In my community, there is a weekly farmers market, and I love to go there whenever I can. Unfortunately, my work schedule keeps me away far too often. For me, a trip to the farmers market is an adventure. I will concede that I may be a bit strange, but I love to look at different fruits and vegetables. I have been introduced to several vegetables and fruits that I had never heard of while shopping there. One of my favorite discoveries is Lamb’s Quarters, or Quelites in Spanish, which is a mild and wild spinach. The vendor explained how she prepared it with garlic and onions and a little chili pepper. I followed her directions whan I got home, an it was delicious. I was very sad when it was no longer available. It had become a weekly purchase, and I even used it in a quiche.
Of course, if my mom had been alive, she would have told me that Lambs Quarters are a common weed that I could have foraged for free. That was true where she grew up, but there aren’t many Lamb’s Quarters growing in the Mojave Desert. What I would have shared with my mom was that this weed is loaded with nutrition. For more information about Lamb’s Quarters nutrition and uses visit Wild Blessings. Sorry, I digress.
It was at the farmers market where I learned the family tree of the tangelo, the blood orange, and the cara cara orange. Because the purveyors of produce at the farmers market are usually local, buying produce at the farmer’s market helps to make one aware of the seasonal items that are available at different times of the year, too. I look forward to the Spring berries and lettuces. Summer’s various squashes and melons, and Fall’s cauliflower and cabbage as well as the citrus fruits. Where, besides the Farmer’s Market, can I buy sweet and juicy strawberries that were picked the night before.Unlike the grocery store, many of the vendors give free samples of their wares so you know what you are buying. It was during a trip to the farmers market when I first realized just how far we are removed from even our vegetable food sources and how little people truly understand about where their food comes from. I know that most people don’t understand that an entire chicken had to be killed in order for them to have their boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, but I didn’t realize how far removed people were all of their food sources. I was standing at a stall at the farmer’s market and looking at some amazing and beautiful root vegetables. There were beets, carrots, and turnips. They were very fresh and there was still a small amount of dirt hanging onto the roots. A woman who I had seen at several other stalls walked up with a man I assumed was her husband. I had initially noticed her because she was so fashionably dressed. I had also noticed her because, unlike most of the crowd, her hands were empty. As she looked at the carrots and beets, her husband asked “What about these?” and seeing dirt on them, she turned to her husband and said “No. Let’s just go to the store. This stuff is dirty.” Apparently, she was unaware that vegetables like carrots, beets, and turnips grow in the dirt.It was all I could do to keep a straight face as I grabbed some beets and carrots and paid the vendor, but when I thought about it, I realized that her attitude isn’t all that different from many others. I know someone who got a few backyard chickens but won’t eat her own eggs because they come out of the chickens’ butts. Newsflash! All eggs, whether purchased at the store or laid in your backyard, come out of some chicken’s butt. Her chickens were eventually re-homed. Another person, eager to grow some of her own food, planted tomatoes but was afraid to eat them because a bug might have crawled on them or a cat might have pooped in the dirt under the bush. One of my coworkers always asks me if my dog peed on the produce I bring to work to share. I tell her that if the dog had been able to get close enough to pee on it, he would have dug it all up and there wouldn’t be any produce. (For further information, see the post about guacamole without avocado.)
I love visiting my local farmers market because I know that I can buy fresh produce which has taken a shorter route from the field to my table. Several of the vendors pick their produce the day before, so it’s definitely fresher than the stuff I buy at my local grocer. The down side to shopping at the farmers market is that I can’t find apples in March. This time of year, I find some citrus, lettuces, greens, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, and most of the root vegetables, including a few potatoes. The first of the berries are starting to find their way to our market, too.
I encourage you to visit your local farmers market and ignore the dirt hanging from the roots of the beets. Ask questions of the vendors to learn more about fruits and vegetables you have never tried. Learn what’s available during each season. Remember to take cash with you. Most of the vendors at the farmers markets I have been to don’t accept cards. Carrying cash for your purchases also helps ensure that you don’t purchase too much produce which can affect your budget and result in food waste. I have found that having smaller bills makes things easier, too. I tend to spend a small amount at several different places, so do many of the other people that I observe. Having smaller bills speeds up the transactions, and ensures that I don’t have to wait for someone to run and get change.
My haul included broccoli, Cara Cara and blood oranges, Swiss chard, carrots, beets with beautiful and delicious greens attached, celery, cabbage, leeks, early strawberries, and a jar of blackberry peach jam. I also picked up a bottle of ginger infused vinegar to use in homemade salad dressings and on greens. If I had resisted these last two items, I could have purchased more vegetables, but we won’t be going hungry. Besides, there’s another farmers market next week.
When I get everything home, I make sure that I store my produce correctly, and I wash everything before eating it. Just because the produce is raised organically, doesn’t mean that it’s free of bacteria. Would you play in the dirt and not wash your hands before you eat? It’s just common sense.
Do you visit farmers markets to get seasonal produce for your family? Leave a comment below and share your experiences.
Thanks for visiting Patty Cake’s Pantry.