I love starting my weekend with a trip to the farmers market. I may start the day overwhelmed by my to-do list, but everything slows down as I start to walk past the tables of vibrant produce, local honey, and artisanal breads and cheeses. Connecting with your food and those who produce it makes you pause, breathe, and appreciate the great gift of real food. You know you’re doing something better for your body and planet by going fresh and local.
However, you can’t take for granted that everything at your local farmers market is good for you and the planet. Supporting your local farmers market can provide better quality produce and be beneficial to the environment and local economy. However, it is not a guaranty that the produce is free of pesticides, meets safety standards, or that the product is actually from a local source. If you’re not taking the opportunity to get to know your farmer you may not be getting what you bargained for. Here are some questions to ask at your next (or first) farmers market visit.
Farmers Markets in all 50 States Accept Food Stamps and EBT
DO YOU USE PESTICIDES?
Not every local farmer grows organically. Those who do so often proudly display their USDA organic label. If you don’t see the organic label, you need to ask how they spray and fertilize their crops. Some farmers use all organic methods but simply do not have the resources to obtain the organic certification. Others may use conventional methods of pest control and fertilization. If it is a fruit or vegetable on the Dirty Dozen list, make sure to choose organically grown produce.
WHAT DO YOU FEED YOUR LIVESTOCK?
Local and grass fed seem to go hand-in-hand but you can’t assume that is the case. Cows and chickens may still be eating grain due to cost and land availability (or even junk food!). They may also still be getting things you don’t want in your food, like antibiotics. Organic eggs may be the best protein choice at the farmers market. They can be used in a variety of ways and can be less expensive per serving than organic beef.
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Here in the new year, millions of Americans will try to cut back on sugar or drop it altogether. It’s a noble effort because sugar is devoid of nutrients, except for calories, which it has in spades.
Quick fact: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports each of us consumes 31 five-pound bags of sugar a year. That’s 267,840 empty calories from sugar alone. Still, people will be jonesing for something sweet to eat. Enter: monk fruit.
Traditionally, people used zero-calorie sweeteners to satisfy their sugar cravings at no caloric cost. Synthetic sugar substitutes, including aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), sucralose (Splenda) and others, are added at the table but are mostly taken as carbonated diet drinks and low calorie foods. But consumption of those foods has taken a nosedive as of late as health conscious consumers flock to natural sweeteners. Stevia, the zero-calorie herb extract, is gaining appeal, but monk fruit is the real one to watch.
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The best part of waking up is oatmeal in my daughter’s bowl. The morning is the most routine part of her day and she sticks by it with military precision. This is her own doing. She rises at 8, requests a bowl of oatmeal, and then gets dressed. Every single day. Her penchant for oatmeal used to be a sticking point for us; I had to boil the water and prep the oatmeal from scratch. This wasn’t feasible every morning.
Have you looked at microwave oatmeals? Honestly, they’re gross — at least to me! For something so pure and natural, most of those boxes read like a chemistry experiment. So we reserved oatmeal for the mornings I had time to make the real thing. Until I discovered Better Oats Raw Pure & Simple Oatmeal. I swear this isn’t sponsored; my endorsement is as organic as the oats themselves! I found it on the shelf at my Kroger one day, and at $1.99 per eight-count box, I couldn’t afford not to stock up. Now it’s a staple on the grocery list and for six months my daughter has had a bowl of this oatmeal every single morning.
Each pouch is filled with raw, pure oats and a blend of quinoa, flax, and barley. We buy the “Bare” — just plain Jane oatmeal. It takes two minutes to prepare: Oats in the bowl, water, microwave for 1:45, and serve. We’ve found that using a little less water than recommended and cooking for less time gives a thicker oatmeal, which my kiddo prefers.
What she actually ends up eating is anything but plain Jane. She has a standard recipe that we abide by: butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, dried fruit, fresh fruit.
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In case you have missed it, rapper Rick Ross has lost over 100 pounds in the past year, and he is crediting his success to one main thing: pears! Ross has recently been very open about his love for pears, literally causing an increase in the fruit’s popularity in America.
“I eat pears now…” Ross proudly claims in an interview. “Shout out to all the pear.”
That simple statement in an interview with Tim Westwood has gained more than 300,000 views on YouTube and spawned an equally popular Vine video.
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Nine ways to eat a … what? That’s right, a pawpaw! It is North America’s largest indigenous fruit you’ve never heard of. Affectionately titled the “poor man’s banana,” pawpaw is PACKED with more potassium than a banana and three times more vitamin C than an orange, according to Modern Farmer.
Not convinced to try them? Maybe these recipes will change your mind.
Pick a Pocket Full of Pawpaws: Sure to be the Hottest New “it” Fruit
1. Straight up raw.
Any pawpaw fan will tell you that the best way to enjoy this adventurous produce is straight off the tree during peak season, which is mid-August through mid-October. With a custard-like texture and taste similar to mangoes, bananas, and melons, it’s no wonder eating the raw fruit is the way to go!
2. Pawpaw pie.
Think lemon meringue with a new twist. Combine pawpaw pulp (peeled and seeded) with sugar, milk, egg yolks, and flour to heat over the stove. Then top with whipped egg white meringue and bake for 12 minutes at 350. See the full recipe here.
3. A micro-brewery trend
Midwest microbreweries and distilleries are catching on to pawpaws and have introduced several craft beers and wines that incorporate the subtly fruity flavor. These pawpaw brews are most commonly found throughout Ohio and the Carolinas.
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