August is for Farmers
Saturdays start early for farmers market fans who grab re-usable shopping bags, jostle for parking spaces and hit the stands.
As the saying goes, the early bird catches the worm and in this case it’s the best tasting pickings of fresh produce, herbs, flowers, artisanal cheeses, organic eggs and just-baked breads.
It’s also the place your likely to learn about the foods you’re buying from the same folks who grew the vegetables or made the cheese. Overheard at the Peachtree Road Farmers Market
one recent Saturday; a woman attracted to a beautiful display of heirloom tomatoes but hesitant to buy asked the farmer, “How do I know which ones to pick?”
He replied, “Well, it depends when you want to eat them. If you want them for today choose the really ripe red ones. If you want them for a few days from now choose the firmer ones that will ripen on the kitchen counter.”
She smiled and began her personal harvest from the farmer’s selection.
August is National Farmers Market Month
and just released statistics from the US Department of Agriculture shows a 9.6 increase in the number of farmers markets over the past year. While Georgia can’t beat California’s 827 or New York’s 647 markets, the percent growth in the Southeast region beats the national average with 13.1 percent more farmers market listed in the 2012 edition of the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, compared to 2011.
Marilyn Wright Yon, dietitian with the School Nutrition Program for Georgia’s Department of Education likes to visit farmers markets so much she seeks them out in other towns when on vacation, “You find amazing things and meet really interesting people.” She recommends bringing a small cooler especially if purchasing cheese, eggs or meats and says, “Buy something new to you to try. Ask how to prepare it if needed.”
Another crop showing up at farmers markets is the chef! Chef demos are often part of the entertainment and education for shoppers. The Peachtree Road Farmers Market and Morningside Farmers Market, for instance, feature local chefs and cookbook authors each week. Rebecca Lang, author of Quick-Fix Southern showed folks what to do with summer’s bumper crop of corn and tomatoes.
You’ll even see Atlanta area chefs leading private tours of the market. I saw Linton Hopkins, executive chef of Restaurant Eugene followed by an eager bunch of foodies as he introduced them to farmers and spoke about unusual varieties or especially tasty ones. Executive chef Thomas McKeown of the Grand Hyatt in Buckhead is a regular at the Peachtree Road Farmers Market too because he drops in to visit one of his favorite farmers, Cory Mosser of Burge Organic Farms of Mansfield, Georgia, “I use Burge’s produce in the hotel restaurant where we have a big commitment to supporting local farms.” During his recent farmers market recipe demo McKeown prepared local goat cheese mousse with heirloom tomato jam. He’ll be on Mosser’s farm cooking lunch for volunteers pitching in work the fields on Sunday August 19th, “It’s a crop mob. You’ve heard of a flash mob right?” explains McKeown, “Well this is an organized effort to help farmers with volunteer labor.”
To Market to Market:
Tips from Nutrition Experts who Love Farmers Markets
Marilyn Wright Yon, MS, RD:
Arrive early – right at the start of the market – if you want popular items like strawberries, blueberries, peaches, corn, peas or melons. These typically go fast when in season.
Bring change – small bills – for your purchases (some are taking credit cards now with their iPhones and the square thingy).
Bring your own bags/baskets to carry home as sellers can run out of bags.
Learn the seasons for your area so you are not disappointed if you do not find tomatoes and melons in May (at least in N Georgia) and decide to not return.
Visit all the vendors even if you think you are finished with your purchases. You may find something you would like to try the next week.
Debbie King, MS RD LD :
Take a quick walk around to see what’s available before making purchases
If your local farmer will take orders the day before it saves lots of time and if you are running late you know what you ordered will be there.
Buy your favorites but try one new veggie or fruit each week. Like garlic scapes, they are not just for table décor.
Ask other shoppers what they make with what they are buying. I was purchasing tomatoes this summer and another shopper said she was buying tomatoes to make tomato jam. So when I got home I scoured the internet for good sounding tomato jam recipe and made it. It was a great idea as tomato jam is more like ketchup, so we have enjoyed yummy homemade ketchup on our veggie burgers this summer.
Carolyn O’Neil, MS RD LD: Atlanta!
-make sure to wear comfortable shoes, but make sure they’re cute. Lots of hunky farmers here. And guys shopping with their girl friends for Saturday dinner cooking dates. You want to look like you’re shopping for a dinner date, too.
-make sure to wear something casual but fashionable. Avoid shopping bags that clash with your color combo. Lots of other cute girls with designer sunglasses and trendy designs on their re-useable shopping bags. You are not going for the “Rebecca of SunnyBrook Farm” look either. Avoid braids and gingham, looks too theme-like.
-make sure to have lots of small bills. You don’t want to stress out the organic peach guy by handing him a twenty. Small bills especially important in the early hours of market when farmers and vendors haven’t collected a lot of small bills, yet.
-act like your bags are really heavy when you see a cute guy near the organic coffee vendor. It’s a long walk to the car.
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