Spring Farmers’ Market Tips

Spring is a time for the farmer’s markets to come to life. This early season often brings many kinds of greens that are delicious in salads, soups, pasta, and steamed dishes.

Here are a few tips to make the most of the spring markets…

  • Take cash. Most of the farmers accept cash. Small bills are always a good idea and will help you move quickly through the market.
  • Go early. Getting there early ensures close parking, great selection, happy farmers, and the ability to walk through the stalls at your desired pace.
  • Bring sturdy reusable bags. A grocery store bag (or five) is always a good idea. With these study bags, you can easily carry what you purchase without juggling an armload of produce or ripping thin plastic bags.
  • Stock your kitchen. If you are buying greens, make sure you have oil, vinegar, onions, garlic, and other flavoring agents to use with them once you get home. While at the market, consider the fresh young green onions and garlic, lemons, and flavored vinegars to use these culinary nutrition prizes in your cooking as well.
  • Grab some greens. Many greens can do double duty as fresh salad greens and steamed greens. Serve them raw when you first get home and cook them later in the week as they age. Spinach, kale, chard, and arugula are examples of these multi-tasking champions.
    • For a fresh salad, rinse your greens well and spin them dry. Shred or chop them, then toss with oil, vinegar, grated carrots, and a few of your favorite seasonings. Citrus such as lemons and limes, along with fresh herbs, can bring delightful flavors that accent the bitterness of the greens. Sweet carrots, acidic vinegar, and bitter greens are a culinary delight. 
    • Steaming greens is also very easy. Why not sauté some fresh garlic or onions in a little olive oil and then add the rinsed greens to the pan, tossing quickly for a minute? That’s all you need to do for a tasty spring side dish!
  • Explore roots and tubers. Take a look at the carrots, beets, and other baby root vegetables and bring some home to add to salads and meals during the week. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Tips and recipes are but a Google search away. You can also contact us if you need help!

I hope this helps you and your clients make the most of spring markets!

Boost Spring Fruit and Vegetable Consumption with Greens!

Recently I presented my spring portfolio to my photography class, and it got me thinking about helping your audience eat more spring fruits and vegetables.

After all, what could be more enticing than spring produce?

Here’s the artist statement that I submitted for my photos.

Spring beckons flora to burst forth from the earth. In the context of California farmers’ markets, spring brings new and bright greens, fresh young tubers, and juicy citrus fruits.

This photography exhibition celebrates the unique season that transitions us from winter to summer. The produce you see in the photos comes from local farmers who sell in community markets, and the pictures are designed to inspire people to choose locally-grown fruits and vegetables.

In the farmers’ markets, farmers become entrepreneurs while buyers gain access to fresh and nutritious foods — a community comes together. Accompanying the artistic representation of spring’s seasonal produce is a tribute to the farmers who grew it.

The offerings of a farmers’ market change each week and month as the seasons ebb and flow. This is but a moment in time during one season’s passage, and I hope you enjoy the beauty of spring.

And here’s a collection of engaging images of tasty spring foods.

These images would be fantastic in a display or email blast, or even as decoration for a spring vegetable cooking demonstration.

And speaking of cooking, to help inspire your audience to eat more spring produce, I’d like to share this recipe for a bright kale salad. This is a great way to present spring to your clients and help them focus on fresh and tender greens.

Kale is the Star Salad
Serves: 4 | Serving Size: 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch lacinato kale
  • 6 cups raw baby kale
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 cup shredded radishes
  • 1 cup diced apples
  • 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons light poppy seed dressing

Directions:

  1. Remove the stems from the lacinato kale and rinse well. Place the undried lacinato kale in a covered container and steam lightly in the microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute. The color will intensify and the leaves will be crisp tender.
  2. Place the lacinato leaves on the plate as pictured.
  3. Toss the baby kale with the olive oil and lemon juice. Put it on a plate and top with the radishes and apples.
  4. Drizzle a thin ribbon of poppy seed dressing over the greens and add the black sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Information:

  • Serves 4. Each serving contains 157 calories, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 2 mg cholesterol, 213 mg sodium, 27 g carbohydrate, 5 g dietary fiber, 9 g sugar, and 6 g protein.
  • Each serving has 464% DV vitamin A, 320% DV vitamin C, 23% DV calcium, and 16% DV iron.

Did You Know?

  • Kale is high in many different nutrients. It has tons of antioxidants, which protect your cells from free radical damage.
  • One cup of chopped kale has more vitamin C than an orange. A single serving of this salad has 320% of your daily value of vitamin C.
  • Kale plants don’t die after the first frost — they get sweeter! Kale is one of the heartiest leafy greens around and is grown all over the world.
  • Kale is a good source of fiber, manganese, and copper, all of which are key to good health!

And here’s a PDF copy of the recipe handout that you can use however you’d like!

Farmers’ Markets Dos and Don’ts

I have a problem at farmers’ markets.

In the fieldsYou see, I absolutely adore farmers’ markets. The problem is that I tend to get carried away when I visit them. I’m always so excited to see all the fresh fruits and vegetables that I end up buying much more than I really need. My eyes are bigger than my refrigerator.

After a visit to the farmers’ market the other day, we had fresh tomatoes, green beans, tiny new potatoes, and corn on the cob for dinner. I served all that with oven-baked walleye from the freezer. Even the fish had been caught locally — we got it last summer on a trip to Lake Erie.

You can’t get much more of a local meal than that.

Since I go to farmers’ markets so often and have been going for so many years, I’ve learned quite a few “dos and don’ts.” Now I’d like to share them with you…

Farmers’ Market Dos:

  • Do eat fruits and vegetables.
  • Do enjoy the fresh, local availability of a wide range of foods.
  • Do try something new and different.
  • Do make a quick trip around the market before you make any purchases.
    • This allows you to see what’s fresh.
    • It also helps you get a sense of how much each kind of food will cost.
    • Once you’ve made your lap, go back to the stalls that offer the items you want at the best prices.
  • TomatoesDo bring cash. Growers don’t always accept credit cards.
    • Keep your money easily accessible.
    • This will make your transactions easier and faster.
  • Do wear a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and comfortable shoes.
  • Do bring water to drink.
  • Do bring a reusable or recycled bag to help carry your purchases.
  • Do put a cooler with ice in your car.
    • This will help the items you buy stay fresh until you get home.
  • Do go early in the day.
    • If you’re there at the start of the market, then you’ll get the best selection and quality.
    • Yes, you might get a good deal on any items left near closing time, but you also might miss out on what was available.
  • Do get to know the vendors.
    • Many are your neighbors.
    • Become a regular.
    • Spend some time talking with the growers. They can let you know what’s in season and what to expect in upcoming weeks.
  • Do ask about bulk purchases.
    • If you’re planning on purchasing a few items to preserve (freeze, can, or pickle) then you might get a deal if you buy large quantities.
    • Again, this is the time to talk with the grower and arrange for these large orders ahead of time.
  • Pea Shoots Do keep food safety in mind.
    • While you may be tempted to taste a bite of fresh melon or tomato, look around and make sure that the person offering it has used good practices.
    • Good practices include washing the produce, wearing clean gloves, offering toothpicks, using a clean knife, and keeping the food items cold if necessary.
    • Don’t take risks.
  • Do be considerate of the farmer and the next customer.
  • Do keep control of your kids and dogs.
  • Do come back next week.

Farmers’ Market Don’ts:

  • Don’t sample anything if the food isn’t offered to you or labeled as a sample.
  • Don’t expect the farmers to deal with you on price.
  • Don’t pinch, squeeze, drop, peel (like corn), or stick your fingernails in foods and then leave said foods for someone else.
    • Respect the food and your fellow customers.
    • By messing with the food, you may be making it unsellable.
  • Don’t block a vendor if you’re not buying.
    • If you’re visiting with a friend, move away from a display so others can get by and shop.
  • Don’t get carried away (like I do).
    • A deal isn’t a deal if the food goes to waste.
    • Be sure to only purchase what you’re able to eat while the food still has good quality.
  • Don’t forget, you can always go back next week.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

Find more farmers’ market educational resources in the Nutrition Education Store. The most popular ones include…

Farmers’ Market Photo Posters

Enjoy Your Farmers’ Market Handout

Real Food Grows Banner

PS Have you visited the free clipart library? Check out the fruit and vegetable clipart, try an infographic, or just browse the full selection!

Market Adventures: Dragon Fruit

PitayaWhen I travel, I love to check out what the locals are eating.

One way to do this is by visiting grocery stores and farmers’ markets in different cities and countries. I especially enjoy looking at the unique fruits and vegetables that I don’t usually find near my home.

Here are a few photos from a market we visited in Spain. Do you know what the top picture features? Hint: it’s a fruit.

The answer is pitahaya, also known as pitaya. In the United States, it’s commonly called dragon Fruit, and at this market you could get one for a little over $6. There, these fruits are often sliced in half and sold with a spoon for an easy snack on the go. There were a couple varieties and all were beautiful — red ones with white or pink or even red flesh or a yellow variety that had white flesh.

And in case you were wondering, yes, I bought one. I was told that the ones with pink flesh were sweeter, but I didn’t get a chance to compare them. My purchase tasted like a combination of a melon and a kiwi, and the black seeds provided a nice crunch.

More Dragon FruitSo I decided to do a little research about this amazing fruit. Want to see what I found?

The sign at the Spanish market said that their fruit came from Vietnam. Dragon fruit is commercially grown in South and Central America, Southeast Asia, and Israel. Dragon fruit is technically a cactus and peels easily — like a banana. And just like with a banana, you don’t eat the skin.

Nutritionally, 3 ½ ounces of dragon fruit (about ½ of 1 fruit) contains 1 gram of fiber and 9 milligrams of vitamin C. That’s about 15% of the amount of vitamin C that’s recommended daily for women. Dragon fruit with pink or red flesh is also known its lycopene content. Like many other fruits, dragon fruit is low in calories.

When selecting a dragon fruit, choose one that you know is ripe. You can tell when it’s ripe because it will give a little when squeezed, like a ripe avocado or peach. If it’s firm, then it needs a few more days at room temperature to ripen. When ripe, dragon fruit should be stored in the refrigerator and eaten within a week. Once cut, it should be refrigerated. Dragon fruit can be eaten alone, as part of a fruit salad, or juiced.

These certainly gave us nice taste memories from our trip.

Yellow Dragon FruitNow, am I suggesting that you go out and spend $6 for a piece of fruit every day? Not at all.

Instead, I like to encourage people to be adventurous with food. Go out on a limb and try something different every now and again. Everyone knows that we should be eating more fruits and vegetables, but the ordinary bananas, apples, green beans, and broccoli can get boring. No wonder it’s hard for people to get the 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day that are recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. If you’re going to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, you’ll have to do something about variety. Occasionally, try something fun, like dragon fruit.

Oh, and if you’re a health educator, consider planning a group trip to a local grocery store. People can look for something that the other members of the group haven’t tried before. Purchasing and/or sharing some unique fruits and vegetables with your clients or students can expand horizons, and who knows, maybe it’ll get them to eat more fruits and vegetables.

Wouldn’t that be great?

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

And as a little bonus, here’s a free dragon fruit fact sheet, just for you!

Dragon Fruit

Remember, there are lots of great materials in the Nutrition Education Store!

Fruit and Vegetable Poster Set

Interactive MyPlate Shopping Presentation

Fruit Bulletin Board Kit

What’s Wrong with This Picture?

I just can’t take a vacation from food safety. We recently took a wonderful trip to Europe, and like all good foodies, I had to check out the markets and grocery stores to get a feel for what the locals were buying and eating. At a fabulous market in Spain, I took these photos of a gentleman cutting a watermelon for display and sale.

Spanish Market

What’s wrong with this picture?

Cut Melon

Or this one?

There are several potential food safety concerns in just these two photos: Did the man wash his hands before cutting the melon? Was the outside of the melon washed before it was cut? Was the knife clean? What about the cleanliness of the surface? Did he store it on ice after it was cut? From what I observed, none of these precautions were taken in this particular situation.

Washing melons or other fresh fruit before cutting reduces bacteria that may be present on the surface. These bacteria could be from the soil in which the product grew, or perhaps on the hands of the person who picked it. They could also be on the hands of the shipper, or in this case, the market owner. Some people think that since you don’t eat the rind of a melon, it’s not necessary to wash it, but if the rind is not washed before cutting, any bacteria that might be on the rind could be transferred to the moist center of the fruit — where it could easily grow and multiply. I had similar concerns about the cutting surface and the knife (how many unwashed melons were cut with the same knife that morning?) Also, cut fruit should be refrigerated; it should have been placed on ice. Needless to say, we didn’t buy this melon.

While this photo was taken in Spain, I’m sure that that wasn’t the only market where food wasn’t treated as safely as it should have been.

This is one of those situations when the consumer needs to be alert and use caution. If you’re shopping at farmers’ markets or grocery stores that sell sectioned or fresh-cut fruit, make sure you choose a place that keeps food safety in mind. When you’re tempted to taste a sample or purchase something, look around and made sure that the person offering the sample or selling the item is using good food safety practices. These practices include: washing the produce before cutting it, wearing clean gloves, using a clean knife and keeping items cold as necessary.

Don’t take risks with food safety.

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

We’re here to help you look your very best, right now, so don’t miss these marvelous food safety resources from the Nutrition Education Store

Food Safety Poster

Food Safety PowerPoint and Handout Set

Healthy Kitchen Poster Set

And here’s the best part — a free food safety handout that you can share with your clients!

Market Safety

Pick-it!

The pick-your-own blueberry field near our house opened last week. Since the season is short, folks are flocking in! Pick-your-own produce is a fun family outing and a great way to teach children about farming. Furthermore, pick-your-own farms provide an opportunity to get the freshest local fruits and vegetables at a good value.

In addition to the blueberry farms we also had pick-your-own strawberries earlier this year, and I’m looking forward to pick-your-own tomatoes later this summer. There’s something special about being in the field and being able to say “I picked it myself.”

Food safety sign at Pick your own marketUpon our arrival at a pick-your-own farm last year, I noted several new signs and a portable sink. The signs instructed the blueberry pickers to wash their hands both before and after going to the field. I have to admit, many of us who were waiting to pick our blueberries laughed. After all, we understood the reason to wash up when coming back from the field, but we wondered why we had to wash our hands before we started. How dirty could we be?

As I picked, I mulled over the sign and its directive.

Actually, there is lots of wisdom in washing your hands before going out to pick. In fact, there is lots of wisdom in washing your hands frequently, no matter what you’re doing. I think it’s savvy for these farmers to ask the pick-your-own patrons to help them keep the fields safe. After all, providing their customers with wholesome and safe fruits and vegetables is a priority. The last thing they want is for you to pick up bacteria along with the produce.

When picking-your-own produce, you can help keep the food safe by remembering these tips:

  • Wash your hands both before and after you go into the field. This can help prevent contamination and will keep the produce clean. This practice will help you avoid spreading possible contamination from hands that have not been washed after going to the bathroom, sneezing, blowing your nose, coughing etc.
  • If water isn’t available to use for washing your hands, use hand sanitizer.
  • Don’t pick fruit that has fallen on the ground.
  • Use a clean container when collecting your fruit. Some operations provide containers. Others ask that you bring your own.
  • Use the restroom before going to the field. If they are available, you can also use the portable restrooms in the field. Just wash your hands afterward.
  • A farm field is not a place for dogs or other animals. Leave them at home.
  • Don’t leave trash or spit in the field.
  • Walk in the rows — don’t step on the plants.
  • Handle produce gently.
  • Select only fresh-looking fruits and vegetables. They should not be bruised, shriveled, moldy, or slimy. Don’t pick or touch any produce that shows signs of decay.
  • Check with the farmer about field policies before eating, drinking, or smoking in the field.
  • Bring a cooler with ice or cold packs with you. That way, you can start chilling the food quickly. Fresh fruits and vegetables should not be left in a hot car or trunk.
  • Once you get home, wash the produce thoroughly with fresh running water before you eat it.
  • If you take children with you, keep a close eye on them and encourage them to follow these tips. Make sure that they wash their hands. After all, kids are quick to touch and put things into their mouths.

Be considerate of the other pickers that may come along after you. Do the same for the farmer and his employees.
Most importantly, enjoy the opportunity to be out in the field!

Want to spread the word about picking your own produce wisely and well? Download the free handout!

Pick Your Own Produce Guide

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

Looking for other ways to promote fruit and vegetable consumption? Check out these resources…

Fruit and Vegetable Wellness Challenge

Colors of Health Fruit and Vegetable Poster

Vegetable Bulletin Board Kit

A Moment with Lettuce

California is awesome!

Lettuce PhotoI had such a blast on my recent trip to UC Davis with my son. While I was there, I toured “America’s Best Farmers’ Market,” learned some tips for a successful farmers’ market visit and was inspired to create brand new food art posters. I also ran into a friend and CFFH subscriber and had a meal to remember at the Culinary Institute of America’s Napa campus, the Conservatory.

But the inspiration didn’t stop there.

While I was at the gardens of the CIA Greystone in Napa Valley, I was stopped in my tracks by the beauty of the fresh and bountiful foods they were growing. As I looked out over the fields of lettuce, the beautifully-developed leaves reflected the evening light. It has just rained, and it had been a misty day. So I did what I always do when I’m struck by beauty — I took a photo.

When I got home, I was still moved by the freshness and light in that photo. That place and time were just so special to me.  I love the memories of my education at the Culinary Institute of America and Greystone is just wonderful. I decided that the photo needed to be more than a post on my Facebook wall. It needed to become a resource for health and nutrition educators.

Lettuce PaintingThat’s why I added this image to the 6 pack of Farmers’ Market Fruit and Vegetable Paintings. With a photo editing app and some great metallic paper, I transformed this image into art that anyone would be proud to hang on their wall. The picture is 8 by 10 inches and is joined by paintings of fresh berries, tomatoes, apples, asparagus, and more!

Originally, I had thought that this set would be perfect for office decorations, but I soon learned from our customers that these posters are great giveaway prizes and booth displays too. Because this poster set presents healthful foods in creative and appealing ways, it is a perfect tool to use to promote a healthy lifestyle.

This painting set emphasizes positive health messages. It does so visually, with no text or additions to distract from the beauty of fresh and healthful food. What’s not to love?

If you’d like to learn more about this poster set or if you’re ready to buy it today, just stop by the Nutrition Education Store!

Are you in love with lettuce? Try celebrating fresh and tender lettuces with the amazing recipe below!

French Herb Salad
Serves: 4
Serving Size: 1 cup

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1/2 cup baby romaine
  • 1/2 cup baby mesclun
  • 1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Leaves from 1 sprig of mint
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • Black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Rinse the lettuces and dry them in a lettuce spinner. If you don’t have a spinner, pat the leaves dry with paper towels.
  2. Place greens and herbs in a bowl and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
  3. When ready to serve, toss the greens and herbs with the olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and black pepper.
  4. Serve on chilled plates.

Nutrition Information:

Serves 4. Each serving contains 32 calories, 2 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 11 mg sodium, 2 g carbohydrate, 1 g dietary fiber, 1 g sugar, and 1 g protein.

Each serving has 49% DV vitamin A, 45% DV vitamin C, 3% DV calcium, and 5% DV iron.

Chef’s Tips:

  • This salad looks nice if it is garnished with a balsamic vinegar glaze.
  • If you don’t have all of the fresh herbs, feel free to just use parsley.
  • You can also use a mix of other delicate lettuces instead of the romaine and mesclun. See what’s in season near you.
  • Toss the salad gently.

Like what you see? Download the French Herb Salad handout for free!

Lettuce: Harvesting and Washing Tips

Is there anything better than a salad made with fresh, tender lettuces from a garden? I certainly can’t think of anything. In order to make the most of your lettuce harvest, try the following tips…

  • You can pick lettuce directly from the plant — just pluck a few leaves from different areas of the head.
  • If you have a pair of shears, use them to slice off the top 2/3 of the lettuce leaves, leaving the bottom 1/3 intact.
  • Once you have your lettuce leaves, fill your (clean!) sink with very cold water. Gently swish the leaves around until the dirt falls off of them and settles at the bottom of your sink.
  • You can also rinse the leaves under running water, but this method is not as gentle or thorough as the method above.
  • Place your wet lettuce leaves in a salad spinner and spin until dry.
  • If you don’t have a salad spinner, place the leaves on a pile of paper towels and pat dry with additional towels.

Remember, the Nutrition Education Store is the perfect source for nutrition posters, health presentations, educational handouts, and much more! Some bestselling customer favorites include…

MyPlate Resource Bundle

Recipe Database: 1,000 Healthful Recipes Download

Cooking Demonstration Book

A Farmers’ Market Tale

Do you know about the benefits of farmers’ markets?

I truly believe that farmers’ markets can benefit everyone involved. The local farmers can be empowered as entrepreneurs and the customers get out, get exercise, and replenish vitamin D. The customers are apt to buy more fruits and vegetables too. Of course, farmers’ markets are also great family events.

That’s why I’m sharing a free handout about farmers’ markets today. It’s a great resource for your clients and is chock-full of tips and tricks for making the most of a trip to the market. Get your copy today!

I love to take photos of food at farmers’ markets. What can I say? It’s kind of an obsession.

AmaranthRecently, I went to an open air farmers’ market in Davis California. Did you know that that market was voted “America’s Best Farmers’ Market”? How cool is that?!

Anyway, while I was there, I was transfixed by the color and freshness of all the foods spilling over the stands. The produce was so beautiful — it really looked home grown and hand picked. The farmers were all so proud too. It was a moving experience to watch them selling everything to droves of people. With all that bounty, who couldn’t be enticed to try something new and healthful?

With that thought, inspiration was born.

I knew that food and health educators could use the images of these amazing fruits and vegetables in order to promote a healthful diet and lifestyle. I snapped away with my camera and chose my best shots to turn into classy posters that we could sell in the Nutrition Education Store.

The light was perfect for photographing, so I ended up having a whole bunch of winning photos to choose from. Once I picked my favorites, I used a software program to create an artistic oil painting effect. That brought me closer to the show-stopping posters I envisioned, but I wasn’t quite there yet. I wracked my brain. What could make these posters perfect?

Metallic paper was the answer.

By taking the oil painting photos and printing them on metallic paper, the images went from “wow” to “OH WOW.”

Asparagus Oil Painting

I wanted these posters to be highly creative, visual, and positive. They represent a way to have truly versatile fruit and vegetable art that can be displayed in myriad ways…

  • They can used in the offices of food and nutrition educators. The whole display is 24 inches X 20 inches – which is almost the size of a jumbo poster!
  • They can be posted at farmer’s markets. Separate photos help inspire and add color and art to the display.
  • They can be part of health fairs, as either displays or giveaways (or both!).

Because I genuinely want everyone to give the farmers’ market experience a try, and because trying new and fun foods is so important to a healthful lifestyle, I’ve kept the price of these new posters very low. That way, more people can make them a part of their lives.

If you’re at all interested in this new food art bundle, then get the details today. Each image is 8 inches by 10 inches and printed on metallic paper. The set contains 6 different prints, to be displayed or distributed as you see fit. Check them out!

I’ve been feeling really inspired lately, and so the store is jam-packed with great new nutrition education materials. Some of my personal favorite new arrivals are below…

6 Pack Farmers’ Market Prints

I Heart Fruit and Veggies Poster

MyPlate Plastic Plate Set

By Judy Doherty, PC II and Founder of Food and Health Communications, Inc.