Farmers’ Markets: As Fresh as It Gets!

farmers market berriesNothing says summer like red, ripe tomatoes and strawberries, juicy peaches and corn on the cob still in its husk! Tis the season for farmers’ markets to provide us with a variety of fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables, herbs and a friendly, unique shopping adventure. This week’s blog is intended to help you make the most of your farmers’ market experience.

Planning Your Farmers Market Visit

Find the farmers’ markets nearest to you and go with your family, or take a friend and make it a fun outing! It can also be educational for your kids, getting a better understanding of where we get our food. Find out what days and hours they are open. Go early to get the best choice of produce. Walk around the market and compare the quality and price of the produce offered by the various farmers. You may want to buy your peaches from one, corn on the cob from another, and various other produce from some of the other farmers.

How many servings?

The table below gives an idea of how many servings you can get from the fresh fruits and vegetables in the amounts normally purchased at farmers’ markets.

Amount Purchased Number of Cups Number of   Servings
Berries (1 pint) 2 cups 4 servings
Cantaloupe (1 melon) 5 ½ cups 11 servings
Grapes (16 each) ½ cup 1 serving
Beans, green (20 each) 1 cup 2 servings
Broccoli (1 bunch) 7 cups 14 servings
Cabbage (1 head) 12 ½ cups 25 servings
Greens (1 pound) 9 cups 18 servings
Okra (25 pods) 3 cups 6 servings
Peppers (2 medium) 1 ½ cups 3 servings
Squash (1 medium) 1 ½ cups 3 servings
Tomatoes (1 medium) ½ cup 1 serving

Storing Fruits and VegetablesFarmers Market veggies

You probably won’t eat all the produce you bought right away. Fruits and vegetables can lose flavor, texture and nutritional benefit if not stored properly. You’ll want to store them at the proper temperature, humidity and avoid odors and gases given off by other produce stored in the same place. The items below marked with * are kept best in a plastic bag.

Coldest Part of the Refrigerator (Crisper):

Apples*, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe* (after it is cut), cherries*, grapes*, raspberries, strawberries, asparagus*, broccoli*, Brussels sprouts*, cabbage*, carrots*, cauliflower* in plastic bag with small holes, endive*, leeks*, leafy greens*, lettuce*, mushrooms, green onions*, parsnip*, peas* in plastic bag with small holes, radicchio*, radish*, salad mixes*, spinach*, sweet corn*.

Warmest Part of the Refrigerator (45-50 degree F):

Honeydew melon* (after it is cut), beans, snap beans*, cucumber* (after it is cut), eggplant*, okra*, chili peppers*, summer squash*, sweet peppers*.

Dry, Cool Place (55-60 degrees F):

Garlic, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, watermelon (uncut), tomatoes (at room temperature).

Special Produce Groups

Apricots, peaches, pears, plums: Keep in paper bags at room temperature for a few days until ripe (soft). Store ones already ripe in the crisper. Best if used within 2 days of ripening.

Cut melons: Store in plastic bag in refrigerator.

Cherries, berries: Keep in a shallow dish and cover with paper towels, then plastic wrap. They spoil quickly, so use within a few days.

Mushrooms: Refrigerate in a paper bag or open container so they get air. Cover with damp paper to keep moist.

Sweet corn: Store with the husk lift on. If hush is removed, store in a plastic bag.

Garlic, dry onions, potatoes: Keep in a cool, dry place separate from other produce due to the odor. Do not wash before storing.white peaches

Ethylene Gas

Some fruits give off ethylene gas when ripening. To maintain produce quality, store produce that give off large amounts of ethylene gas away from produce that are most sensitive to the gas. Keep lids on storage containers.

Fruits that produce large amounts of ethylene gas: Apples, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, peaches, pears, plums, tomatoes (ripe).

Fruits and vegetables most sensitive to ethylene gas: Asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, eggplant, endive, green beans, leafy greens, leeks, lettuce, okra, onions, peas, peppers, potatoes’, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, watermelon.

Wash produce with clean water just before using, not when storing. This includes the skin, even if you will peel the produce (bacteria can transfer from the skin to the meat during peeling). Use water that is safe for drinking.

As Fresh as You Can Get! So if you want fresh fruits and veggies, get down to your local farmers market. It’s the next best thing to picking them from the field!

 To find the farmers markets closest to you, go to:

http://nfmd.org/   (National)

or

www.arkansasgrown.org  (Arkansas

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