To market, to market!
This past weekend, I started tackling that spring to-do list and I am so glad I did. The Farmer’s Market at Dupont Circle has so many wonderful, fresh, local products! Cheeses, meats, eggs, soup…
And of course, veggies, more veggies, fruit and more veggies! The best thing to do at farmer’s markets is to look for inspiration. Try something you have never heard of. For me, that was Stinking Nettle. I juiced it as was recommended to me. It was similar to spinach, and is rich in vitamins A, C, potassium, manganese, and calcium.
It was a great find! I also stocked up on local apples, kale, and honey.
Walking around, I was struck not only by what was there, but also by what was not. Farmer’s Markets strive (and should succeed) to bring local produce into your home. In order to do that, they can only provide items that actually grow in the area, and are in season. There were no peaches or grapes. I didn’t see tomatoes or cauliflower. They are not in season right now. So what is?
What’s in season right now?
Between April and May, you should expect to be cooking, eating, or juicing apples, asparagus, broccoli rabe, carrots, chard, mushrooms, kale and collard greens, onions, arugula, beets (which did look particularly red and wonderful), parsnips, nettles, rhubarb, sweet potatoes, spinach and other salad greens, turnips, and sugar and snap peas and strawberries will be making an appearance in May.
Based on what is in season, this Spring Salad recipe should be a wonderful treat!
To organic, or not to organic? That is the question…
The other thing I started to think about as I was arm deep in cheese samples, was why local? Why organic? There was a study released by Stanford University back in 2012 that found no “strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods.” Well, of course not! There is not more calcium in an organic banana (versus a conventional one). Just like it doesn’t have fewer calories! Rather than regurgitate what Mark Bitman said, please read his excellent editorial on the subject.
So why should we eat organic? To avoid pesticides! In case you didn’t click on that link above, let me quote Mr. Bitman:
In fact, the Stanford study — actually a meta-study, an analysis of more than 200 existing studies — does say that ‘consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.’
The case for local food-sourcing
And local? There are a few reasons to eat locally sourced food. For starters, you are supporting your community and strengthening the local economy. Moreover, the produce should also be fresher. How long do you think it takes an apple to get here from Peru or Chile? At your local famer’s market, produce should have been picked within the last 24 hours (which means it should taste better too). It is also a greener choice. No airplanes = less gas. And the farms are LOCAL so less gas is used transporting them from the farm to the farmer’s market or grocery store.
Now that I have convinced you to run out and stock up on only organic and local choices, there is of course a catch. Local and organic products do come at a price; a hefty one sometimes as frequenters of Whole Foods know well. So it is understandable if you cannot stock your fridge and freezer with only local and organic food. What I try is to buy organic for certain products: meats, dairy, and produce that maintains a higher level of pesticide residue. A cnn article referred to these items as the “Dirty Dozen” and include Celery, Peaches, Strawberries, Apples, Domestic blueberries, Nectarines, Sweet bell peppers, Spinach, kale and collard greens, Cherries, Potatoes, Imported grapes, and Lettuce.
I also always buy cage free eggs and pay attention to where my fish is from and how it was caught. I buy local when it is in season. I also eat a mostly vegetarian diet during the week so that I can splurge on the more expensive meats and fish when I get them. The rest of the time, I worry a little less. If my whole wheat couscous is not organic, that is ok. If I am craving mushrooms and they are not in season but I can get them at the grocery store, I live a little. Ultimately, you have to do what works best for you, your family, and your budget.