Farmers markets are becoming more popular. More of them are springing up all over the country. In 1994 an estimated 1,755 markets could be found. In a 2013 study, the Department of Agriculture reported “In the last five years, the number of farmers markets across the country has nearly doubled, from 4,685 in 2008 to 8,144 in 2013.” By 2015 that number increased to 8,400.
Perhaps you purchase your produce at a local market. The food is often fresher than the foods that you purchase from stores which is not surprising as the produce is often sold the same day, sometimes within a few hours after it is picked. Personally, I have noticed that the some of the farmers’ market produce looks better two weeks later than does the produce purchased from conventional markets. This may sound outrageous, but stop and think for a minute. Produce that is taken to markets may take a few days to a week before it is made available for purchase. Sometimes is delivered to a distribution center before it is taken to stores. (Ask your produce manager at your store/stores where you shop about how the food arrives.)
This poses an interesting question. Chew on this idea for a moment. Does freshness translate into more nutritious? It is hard to imagine that it doesn’t, right? If you eat something that has been recently harvested, aren’t you getting more food value, meaning nutrition?
This seems to be controversial, as some food is picked and quickly cooked and then frozen, preserving nutritional content. Moreover, not all food is alike. Jeff Blumberg, professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts had this to say. “If you are looking at something like fresh spinach, you are losing up to half the folates (water-soluble compounds that are naturally occurring in foods) after about eight days,” Blumberg. In general, green leafy vegetables are the most delicate and susceptible to nutrition loss, while vegetables and fruit with a skin or shell (think oranges or squash) are more robust and stay nutritionally intact longer.
Avenues of Education and Information
Aside from the nutritional component, these markets have an added value or two or three. They can be educational. You can directly address food concerns with the farmers and/or those who work with them. You can also get ideas about cooking and nutrition from the vendors at the farmers’ markets and from other shoppers. You might find yourself really surprised to learn how generous shoppers are with their time, sharing nutritional information and cooking ideas. I ask often, and have seldom found people to be rude and/or unwilling to share ideas and experiences.
Never Knew They Existed
Although you may already be a farmers market shopper or know of them, did you know that you may find foods that you never knew existed. I have seen more greens that I never knew about, and can’t count the number of times on both hands that I have had to ask “What is this?”
One more thing, and it is not so small. Many adults bring their children to these markets. What a great way to introduce children to food.