Basil, and Mexican Squash.

Before getting started I looked up what a ‘raised bed’ was. I had been hearing a lot about them and was wondering why they’re so popular. Turns out they have several endearing features:

  • Conserve water
  • Extend the planting season
  • Reduce weeds
  • Reduce the need to use poor native soil
  • Higher yields
  • Serve as a barrier to pests such as slugs and snails
  • Can be planted earlier in the season because the soil is warmer when it is above ground level.

Raised bed gardening is a form of gardening in which the soil is formed in 3 – 4 foot wide beds, which can be of any length or shape. The soil is raised above the surrounding soil (approximately 6 inches to waist-high), is sometimes enclosed by a frame generally made of wood, rock, or concrete blocks, and may be enriched with compost.

The vegetable plants are spaced in geometric patterns, much closer together than conventional row gardening. The spacing is such that when the vegetables are fully grown, their leaves just barely touch each other, creating a microclimate in which weed growth is suppressed and moisture is conserved.

Additionally, waist-high raised beds enable the elderly and handicapped to grow vegetables without having to bend-over to tend them.

via Wikipedia

 

// Photo via mccun934

I'm off supermarkets (and all farmers market) (13 pics)

Two years ago (Sep, 09) I took an insane leap of faith and went completely off supermarkets. I was on a quest to find the healthiest food available and farmers markets were increasingly fitting the bill. My supermarket at the time, Whole Foods, was considered to offer superior food but was mostly overcharging me for inferior food.

The food at the farmers market was cheaper and tasted better, but I was only buying select items. It wasn’t accounting for my main meals everyday. So I cut the cord and said goodbye to processed, packaged foods, and refrigerated produce.

I figured I would last a week and run starving back to Whole Foods.

The world I encountered was so different from what I expected. Peaches that were so filling I could skip a meal. Desserts that I couldn’t over-eat and had to save for later. Items called “seconds” that cost pennies to the dollar only because they needed to be eaten right away.

I was hooked. My worries quickly faded away and the weeks turned into months. Now, here I am years later and still enthralled. The food varies each week but is always filling and tasty.

Below is a photo-sample of this weeks purchases. Enjoy!

And, if you are thinking of trying out farmers markets, or even getting off supermarkets, I give you a virtual high-five. It will be the best decision you ever make.

Jalapeños, super hot. They use to be green, but turn red as they dry. When dry they flake and can be used for spicing it up.

 

Staggered avocado bag. Each one ripens at a different time in the week.
Country White and Cheese.
Watermelon is almost gone and super cheap ($3)
Bean sprouts.
Easy to cook (3 mins) and doesn't need sauce, just a few cut-up vegetables, cheese.
Concord grapes.
3 for $10
BBQ the corn. Dip the broccoli in the hummus.
Perfect for quesadillas and pasta
For meatball sandwiches.
The honey is for making ice cream.
The old-school italian farmer said three of these (dried Jujubes) every morning keeps you regular.

I’m off supermarkets (and all farmers market) (13 pics)

Two years ago (Sep, 09) I took an insane leap of faith and went completely off supermarkets. I was on a quest to find the healthiest food available and farmers markets were increasingly fitting the bill. My supermarket at the time, Whole Foods, was considered to offer superior food but was mostly overcharging me for inferior food.

The food at the farmers market was cheaper and tasted better, but I was only buying select items. It wasn’t accounting for my main meals everyday. So I cut the cord and said goodbye to processed, packaged foods, and refrigerated produce.

I figured I would last a week and run starving back to Whole Foods.

The world I encountered was so different from what I expected. Peaches that were so filling I could skip a meal. Desserts that I couldn’t over-eat and had to save for later. Items called “seconds” that cost pennies to the dollar only because they needed to be eaten right away.

I was hooked. My worries quickly faded away and the weeks turned into months. Now, here I am years later and still enthralled. The food varies each week but is always filling and tasty.

Below is a photo-sample of this weeks purchases. Enjoy!

And, if you are thinking of trying out farmers markets, or even getting off supermarkets, I give you a virtual high-five. It will be the best decision you ever make.

Jalapeños, super hot. They use to be green, but turn red as they dry. When dry they flake and can be used for spicing it up.

 

Staggered avocado bag. Each one ripens at a different time in the week.
Country White and Cheese.
Watermelon is almost gone and super cheap ($3)
Bean sprouts.
Easy to cook (3 mins) and doesn't need sauce, just a few cut-up vegetables, cheese.
Concord grapes.
3 for $10
BBQ the corn. Dip the broccoli in the hummus.
Perfect for quesadillas and pasta
For meatball sandwiches.
The honey is for making ice cream.
The old-school italian farmer said three of these (dried Jujubes) every morning keeps you regular.

Farmers markets grow 250% since 2000

I’m all about farmers markets. Every dollar I spend on food goes there and they provide me with everything I need to eat and more (dessert!).

The reason for all this is covered in several previous posts, including: Why nobody knows how to prevent obesity & How food coma overcomes exercising.

A quick recap is that by eating at farmers markets you gain superior health and weight loss, prevent global warming, and save money.

For the longest time, I wondered why nobody else understood this. It turns out that since 2000, many, many more people are starting to agree with me.

Check out the graph provided by the USDA in their annual farmers market audit:

Notice that since the recession, the so-called “expensive” markets are surging with 164% growth since 2006. If this trend continues we may finally be able to impact our food system.

I can already see it happening in the supermarkets where the words “farmer”, “market”, and “local” are everywhere. Too bad they are only marketing terms.

So next chance you have, stop by a farmers market for the real thing. Pick out some fruits and vegetables. Come back the same time next week and keep the farmers market revolution going!