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How to Make the Most of In-Season Produce at the Farmer’s Market

TomatoProduce_300The grass is green, the trees finally have their leaves, and little plants are beginning to pop up from the black soil in the garden; summer is almost officially here. Summer is my favorite time of year because the fresh produce is bountiful. Farmer’s markets abound with yellow, green, red, and even purple veggies and fruits, ripe and ready for cooking and eating. I love the taste of garden-fresh tomatoes so much that I can eat them like an apple… my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Produce is not only more delicious when picked fresh from the garden or when purchased fresh from the farmer’s market, it’s healthier. Over time in canned foods, vitamins such as Vitamin C and B Vitamins can leech out of the produce, making it the healthiest when consumed during its peak season while it’s fresh.

So what are some ways that our family takes advantage of this fresh, healthy produce? Here are some ideas that you may be able to implement in your own home.

Use fresh produce in your meals. Make sure to add it into any meal that you are enjoying such as adding fresh bell peppers to stir fry or adding fresh apples to a delicious apple cobbler dessert.

Use whatever fresh produce you have as a simple side. Found fresh pears at the farmer’s market? Fry them up for a few minutes in a frying pan on the stovetop with a bit of honey and serve as a sweet side. Or you could cut acorn squash in half, scoop out the seeds, bake in the oven with a bit of butter placed in the middle and serve with your meal.

Freeze fresh produce that you cannot use right away. Studies have shown that freezing produce helps to preserve some of those nutrients that leave the produce when they are canned. By freezing the produce that you can’t use up before it goes bad you are preserving the flavor, nutrients, and saving money at the same time.

Enjoy fresh produce for snacks. My little boys love having anything fresh. Carrot sticks, sliced bell peppers, cut grapes, celery stalks, homemade French fries, cucumber pieces, whole sugar snap peas… all of these are great things to munch on.

Of course as I mentioned above, one of our favorite ways to take advantage of fresh produce is to use it to make delicious sides for our summer meals. Here is one of our favorite simple sides to make with garden or Farmer’s Market fresh tomatoes.

Cheesy Tomatoes Recipe

2 to 3 large fresh slicing tomatoes
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Salt
Olive oil

It’s important that the tomatoes be very fresh and ripe for this recipe or they won’t give you the same end result. Slice the tomatoes and place on a cookie sheet or a bar pan with short sides.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the top of the tomatoes and sprinkle with salt. Sprinkle a little bit of shredded cheese over each slice of tomato. Bake the tomatoes for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

A few more tips to remember when buying fresh produce this summer:

Always try to buy locally. Whether you pick produce right from your own garden or if you buy from the Farmer’s Market, produce grown as close to home as possible will almost always have the best taste and the best nutrition since it didn’t have to travel far to get to you.

Don’t toss produce that seems a bit overripe. Overripe fruits make the BEST cobblers and sauces! Boil the fruit down, strain, add a bit of sugar and heat until thickened. Now you’ve got a delicious sauce that is perfect for ice cream. Or cut up the fruit and toss into the bottom of a homemade cobbler. Our favorite cobbler is made with overripe pears.

If you find a great deal on fresh greens but they look a bit wilted, place them in some very cold water for a minute or two once you get them home and they will perk right back up.

Preserve your fresh produce for as long as possible. As soon as you get it home, place it in a sinkful of cold water with a bit of vinegar, dry, and store in the fridge. (Note: Some fresh produce such as tomatoes should never be stored in the fridge, as it will rob them of their flavor.)

Happy shopping and gardening!

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