When you work at the Extension Office, you can tell spring has arrived by a couple of signs. First, the master gardeners have come back and have started answering gardening calls–lots of them! The second sign is the start of local farmers markets. Many have started–and others will start soon.
Farmers markets are places where you can purchase local produce, and in many cases other locally produced items. The positive aspect of local produce is that it is fresh–probably just picked right before the market opened, and not shipped and stored for days–but maybe rode in on a truck for an hour. Fresh. Full of nutrients. Produce at its best.
Once you purchase it–you want to keep it that way. The longer produce sits around your house, the more nutrients it looses. When manufacturers of canned and frozen vegetables and fruits preserve their produce, it is picked and preserved the same day. It is at the peak of it’s nutrient content.
So what does that mean for you-the local consumer? It means you should consider how and when you are going to use your fresh produce before purchasing it. A good rule of thumb is to purchase fresh produce to use in the beginning of the week, then use canned and frozen at the end of the week, so nothing spoils or is wasted. Planning ahead will save you money and nutrients!
Another problem people have at farmers markets is knowing how to pick produce that is ripe, or if it will ripen after you get it home. UNL in collaboration with Missouri Extension has developed an app titled “Seasonal and Simple”. Seasonal and simple is a guide to help you find, select, store, and prepare fresh fruits and vegetables. The recipes use simple preparations and seasonings, so you can taste the goodness of a fruit or vegetable at the peak of its flavor. It also directs the user to a farmers market near you, with the times it is open and directions to get there. It works across the entire state of Nebraska! It is a free app that works with IOS or android devices. It can also be downloaded on to your desktop. It is very handy to use when picking out produce!
Another handy item developed by two dietitians from UNL is a Guide to Food Safety and Selection at Farmers Markets. It is a short informational piece that offers great ideas on getting the most out of your shopping experience! Check it out!
This week berries and asparagus are in season. Try this simple recipe using strawberries this weekend–I know you will love it!
- 4 cups fresh sliced strawberries
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
- 8-10 medium fresh basil leaves
- To maintain a strawberries beautiful shape, use a paring knife to remove the cap with an angled cut. In a large bowl, gently toss the strawberries with the sugar and vinegar. Let sit at room temperature until the strawberries have released their juices but are not yet mushy, about 30 minutes. Don't let the berries sit for more than 90 minutes, or they'll collapse. Just before serving, stack the basil leaves on a cutting board and roll then vertically into a loose cigar shape. Using a sharp knife, very thinly slice across the roll to make a fine chiffonade of basil and sprinkle on top. This recipe can be stored in the refrigerator overnight with the basil on it to develop the flavor.