The farmers market is an ideal place to score an abundance of fresh, local fruits and vegetables at once – especially in the summer!
Most of us are making fewer food shopping trips these days. And though you might not be able to touch, feel and smell produce as you would have last summer, your local farmer’s market is still an excellent way to get a bounty of immune-supporting fruits and vegetables.
If there are fresh food markets in your area, go with a plan in mind and be ready to cook and eat to maximize flavor and freshness after your market haul.
One of the most important actions is wicking away moisture to keep your produce fresh as long as possible. That means rinsing soft-skinned produce like berries just before eating (versus in advance) and using a salad spinner or clean kitchen towels to remove excess water from salad greens.
Now, with a plan in mind, here are some foods to pick this summer.
Look for berries native to your area. In the southern United States, blueberries and blackberries are abundant in summer. You’ll find everything from raspberries to blackberries and even strawberries late into the season in the Northwest. Berries are rich in antioxidants and fiber as well as an excellent source of vitamin C.
Eat them fresh, as a snack, or toss them into green salads for a pop of flavor and color. If you have extra, make berry jam or freeze your berries to enjoy in smoothies, desserts, or stirred into oats or yogurt for months to come!
Farm fresh sweet corn is the best way to taste summer. And contrary to popular belief, corn is a nutritious food. It is a vitamin C and folate source, and just 1 cup of sweet corn kernels provides over 15% of the daily value for fiber. Plus, corn gets its yellow color from plant compounds, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which may help support healthy eyes.
At the market, choose ears of corn with light yellow silks, supple green husks, and those that feel a little heavy for their size. These indicate freshness and that the kernels are plump.
To make the most of your sweet corn haul, move fast. Sweet corn starts to lose its sweetness the moment it is picked. For the best flavor, buy and eat it on the same day or as soon as possible. Grill the corn Grill or boil it until heated through for a naturally sweet and easy fiber-rich side dish. Fresh corn also freezes great. Cut the kernels from the cob, place them in a freezer-safe bag or container, and freeze in a single layer.
Finding fresh, fragrant peaches at the farmers market is a true treasure. Once you get peaches in hand, see how they feel. If the peaches are very firm, let them ripen at room temperature. If you want to eat them within a couple of days, speed up the process by placing the peaches in a brown paper bag.
Eat peaches fresh or combine with another summer staple like in this Peach and Basil Salad with Mozzarella for a simple lunch or dinner. If you end up with extra peaches, peach jam is a great way to preserve them to enjoy the rest of the year. But this fruit also freezes well – peel, pit, slice, and freeze.
It’s tough to turn a corner at the farmers market and not see a plethora of peppers.
Sweet red, yellow, and orange peppers, green bell peppers, habaneros, and shishitos are everywhere in the summer.
Fortunately, with thicker skin, fresh peppers survive a week or more in the refrigerator crisper. Grill them up for sweet, smoky flavor, slice fresh peppers into wedges and dip with hummus, or stuff into mini appetizer boats. The options are endless, but if you end up with extra, rinse and de-seed the peppers, slice or dice, and freeze the extras. Frozen peppers can be used in a stir-fry or as the base for an omelet or frittata for quick weeknight meals.
Zucchini and other summer squash grow quickly in the summer months. These high-water vegetables are packed with Vitamin A and can be used in a variety of ways. Because of the water content, zucchini doesn’t freeze well, so it’s best eaten fresh. And the good news is that you can eat it either raw or cooked!
Use a vegetable peeler to create fun squash ribbons or julienned zucchini. Toss with pesto or tomato sauce, or use in a delicious summer lasagna. Summer squash of all types is also an inexpensive and easy vegetable to toss on the grill. Grill in large spears or skewers with other vegetables, fish, chicken, or tofu!
To keep zucchini around longer, consider baking into a sweet or savory zucchini bread or muffins and freeze them. These will reheat well and allow you to enjoy your zucchini for weeks or months to come!
Keep your canned tomatoes on the shelf and indulge in fresh summer tomatoes. When at the market, consider trying a variety tomatoes. Cherry, grape, heirloom, or beefsteak tomatoes – they all have different flavors and can be used in many ways.
To keep tomatoes fresh and flavorful longer, skip the refrigerator. Store grape tomatoes in a cool, dry space and use them up within a week. Store large tomatoes with the stem side down on a counter or other surface to keep them fresh a bit longer. Fresh tomatoes are delicious simply drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, herbs, and spices tossed into a salad or served on a sandwich. For an incredible, easy tomato sauce, roast fresh grape tomatoes with garlic and olive oil until they burst and toss with your favorite pasta.