Smart Tips for Shopping at Farmer's Markets
While most fruits and vegetables need little more than a rinse under a cold faucet, some types of produce require a little more attention.
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Being a "locavore" and eating foods grown near where you live have become a popular practice, as many people want to support their local farmers. Here are some tips to keep in mind the next time you buy produce at your local farmer's market.
Get to Know Your Growers
Buying local doesn't eliminate opportunities for contamination, which is why it's good to get to know your local farmers. Ask your growers about what kind of pesticides they use and how they keep their products free from bacteria and other contaminants. You can also ask them about how to store produce, how to test for ripeness and even for new ways to prepare your favorite fruits and vegetables.
Get to Know Your Seasons
Pay attention to when your favorite fruits and vegetables are in season, that way you can eat local foods when they are at their peak taste, most abundant, and least expensive. Although it's great to eat local, it's not always possible so don't rule out including frozen fruits and veggies in your diet. Fruits and vegetables chosen for freezing tend to be processed at their peak ripeness, a time when—as a general rule—they are most nutrient-packed. With that in mind, experts say that it is more important for your health to eat a varied diet including plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains no matter where they are grown.
Don't Forget to Wash
No matter where your produce was grown, always wash it thoroughly before serving or consuming. All produce is subject to dirt, dust and other pathogens. While most fruits and vegetables need to be washed thoroughly in cold water, some types of produce require a little more attention.
- Salad Greens: When washing spinach or lettuce, experts recommend filling a bowl with water and rinsing them gently to remove dirt particles and other contaminants.
- Apples, Pears, Peaches: Fruits with stems are known to trap dirt and bacteria more easily that other produce, so be sure to always wash and rub them under cold water.
- Oranges, Avocados, Melons: When preparing to eat fruit with a rind, it's important to wash the item even if you don't plan to eat the outside. Rinse the skin under cold water and rub it with a brush or a cloth to loosen bacteria and dirt. Bacteria can get stuck in the fruit's crevices and transfer to your hands or to the knife you're using to cut the fruit, so make sure to wash your hands and utensils after cutting.
- Carrots: When cleaning carrots, rinse with running water before peeling. Even if you aren't eating the skin, it may contain bacteria that can transfer to the edible parts during preparation. If you are eating the skin, scrub it lightly with a brush or cloth before cooking.
- Mushrooms: Because mushrooms are delicate, you should wipe them down with a cold clean cloth or rinse them under a gentle stream of water to clean and loosen dirt from the gills that surround their stems. Wipe dry before cooking or serving.