Spring is in full swing and the markets will soon be overflowing with locally grown fruits and vegetables. Here in Southern Westchester, we have so many ways to get the freshest local produce, whether from local farm stands, weekly farmers markets, co-ops, or through a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Get the most out of the season’s bounty by following these tips at your local market.
Get to Know Your Local Growers
Visit your farmers markets and speak with the people who grow your food. Local food is usually fresher and tastes better because it hasn’t had to travel (usually it comes all the way from California!).
When it comes to fresh produce, organic is the best choice. After all, who wants chemical pesticide residues in their salad? However, organic can be expensive and not just for the consumer. Many small-scale farmers find it too costly to go through the organic certification, even though they may be using all (or primarily) organic growing practices. Inquire and ask questions, you may just find organically grown fruits and vegetables at a lower price!
Most farmers markets will have a listing of produce items and when they’ll become available. Take a lookahead and plan your shopping based on what’s fresh each week. If you see something new don’t shy away from it. Ask the grower for a sample and they may even share their favorite ways to cook it! If you find something that you just can’t get enough of, use it as an opportunity to stock your freezer or pantry for the colder months to come.
Make a Day of It
Besides being a community-gathering place where you’re likely to bump into friends and neighbors, many farmers markets host local musical acts, children’s activities and educational programs. Some markets also host vendors that offer fresh, made-to-order food prepared with the same local produce being sold that day. There are so many great reasons to visit your local market and so many more reasons to stay!
Another way to get the best local produce of the season is by joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Farmers set a price for a “Share” for the season and use the income to plant and Harvest all the crops. This entitles you to pick up your “share” of produce at a central location every week during the growing season. As a member of the CSA you also have the opportunity to take a tour of the Farm and even lend a hand in the fields. My family of four has been members for the past few years and we’ve found it to be plenty of food for a week of cooking. If you are cooking for one, consider finding a friend to split the share or ask about half-season shares if you plan to be away for part of the summer.
May your summer be a happy, healthy one!