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!

Bulletin Board Idea for Spring

Spring is kicking into high gear, and what better time is there to put together a bright seasonal bulletin board with helpful health messages?

I created this Spring Bulletin Board Banner to highlight key foods that make their debut in the spring, and as I was looking at it the other day, I decided to outline how to use it to anchor a bulletin board display!

Here are the details…

Put the Spring Bulletin Board Banner in the upper right hand corner of your bulletin board area. Print out the recipe for the healthy spring dinner plate featured on the poster and arrange it next to your banner. Note that this recipe is only available to Food and Health members, so if you haven’t already signed up, take a look at the benefits of membership today!

If you have room for another handout, print out the free PDF that accompanies the Spring Bulletin Board Banner and arrange it on your board too.

Fill the remaining space with images of healthful spring produce. You can print these from the internet, cut them out of magazines, or draw them. You could also add some fun MyPlate stickers, which coordinate well with the color scheme featured on the banner.

What kinds of displays are you making for spring?

Easter Candy and Your Health

Easter is the second biggest candy holiday in the United States.* According to the National Confectioners Association (NCA), over 120 million pounds of Easter candy is purchased each year. This includes 16 billion jelly beans, 90 million chocolate bunnies, and an untold number of marshmallow peeps.

That’s a lot of sugar!

Moreover, according to research from the NCA, 87% of parents will make Easter baskets for their children this year. It’s also interesting to note that 81% of these parents will then steal candy from their children’s baskets.

So, what are parents usually putting in Easter baskets?

  • 89% say Easter candy and chocolate
  • 79% include non-edible items like crayons, stuffed animals, books, and movie passes
  • 46% add candy with “added benefits” like dark chocolate or chocolate with added fruits and nuts
  • 44% fill the baskets with what they call “heathier snacks” such as granola bars or dried fruit
  • 35% include gums and mints

How about you and your clients?  How do you fill the baskets?

That stash of Easter candy can easily put everyone in the family over their recommended sugar intakes for the day. Remember, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans assert that people should “Consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars.”

Perhaps it’s time to think outside the jelly bean.

A full 11% of the families surveyed by the NCA didn’t add any candy to their baskets, so I’m not being unrealistic when I say it can be done. Although candy is part of Easter traditions, consider at least limiting the amount and types of candy you put in the basket. I do like the idea of chocolate with “added benefits” like nuts. Other healthful food ideas include some 100-calorie snack packs, nuts, dried fruits, little boxes of raisins, and trail mix.

There are lots of suggestions online for non-edible items like marking pens, money, stickers, and toys. Our own Chef Judy has some great ideas for non-candy items that could also promote physical activity and healthful eating. How about replacing at least some of those jelly beans or marshmallow peeps with:

  • Noodles for the pool
  • Jump ropes
  • Balls
  • Bubble supplies with big wands
  • Colorful athletic shoes
  • Activity passes for fun things to do in the area
  • Family board games
  • Pool towels and swim goggles
  • Athletic clothes
  • Frisbees
  • A healthful cookbook
  • Cooking equipment for foodie kids
  • A new reusable water bottle

Anything that gets the kids and family outside and moving or interacting together makes a great stuffer for an Easter basket, and they’ll last longer than candy too!

So, what will you be putting in your baskets this year?

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

* Halloween is the first.

And here are some other fun prizes that you can put into Easter baskets…

Easter Eggs: What You Need to Know

Eggs are a fun and traditional Easter staple. Did you know that at one time they were banned during Lent and became a treat to eat on Easter? Eggs also symbolize fertility and renewal. They are associated with the end of winter and the coming of spring.

Here’s another bit of egg trivia: the average person consumes one-and-a-half dozen eggs at Easter, and the average family eats about four dozen eggs during the holiday.

It’s always fun to color Easter eggs, but remember that these eggs should not be left at room temperature for longer than two hours. If you’re thinking of having an egg hunt, it would be safer to use plastic eggs instead of real eggs. Why? Well, if the shells are cracked, then they can easily be contaminated by dirt and moisture from your yard. Plus, there’s always the concern that the hunt will take longer than two hours.

And speaking of food safety, if you are putting colored eggs into a braided bread or Easter pastry, remember to eat or refrigerate the pastry within 2 hours of pulling the pastry out of the oven. If you plan to store it for longer, then you can keep the pastry in the refrigerator for three to four days.

The food safety fun doesn’t end there!

For some families, pickled eggs are an Easter tradition. This usually involves placing hard-cooked eggs into a vinegar or pickled beet solution. Despite the pickling, these eggs should still be refrigerated. Use pickled eggs within seven days of preparing them.

And finally, the week after Easter is often considered “egg salad week” because one the most popular ways to use up all those hard-cooked eggs is by making egg salad. Remember, hard-cooked eggs should be kept refrigerated and eaten within seven days of cooking.

Now let’s talk about preparing the tastiest and prettiest Easter eggs.

The green ring that sometimes appears around the yolk of a hard-cooked egg is usually caused by hard boiling and over cooking. This is the result of a reaction between the sulfur in the white and iron in the yolk, which interact when combined with high heat. This green part is safe to eat — it’s just a little unappetizing. For best results, try this method instead:

Recipe: Hard-Cooked Eggs

For a kinder and gentler way to cook eggs, place them a pan and fill it with cold water until you have about  1” covering the tops of the eggs.

Bring everything to a full boil, put a lid on the pan, and then take it off the heat. Set a timer and let the pan stand for 12 minutes (for large eggs) to 15 minutes (for extra-large eggs).

When the time is up, drain the pan and cool the eggs under cold running water or in an ice bath.

Refrigerate when cool.

Not only does this method eliminate the green ring, the whites will be less rubbery! Plus, this approach helps prevent the shells from cracking. Remember, eggs are easiest to peel right after cooling.

And speaking of peeling, did you know that the fresher your eggs are, the harder they’re going to be to peel when cooked?

This is because the airy space between the shell and the egg itself increases as an egg ages. The shell becomes easier to peel as this air space increases. If you want eggs that will peel more easily, buy them a couple weeks before Easter and keep them in the fridge.

Shopping Tip: Eggs are usually on sale close to Easter. This may be a good time to buy a couple extra dozen. The “use by” dates on the egg cartons indicate the date before which the eggs should be eaten for best quality, not food safety. Usually eggs can be safely eaten for 2-3 weeks beyond the sell-by date. That said, eggs should be refrigerated at the store, so avoid displays of eggs that are not kept cold.

I hope these tips and tricks come in handy as you prepare your spring celebrations!

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

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!

Preventing the Spread of Norovirus

Cruise Ship in PortIt seems like every couple of months we hear about a cruise ship that came back to port because of an illness outbreak on board. Does this make you want to think twice (or three times) about getting on a cruise ship?

We went on a fairly long cruise last year that had very few ports of call. We knew that once we got on the ship we were going to be there for the duration.

Yes, I gave this a second thought. What if we got sick? It could be miserable. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a small ship’s cabin when you have diarrhea and vomiting.

Quite frequently the illness found on cruise ships is a norovirus. It can be introduced into a cruise ship by passengers or crew members alike. Why cruise ships? Well, on a cruise, lots of people from all over the world come together to live in confined areas with shared dining rooms and close living quarters.

Norovirus is highly contagious and one of the most common pathogens to cause a foodborne illness. Norovirus is frequently transferred by food handlers dealing with ready-to-eat food.

The symptoms of norovirus include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal cramps. These symptoms can develop within a few hours or a few days after a person is infected and can last for a couple days. People with norovirus are contagious from the moment they begin feeling ill, and they can remain contagious for up to two weeks after the symptoms appear.

Most norovirus illnesses happen when infected people spread the virus to others. It can also be spread through contaminated food or water, or by touching things that have the virus on them.

You think this is scary for a cruise passenger — think how concerned the cruise companies are about it! Turning a ship around because of a norovirus outbreak could cost them plenty, not only financially but also in terms of reputation.

I have to say that I was very impressed with the efforts the staff of our cruise ship made to prevent the spread of an infectious virus.

Sinks for WashingFor example, we saw our cabin steward the first day and then not again. I asked about him and was told he was sick and confined to his cabin for the rest of the cruise. Employees exposed to norovirus need to be restricted from work with food for at least 48 hours from the time of exposure.

Moreover, the cruise directors announced that officers would not be shaking hands at the special Captain’s Reception. This abstention helps to prevent passing the virus from person-to-person — very proactive.

However, I did make a mistake one morning.

I was heading to a container of ice water to refill my water bottle and was stopped by a crew member. He said that I could transfer germs from my previously-used water bottle to the tip of the water container, and then that could spread to others. I hadn’t thought of that — what a good catch!

Here are some more steps that the ship took to help reduce the spread of disease.

  • Signs around the ship and on the television constantly reminded passengers to wash their hands.
  • There were sanitizer dispensers throughout the ship. Some were strategically placed outside the entrances of dining rooms and buffets. While sanitizers should not be used in place of proper handwashing, it was a better option than doing nothing.
  • I found handwashing sinks near some of the out-of-the way eating locations.
  • The burger place near the pool had a sink inside the restaurant and encouraged folks to wash their hands before selecting food and eating. (Unfortunately I didn’t see many people using it).
  • When a higher-than-expected number of passengers or crew become sick, ships implement additional cleaning procedures and use disinfectants to stop the illness. The staff worked tirelessly to keep on top of this.

I didn’t hear of any illnesses on our ship. In reality, only about 1% of all reported norovirus outbreaks are on cruise ships. Visit this website to see the sanitation records of most of the cruise ships that dock in the United States. You’ll want to check it out before you commit to a specific cruise line or ship.

Now let’s take those lessons into day-to-day life.

You can reduce your chances of getting infected with norovirus by making certain to wash your hands often and well. Wash them frequently after touching high-hand-contact surfaces like doorknobs, elevator buttons, and railings.

Wash your hands after going to the bathroom, blowing your nose, and each time you return to your home.

Handwashing before eating and drinking is also important, not just using sanitizer. If water and soap are not available, use an ethyl alcohol-based hand sanitizer, preferably in a gel form. The sanitizer should be at least 60% alcohol.

I hope this helps you avoid illness this year!

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

Here’s a free printable handout with ways that you can reduce your risk of contracting norovirus and other ills!

Avoid Norovirus

And here are some other amazing resources from the Nutrition Education Store!

Nutrition Poster

Flu Prevention PowerPoint

Nutrition Stickers