Farmers Market Largess

I had a vision of the way my summer would unfold.  When S. and I sat down late in the spring and compared my Franklin planner against his palm pilot we both delighted in what seemed to be very open schedules.  We had very few plans and it seemed like it would be a wonderful summer for spontaneous road trips, leisurely days at the lake, lots of time for hiking, reading, relaxing. I decided this would be the year I more fully explored eating locally.  I pictured myself rising early on Saturday mornings, knocking off my long run of the week, returning home to fresh-brewed coffee, fixing myself a travel mug and heading off to one of the many farmers markets in the area, to pick up ingredients for carefully designed weekly meals. 

And then, S.’s boss decided to send him on the road for much of the summer for work.

And S.’s dad called him and requested that S. come out to New York for a fishing trip.

And my mom wanted to know what we were doing for the 4th of July.

And my brother decided to get married.

And our favorite bands went on tour, and both our workplaces gave away free Tiger’s tickets, and A. and I have turned out to be golf savants, and the organization I want to volunteer with finally called. A family reunion was planned.

And now here S. and I are, knee-deep in June, the summer slipping through our fingertips like water and I had not been to the damn farmers market even one time, let alone cooked more than scrambled eggs with my famous black beans as a side dish. This is just the way he and I are, though – we are blessed with friends and family and we like to spend time with them. If this means, some nights, we eat eggs instead of chicken florentine, well, both he and I are happy with that.

But I am still very interested in eating locally, not only because I believe it cuts down quite significantly on one’s grocery bill, but also because it is just so, so good for both the body and the environment.  So Saturday, my first free Saturday in many, many weeks, I took myself to the nearest farmers market to see what I could score.  I came home with the following:

2 quarts of strawberries

1 quart of cherries

2 summer squashes

1 eggplant

lots and lots of snap peas

all of which cost me $9.50. When you compare that price to supermarket prices, you come away impressed…I did have to swing by a market for a few things and two quarts of strawberries alone cost 5 dollars. At the farmers market I got to pick out the vegetables and fruit I specifically wanted, and better yet, none of it was packaged.  None of the vendors at this particular market come from any further than sixty miles away, so most of our produce from the week definitely falls under the eating locally label. It felt good, finally, to do something I’d been meaning to do for such a long time, and know for at least one day out of my wasteful grownup life I helped the environment (buying local obviously means signicantly less gas was wasted delivering your food, plus the produce isn’t packaged or dumped into plastic bags) while at the same time buying healthy, beautiful food for S. and me.

Last night S. sliced up the yellow squash and eggplant, sprinkled them with olive oil,  chopped garlic and a bit of Kosher salt and roasted them. They were wonderful – the vegetables sweetness was complemented by the salt and garlic. We agreed next time we would use less olive oil as some pieces were a bit soggy, or perhaps try sauteeing them.  I used a bunch of the strawberries to make strawberry shortcake for S., something I’ve never really enjoyed. I froze others, and used the rest to make this recipe, which I found on mediterrasian.com

Greek Style Strawberry Yogurt
Luscious strawberry yogurt made with thick and creamy Greek-style yogurt.

2 cups fresh strawberries—stalks removed and cut into quarters
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons superfine (caster) sugar
2 tablespoons water
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
16 oz (500g) Greek-style yogurt

PLACE the strawberries in a bowl with 2 teaspoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of water, stir, then cover and leave to macerate in the fridge overnight. DRAIN away any liquid and divide the strawberries in half, then mash half into a pulp with a fork. PLACE the yogurt in a large bowl, then add the vanilla essence and two tablespoons of sugar. ADD the chopped and the pulped strawberries and fold all the ingredients together.

                                                                   *

 It turned out wonderfully! I had some for breakfast today and while it was sweet, it wasn’t overly so. It’s thick and creamy. Mediterrasion recommends this as a dessert and from my understanding of Medierranean diets I can see how this would work – but I think if I served this to most of my friends or family for dessert they would be quite skeptical – especially my mom who was not a fan at all of the fruit based desserts in Italy and preferred chocolate gelato.  I’m looking forward to trying it with a variety of fruit throughout the summer, especially peaches and rasberries. It is high in both sugar and fat, but I still think it’s much healthier than the brands in the grocery store that are created chemically, with high fructose corn syrup and yellow food dye.

Two interesting nutritional tidbits I feel like sharing:

(a.) More than one person at the farmers market commented on the poor appearance of the strawberries, the eggplant, the spinach – some even growled about the fact you could see dirt on the veggies.  Americans have come to expect that their fruit should look like it does in magazien photo shoots – the strawberries all large and perfectly red, the spinach shiny-emerald-green-clean. To those of you who passed up the produce at the farmers market because it didn’t look like what you’ve come to expect, I encourage you to return and give it another go. This is what real food looks like, and the taste will far surpass your expectations.

(b.) When I was at the survivorship event last Thursday, I sat at a table with several cancer survivors. These cancer survivors were beautiful, smart, engaging women who made me laugh until my stomach hurt, but one woman made me particularly sad. She mentioned that her doctor told her she needed to incorporate more vegetables into her diet, and perhaps a good way to do so would be to plan two nights a week as vegetarian nights. Now,  I know this particular doctor and I know he was thinking perhaps a vegetarian pasta with lots of fresh veggies, or even a vegetarian pizza light on cheese and heavy on the veggies, but this woman told me, full of pride, that now two nights a week she goes home and fries up a big plate of potatoes and eats them with some corn muffins, and she thinks she’s getting her vegetables in. I didn’t say anything there, but she did make me realize how much awareness needs to be raised in terms of proper nutrition.  As I was discussing with my co-workers, when we make a choice between a burger and french fries or a salad, we have the education and the background to recognize exactly what kind of choice we are making, and that knowledge is a gift. Many people don’t have that kind of knowledge at their disposal. Another instance of this that I can think of is when J.’s co-worker defended her breakfast of Lucky Charms as really healthy because “apart from the marshmallow’s, it’s really grainy.”  There needs to be some sort of advocacy on the part of people not privy to middle class choices like “local or organic? Grass-fed or corn fed? Do I want fresh peaches or rasberries in my organic Greek yogurt, today?”  It’s something I would like to be a part of, I just need to think about how!

And, on a final, miscellaneous note, I was working on my novel early this morning and it turns out my narrator has a whole teaching pedagogy.  Who knew?

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9 Responses to Farmers Market Largess

  1. Jean says:

    I would love to do more eating locally (I too dreamed of spending weekend mornings picking up yummy veggies from Michigan and Wisconsin, etc. and make simple gourmet meals on the grill–I haven’t been too successful!) However, I thought I should share: One of my favorite Environmental organizations, Michigan Land Use Institute, has a local farm project with a list of farms for NW Michigan (http://localdifference.org) also there is a website called Local Harvest (http://www.localharvest.org) where you can punch in your zip code and find local growers.

  2. Sarah says:

    My husband and I are trying to eat locally a little more often as well. Next summer we’re going to try to buy shares in a local farm, but we’re lucky in that our monstrous-sized grocery store features local farm produce if we need to get something during the week. And we have a regional market we can go to on Saturdays (which we’ve managed only once so far). I’m also amazed at how little my family knows/understands vegetarianism. My husband has been strictly vegetarian since freshman year of college (13 years!) although I’m less vigilant, and I’m so used to it that I forget that others have a difficult time visualizing what our meals must look like. And thanks for the yogurt recipe–I’m going to have to give that one a shot.

  3. Cam says:

    The yogurt sounds delicious.

    I love farmers’ markets, but too many around me don’t start selling interesting food until late June. Mostly organic soaps and flowers and bakery goods beginning in early May until the really yummy crops are harvested. One restaurant that we frequent focused on locally grown items last summer, and had someone speak briefly at a theme dinner about local vs organic and the importance of local in terms of the economy, the environment and freshness of food. It was good to hear the difference between local and organic — both sound good and can be good, but for very different reasons. Important to know that while some farms are both, they are not the same thing.

    M

  4. Stefanie says:

    Yay for you for going to the farmer’s market! My husband and I in an effort to eat more locally we joined a CSA (community supported agriculture). It’s a local organic farm and we pick up a box a week of fresh in season veggies through October. These last few weeks I feel as though I’ve never eaten this good! Education is important and we need more of it.

  5. Emily says:

    If you figure out how to educate the public about nutrition, let me know. I’m all in favor, especially kids. I have a friend who has tempted me to take the program she just finished on integrative nutrition, a ten-month course offered one weekend per month in New York. She’s been teaching me a lot.

  6. I’ve been getting organic food from small local farmers — a small bag each week. I am going to try some of your recipes. And here’s one I did: sautee leek and zucchini and snap peas in olive oil, season and toss with some fresh pasta and sauce, with some basil, too. Hmmmm….

    Keep going on the novel, gal, we’re plugging for you. Later…!

  7. Andi says:

    Hurrah for eating locally and characters with teaching pedagogies!!!

    I had a novel idea (or an idea for my novel I should say). Perhaps I’ll get started sooner than later after all!

  8. Hans-Peter says:

    Soggy eggplant? No matter how little oil you use, you need to do one of two things to prevent soggy eggplant. 1) Zap the sliced fruit in the microwave. The flesh is spongy and airy, and heating will cause it to collapse a little, which in turn prevents too much moisture from entering the fruit. 2) Salt the slices. Salt will draw moisture out of the cells and into the air pockets. Hope that helps! 🙂

  9. r says:

    I’m glad you’re enjoying the local-eating! I’ve been trying to do the same, both with farmer’s markets and a farmshare.

    One comment in your post particularly caught my eye: “…buying local obviously means significantly less gas was wasted delivering your food…”. So, this is something I’ve been wondering about quite a bit. I would like to think this is true, but it’s not clear to me that it’s at all likely that it really works out in this direction. Say I buy some veggies from my farmer’s market. They were driven there, in the cases I know of, most often in a rather beat up old truck, from a couple hours outside of the city I live in. In a rather small quantity. The owner of the truck then drives it back, often empty. Even if the distance is those vegetables traveled is 5% of that traveled by stuff I might have bought from California… it seems entirely possible that a large trucking/train shipment company that does things in very large quantities with modern-ish engines and which doesn’t drive empty trucks around much would be so efficient as to still come out ahead.

    And, this analysis assumes that either the farmer’s market is just as close to me as my closest supermarket, or that I used no gas getting there. While I usually do take the train to the market, I feel a little weird taking a fresh raw chicken home on the train in 90 degree weather and then walking in the sun for 15 minutes. It reminds me of noticing the statistic in Michael Pollen’s book that organically grown veggies by “earth friendly” companies use on average only 5% less petroleum than conventional veggies – so if you have to drive more than 5% as far to get them, you’re doing a net disservice, at least as far as gas goes.

    I’ve tried to actually calculate this out some, but I can’t get raw numbers very easily. Has anyone managed to figure this out for some example cases?

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