An explosion of color enticed me to stop at the Cottage Grove Farmer’s Market one evening after work. Cheerful chalk art decorated the cement at my feet. Yellow impatiens opened their lazy blooms to the sky. Dark green asparagus wrapped in red rubber bands lay waiting for me to purchase it. Liquid Gold Honey sparkled in the afternoon light. Large baskets of vibrant flowers swayed in the breeze. Or course, it wasn’t just the colors that lured me to this wonderful farmers market. The smell of fresh Kettle Corn met my nose and made my mouth water. I am sure that the cheese curds where whispering “Taste me! Taste me!” as I edged up to the table where the Squeakalicious curds lay in small containers. My senses were on high alert as I wandered the tables and visited with the farmers and vendors about healthy eating.
The farmer’s market is a great way for you to revitalize your healthy eating habits. Summer brings tantalizing vegetables, nuts, honey, free-range meats, cheese, eggs and fruits to add to your other healthy staples at home. When you shop at the farmers market, because the vegetables and fruits have just been picked in the last 24 hours, you get better quality and freshness. Produce at the farmers market is usually grown organically or with few pesticides, allowing you to make responsible food choices.
When you choose to start consuming garden-fresh vegetables and fruits, your health will benefit. This gratifying produce can help reduce heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Leafy plants as mustard and turnip greens, bok choy, and kale can increase your calcium levels. Kidney beans, black beans, soybeans, spinach, cabbage, and tomatoes are storehouses for iron. Strawberries, blueberries and apples contain antioxidants which are disease fighting compounds.
Fruits and vegetables are not the only healthy foods you can purchase at the farmers market. Honey can be purchased to replace your refined white sugar in your coffee or drizzle it over fruit for a healthy snack. Fresh and local beef, high in B, K and E vitamins and magnesium, calcium and selenium is also available, along with farm fresh eggs.
While you are taking in the sights and sounds of the market, take some extra time to visit with the farmers and vendors. They are more than happy to share recipes and cooking tips with you. I learned that kohlrabi can be sliced thin like potato chips and grilled in a tinfoil pouch. Dunk the grilled kohlrabi in some homemade dip for a delightful meal. A farmer shared that chive flowers can be cut up and sprinkled on salads, tossed in egg dishes and even made into vinegar. The seafood vendor described how his brother had just made the sea food chowder that morning with fresh fish trucked in from Florida.
I encourage you to make your trip to the farmers market a family experience. Your excursion will provide you and your family an opportunity to walk and enjoy the fresh air. This is a great time to explain to your child how to make nutritious choices. Take along a wagon or cloth bags to fill with your freshest finds. You can share a sense of community as you discover diverse foods, exchange ideas and visit with friends. By purchasing foods at the market, you are also supporting area farmers and putting money directly back into your local economy.
Once I started shopping at the farmers market, I could not leave without several mouthwatering foods. I purchased squeaky cheese curds, bright red tomatoes, freshly picked asparagus, and a gooey rhubarb crisp. My granddaughter rode up on her bike with her friend just as I was eyeing the bakery treats. After they picked out a snack, we visited together about our summer plans. It was a perfect ending for a spontaneous visit at the farmers market.
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be a chore; it can be exciting to try out new foods and recipes. Head to your nearest farmers market this week to discover delicious foods that
will support your health. It’s worth it! To scope out local farmers markets in your area, visit http://www.wisconline.com/attractions/farmmarkets.html.
Because it all begins with a healthy woman…
Sue Ann Thompson is founder and president of the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation (WWHF), a statewide non-profit organization whose mission is to help Wisconsin women and their families reach their healthiest potential. WWHF provides programs and conducts forums that focus on education, prevention, and early detection of diseases that affect women the most; connects individuals to health resources; produces and distributes the most up-to-date health education and resource materials; and, awards grants and scholarships to women health researchers and related community non-profits. To learn more, visit wwhf.org or call 1-800-448-5148.