Farmers' markets offer a variety of fresh, locally-produced fruits and vegetables, bakery, poultry, eggs and meat products in a festive atmosphere. Get the most from your local farmers during the growing season. The average supermarket produce travels about 2,000 miles to its destination, compared to less than 50 miles for farmers' market produce.
Farmers' markets offer a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables which provide essential vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals to help the body stay healthy and energetic, maintain a healthy weight, protect against the effects of aging and reduce the risk of some cancers and heart disease. We should be eating 2 cups of fruit and 2 cups of vegetables every day. For optimal health, scientists say eat a rainbow of color. Your plate should look like a box of crayons.
Go directly home from the market; avoid side trips. Foods will decline in quality, and perishable foods like meat and eggs can pose food-safety problems and health risks if left sitting in your car.
Different fruits and vegetables require different temperature and humidity levels for proper storage. Some foods which taste best at room temperature include bananas, melons, onions, potatoes, tomatoes and winter squash. Store them in a clean, dry, well-ventilated place away from direct sunlight and away from areas where meat is prepared.
Some produce can be ripened on the counter and then stored in the refrigerator. Examples include avocados, kiwifruit, nectarines, peaches, pears and plums. Avoid placing produce in a sealed bag on your countertop. This slows ripening and may increase off-odors and decay from the accumulation of carbon dioxide and depletion of oxygen inside the bag.
Most other fresh fruits and vegetables keep best if stored in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40 degrees or below. Use your crisper drawer for whole produce. Store fruits in a separate crisper drawer from vegetables. Fruits give off ethylene gas which will shorten the storage life of vegetables, and some vegetables give off odors that can be absorbed by fruits and affect their quality. Refrigerate produce in perforated bags to help maintain moisture, yet provide air flow. Un-perforated plastic bags can lead to the growth of mold or bacteria. If you store produce on the shelves, make sure that you do not store meat above them. Meat juices may drip down and contaminate the produce with harmful bacteria.
Wash your hands before working with produce, and wash produce thoroughly. Wash your produce just before using, not when you bring it home. Fresh produce has a natural protective coating that helps keep in moisture and freshness. Washing produce before storage causes it to spoil faster. Don't wash produce with soaps, just rub briskly with a clean brush or hands, and dry with a paper towel. Rinse produce even if the peel is removed - such as melons and citrus fruits. Bacteria on the outside of produce can be transferred to the inside when produce is cut or peeled. Once you have cut through the protective skin, bacteria can enter. Refrigerate cut or peeled produce within two hours.
Farmers' markets are great places to shop and to get some exercise. Enjoy walking around the market. Have fun, and take along your grand kids. Take your own canvas or net bags. On warm days, the quality of unrefrigerated fruits and vegetables can decline from morning to afternoon. However, you might get great deals at the end of the day as well. Aim to buy foods you'll eat or freeze now when they are fresh. Select an amount you can use within a short time to avoid waste.
Please remember to contribute toward your OFA nutrition services if you can. These programs are not sustainable at current levels without the support of participant contributions. Be aware that food stamps can be used toward your contribution. I do not want to have to make any further cuts to nutrition services. Thank you for your support.
Chautauqua County Office for the Aging Senior Nutrition Program provides nutritious noon meals at several congregate dining sites throughout the county along with a restaurant dining out program. Our Dietitian, Cheryl Walhstrom, RD is available for nutrition counseling in your home at no cost to you. We also sponsor several exercise programs. Call the office for more details and information at 753-4471, 661-7471 or 363-4471.