Fall Farmers Market Vegetable Guide
Did you know that farmers markets have increased from about 2,000 in 1994 to 8,600 in 2018? It’s not only the USDA Farmers Market Directory that’s taking note of this increase in popularity and size, but also consumers. How many weekends have you spent strolling through your neighborhood farmers market for fresh vegetables? Without a doubt—this is a common occurrence among many people in this country as it offers so much in terms of health, produce knowledge and environmental attributes. What’s not to love about a farmers market and the hard-working farmers who tend them?
Typically, farmers markets are held on Saturdays or Sundays, built around a fairground, park, side street or even in someone’s backyard. They differ from grocery stores in that the sellers have a direct hand in growing and harvesting the goods they are selling; much of the time, it’s local organic farmers who are the ones standing behind their produce stands. This is a win-win for farmers, as they are able to sell directly to a consumer instead of having to go through the middle man, which is often a grocery store.
Many farmers markets are also “local”, meaning there are restrictions placed on them to where they cannot travel long distance to actually sell their goods. Some may only allow farmers from within the state, others are even more strict with guidelines, making them accessible only to farmers within particular towns, counties or districts. The “local” aspect of this is great for the farmer, but also for the consumer, as it ensures agriculturally sound products that are seasonal. Economically, these being “local” also means there’s money being put into the hands of nearby farmers, building up the local and immediate economy. Environmentally, this ensures that this food isn’t being transported long distances while wasting excess fuel.
In addition to finding delicious seasonal vegetables, farmers markets also allow the consumer to really get to know a farmer. Haven’t you always wanted to know the farmer from whom you’re buying your produce? This has many advantages, one of them being the vegetables you’re buying aren’t just sitting in a grocery store aisle with a label on them. They are bought from the hard-working hands of farmers who make growing quality produce their life’s work. This transaction, which is frankly only really possible at farmers markets, gets you in touch more with the food you ingest. For many, the vegetables they are purchasing take on a whole new meaning when they meet and greet the man or woman who grows them.
Many people rush to their local farmers markets early in the morning to get the best possible foods they can find, becoming a tradition for many, especially with small children who want to better understand the food in their bodies. With one primary advantage is buying local seasonal food from these places, let’s dive into some fantastic fall vegetables you can easily find at your local weekend farmers market. While you think you may know a lot about these foods already, you will probably learn something new that adds a whole new meaning!
Sweet potatoes are high in Vitamin A, C, manganese, copper, Vitamin B6, biotin and fiber. They are jam-packed with a bundle of antioxidants as well as plentiful in genes ibMYB1 and ibMTB2, which specialize in the production of anthocyanin pigments. Students show that when these genes pass through our intestinal tract, they may be able to lower the potential health risks posed by heavy metals and oxygen radicals.
Sweet potatoes also play a prominent role in the prevention of diabetes. Since they are low on the glycemic index scale, recent evidence suggests they reduce episodes of low blood sugar and insulin resistance. The fiber alone in this amazing vegetable is also important for diabetic people, since sweet potatoes provide nearly six grams of fiber in a serving. People who consume more fiber obviously have lower blood glucose, as well.
If you’re buying sweet potatoes, try to avoid purchasing ones with soft skin or wrinkles, cracks, or even soft spots. Avoid dousing them with excess butter or marshmallows, since roasting them brings out the natural flavor. In terms of sweet potato recipes, try grilling them or placing them in an oven for about an hour, topping them with salt and pepper and nonfat Greek yogurt in lieu of sour cream. Sweet potato fries are all the rage—as many of you know—and also easy to make just by baking them until somewhat dark and serving them with your favorite spices or organic ketchup. Even celebrity chefs such as Valerie Bertinelli recommends making sweet potato dog treats for your pet by combining mashed sweet potatoes and gluten-free oats with baking soda. Who says dogs can’t benefit from your farmers market trips, as well?
Nothing says fall and autumn like pumpkins, right? Pumpkins are a type of winter squash and mostly popular around Halloween and Thanksgiving. Even though pumpkins are often referred to as a vegetable, they are technically a fruit because they have seeds. However, pumpkins are more nutritionally similar to vegetables that fruits.
One cup of cooked pumpkin contains about 49 calories, .02 grams of fat, 2 grams of protein, 12 carbs and 3 grams of fiber. This fall delight is antioxidant-rich, containing high amounts of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin. These antioxidants, in particular, protect the skin from sun damage, as well as lower the risk of eye diseases.
The Vitamin C found in pumpkins boosts immunity and increases white blood cell production, as well as helps immune cells work better so that they can make wounds heal more efficiently. The carotenoids found in pumpkins also helps protect against cancer, which allows them to neutralize free radicals. For example, a recent analysis of 13 cases showed that people with higher intakes of alpha-carotene and beta-carotene had meaningfully lower risks of stomach cancers—something significant to note when taking our nutrition into account!
The seeds from pumpkins have long been hailed as healthy, particularly baked in the oven and sprinkled with olive oil and salt. Because this fruit is considered a mild diuretic, eating a lot of it can induce a water pill-type reaction by increasing the amount of water and salt your body expels through urine. Steer clear from “pumpkin junk foods” such as sugary pumpkin lattes and cookies and cakes; they do not contain actual pumpkin or its health benefits!
Have you tried making your own pumpkin granola? It’s delicious, particularly when incorporating cinnamon, toasty nuts, maple, caramelized pumpkin and extra sweet and salty roasts to the max. Pumpkin bread is a favorite around the holidays and considered slightly healthier when you reduce the recipe’s sugar content. Pumpkin hummus is also a fall-time favorite, but still make sure to incorporate tahini and garlic to achieve the same consistency—certainly it’s superb with homemade pita chips and vegetables. Hey—anyone hungry yet??
Green beans are a favorite amongst fall farmers markets and a favorite of the human body, as well. Not only do green beans help reduce the risk of heart disease with their high levels of flavonoids, but they have anti-inflammatory properties, as well, which prevent blood clots in the arteries and veins. Evidence suggests that consuming more green beans might reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
The high fiber content in this super food can also improve your digestive system, not only promoting regular bowel movements, but also by reducing stress on the intestinal tract. They boost immunity and are an ideal source of flavonoids and carotenoids. Green beans also help reduce macular degeneration, thanks to its high levels of Lutein. Natural calcium is also plentiful in green beans, as it contains high doses of Vitamin K and Vitamin A, not to mention silicon, which is a key element in bone regeneration and overall bone health!
Green beans are best when simply cooked, either boiled or baked and garnished with salt and pepper and olive oil or butter. You can also roast them with parmesan and basil, and in doing so, they make for a delicious cheesy treat. Green beans allow for a pop of color on any lunch or dinner plate with their deep green colors. You can find other colors, as well, although they aren’t as popular.
In the end, going to farmers markets is really the best way to experience food shopping on an entirely new level, not only by getting to know your farmer more, but experiencing seasonal food the way it’s meant to be savored—locally. Top three pieces of advice for planning your next farmers market visit? Well, tend to go late or go early. Naturally, most of the ripe produce is there waiting for you right when they open. However, going later in the day also leaves room for end-of-day discounts, which some markets publicize more than others. Second—plan for spontaneity, as you never know what other interesting vegetables you will find. Third—talk to the farmers, get to know their cultivation process; it will only bring you closer to your food.
To conclude, let’s end this with a great quote from Bobby Flay: Go vegetable heavy. Reverse the psychology of your plate by making meat the side dish and vegetables the main course.”