I can't think of anything that says 'summer' more than garden-fresh produce. I'm afraid that my own garden isn't up to speed this year, so I'm going to have to depend a little more on my friends at our local farmers' market.
Did you know that the U. S. Department of Agriculture estimates that more than 1,000,000 people visit a farmers' market every week? Or that more than 20,000 farmers use farmers' markets to sell to consumers? While the produce at the average supermarket travels about 1500-2000 miles to its destination, most farmer's market produce only travels around 50 miles. That's what our Leavenworth farmers' market means when it says "Fresh and local to you." The recent concern over certain tomatoes is yet another good reason to shop local.
Farmers' markets offer a colorful, healthy variety of fruits and vegetables providing vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, which help the body in many ways, including maintaining a healthy weight, protecting against the effects of aging and reducing the risk of some cancers and heart disease. Nutritional benefits of fruits & vegetables include:
¢ Fiber - Diets rich in dietary fiber have been shown to have a number of beneficial effects including decreased risk of coronary artery disease.
¢ Folate - Healthful diets with adequate folate may reduce a woman's risk of having a child with a brain or spinal cord defect.
¢ Potassium - Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain a healthy blood pressure.
¢ Vitamin A - Vitamin A keeps eyes and skin healthy and helps to protect against infections.
¢ Vitamin C - Vitamin C helps heal cuts and wounds and keep teeth and gums healthy.
Using "MyPyramid," (www.mypyramid.gov), as your guide, someone following a 2,000 calorie diet should eat the equivalent of 2 cups of fruits per day, and the equivalent of 2 1â2 cups of vegetables per day. Remember the following equivalents: 1â4 cup dried fruit = 1â2 cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit and 2 cups raw leafy greens = 1 cup of vegetable.
Safe food handling applies to fresh fruits and vegetables just as any other perishable food. Consider also the following food safety tips with your fresh produce:
¢ Go directly home from the market! Avoid side trips.
¢ Some produce can be ripened on the counter and then stored in the refrigerator.
¢ Refrigerate fruits and vegetables in perforated plastic bags.
¢ If fruits and vegetables are placed on refrigerator shelves, store them above meat.
¢ Wash hands before working with produce.
¢ Wash produce thoroughly. Wash produce before you use it, NOT when you bring it home.
¢ Rinse produce even when the peel is removed-such as for melons and citrus fruits.
For more market hints, download the fact sheet "The Garden Grocery" from the Leavenworth County Extension Office website at: www.leavenworth.ksu.edu.