How To Build A Meal From The Farmer's Market

by Meredith Grace
I remember my first trip to the local farmer’s market: the tables overflowing with greens and vegetables and jars of preserves and canned goods stacked practically as tall as I am. The bounty of fresh food was incredible, but it was also a little overwhelming.

It can be easy to pick up a few things here or there, but the average consumer might be more than a little unprepared to build an entire meal from whatever is in season and available at the farm stands. 

Farm Fresh RI is a local non-profit in the Ocean State that runs a wide range of community programs focused on fostering healthy nutrition sourced from local produce. They divide their efforts between three categories (producers, markets, and eaters) and run several programs within each of those areas.

From nutrition programs in schools to a subscription delivery for fresh produce, Farm Fresh RI is Rhode Island’s go to source for all things healthy and in season in New England.

Finding Local Produce

farm to tableIf you’re not sure where to find your local markets and farmer’s stands, there are plenty of programs online that map out the nearest locations. Farm Fresh RI runs a directory for the Northeast region of the United States at FarmFresh.org, which covers not only markets and stands, but also which stores and restaurants buy/sell local produce.

If you’re not in the Northeast, you can turn to your local Department of Environmental Management or the Department of Agriculture for a comprehensive directory of farmer’s markets or local produce stands.

Eat The Rainbow

When you get to the market, look for a rainbow. No, not the kind with a pot of gold at the end. “A good rule of thumb for nutritional eating is eating the rainbow,” says Thea Upham, Community Access Program Director. Upham suggests building a healthy salad bursting with colorful vegetables.

“Fresh crispy greens, carrots, some red radishes, blueberries… you can also roast vegetables and put them on a salad, and top it off with a dressing made from local yogurt.”

Aim to fill your basket or bag with as many colorful vegetables and fruits as possible and you’ll have an abundance of ingredients to incorporate into your next meal.

Is It Safe?

farm-to-tableAlong with a wide variety of vegetables and produce, you’ll often find meat and protein at certain stalls of the farmer’s markets. If you’re close to a coast, you can also find seafood and shellfish fresh off the boat.

For any consumer used to purchasing meat from the butcher’s case of an established grocery store, there might be hesitations about the safety of consuming meat bought straight from the farm. “There are very, very strict standards from the Department of Health for any vendors selling meat and protein,” says Upham.

Often times, the standards are so high that meat is usually sold frozen just to meet the minimum. This ensures that meat and seafood are perfectly safe to consume, whether from the grocery store or from the farm itself.


Strike Up A Conversation

“[You’re] creating relationships just by asking questions, finding strange herbs or vegetables that you normally might not eat.” Not only are you likely to be introduced to new and exciting foods, but you also might get a new recipe idea or two to try yourself.

“Very often a lot of the farmers are accomplished chefs themselves. They eat what they grow and have the best insight into how to cook what they’re selling.” The farmers usually appreciate the interest and the chance to talk about what they grow and produce.

Part of what makes farmer’s markets so extraordinary is the close connection it creates between the consumer and the food source. So don’t be shy - take advantage of your time with the farmers!

Looking for some inspiration for your next trip to the farm stand? Farm Fresh RI shared these two delectable recipes using some of the tasty fruits and vegetables that are in peak freshness during the summer months. Check them out below:

Veggie-ful Summer Salad

  • 3 Medium tomatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ cup cucumber
  • ½ cup carrots
  • 1 ear of corn (measure ½ cup)

The Dressing

  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp Apple Cider vinegar

Method Of Preparation

  1. Dice the tomatoes, onions, cucumber and carrots, set aside in a bowl
  2. Cut the corn off the cob and add to the tomatoes and other veggies
  3. Finely chop the garlic and parsley, in a small bowl combine with oil & vinegar
  4. In a large bowl mix together chopped veggies with the dressing.

Turkish Cucumber Dip

  • 2 cucumbers, peeled, washed and grated
  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 gloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp fresh herbs minced (basil, cilantro, mint)

Method Of Preparation

  1. Set the grated cucumber in a strainer over the sink, allow to drain for 20 minutes
  2. Add yogurt, cucumber, garlic, olive oil and salt into a large bowl
  3. Fold in herbs
  4. Serve chilled as an appetizer or snack- perfect to dip carrots into!
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