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Five Tips from a Farmers’ Market Manager on Shopping the Final Market

The sustainability mantra may be “less is more,” but there’s one exception when buying more makes green sense:  shopping the last farmers markets.  If you’re not gardening and growing your own produce, your local farmers market serves as your easy connection to one-stop local fare shopping.

But as frosts linger and the cold winds start to blow, don’t punt and think your fresh local bounty will disappear till spring.  With a little strategic shopping and planning, you can preserve a local meal focus all winter long by taking advantage of those last farmer’s markets.

Here’s another perk of eating local year round:  you’re supporting the economic health of your community.  Just ask Cindy Torres, manager of the Longmont Farmers Market outside Boulder, Colorado, and an IATP Food and Society Fellow.  Passionate about using local food systems as a healthy economic development tool, Torres co-founded the Boulder County Food and Agriculture Policy Council to look at how her area can increase the local food supply to enhance the lives of community residents of all economic backgrounds.

“With a little bit of planning and preparation, we can readily eat local till the spring markets start up again,” explains Torres.  Here are her favorite five tips:

1.  Identify Your Needs
A simple but important first step, think about what it is you like to eat and use the most of and prioritize stocking up on those items.  “There’s no point in buying something and never eating it,” Torres adds.  Think potatoes, for example, as these are a basic staple in most family’s kitchen and easily store into the winter.

2.  Assess Your Storage
“Take a look at what type of storage you have available at home since this will determine what and how much you should buy,” advises Torres.  A basic dark basement that can keep relatively dry can serve as ideal storage for root crops through the spring.  Storing potatoes in double brown grocery bags works well.

3.  Think Dehydration
Limited on storage space?  Try dehydrating as a space efficient food preservation technique.  “Dehydrating also works great for stocking up on herbs,” adds Torres.

4.  Gather Farmer Advice
“Ask the farmers at your market what varietals work best for storage,” Torres recommends.  “Some tomatoes, for example, are better for canning while others are meant to be eaten fresh.”

5.  Cook Up Winter Creativity
After you squirrel away your winter booty, use the slower winter months to experiment with new ways to prepare and use your veggies.  “It’s a mistake to stick to just the traditional way of preparing something,” advises Torres.  “Experiment with a new twist on an old favorite.  For example, try pureeing vegetables such as cauliflower or turnips for a creamy soup base.

“More than just food on your plate, eating local year round connects you directly to the economic health of your community,” sums up Torres.  “Supporting local agriculture goes beyond just food, it helps increase social justice by creating a food system that is fair and accessible to all.”

For some creative winter recipe inspiration, here’s a favorite from our Inn Serendipity B&B cookbook for Rutabagas with Cheese Sauce:

Rutabaga with Cheese Sauce
From Edible Earth: Savoring the Good Life with Vegetarian Recipes from Inn Serendipity

Ingredients:
¼ c. butter (½ stick), melted
¼ c. all-purpose flour
2 c. milk
1 c. Cheddar cheese, shredded
Dash of salt and pepper
1 large rutabaga, diced and cooked until tender (4-5 c. diced)
½ c. bread crumbs tossed with 1 T. melted butter

Directions:
*   Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat; stir in flour.
*   Continue to cook and stir until smooth; gradually stir in milk.  Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened.
*   Add cheese and stir until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth.   Season with salt and pepper to taste.
*  Place rutabaga in a shallow, lightly buttered baking dish; pour sauce over rutabaga.  Sprinkle with buttered bread crumbs.
*  Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.

Serves 6-8.

Photo Credit: John Ivanko

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