Friday, August 29, 2014

Why buy at the farmers market?

It's the weekend again, and here in my town it's time to head off to the market on Saturday morning.   But why?   Well there are plenty of good reasons.

     Of course locally sourced and seasonally raised foods taste better. They spend more time in the fields ripening - developing sweetness and flavor - because they don't need to be picked under-ripe for shipping thousands of miles away.  Picking under-ripe vegetables also reduces the nutritional value.  Farmers can grow more diverse varieties, bred for quality and flavor rather than long shelf life.  And though a region may experience a drought or unusually cold weather for a season, the fruits and vegetables still grow at their optimal time, ensuring the best possible taste.

    Buying local also benefits the environment and economy.  When we reduce our "food miles", the distance our food travels from farm to table, we reduce our carbon footprint, the impact of transportation, refrigeration and packaging needed to carry produce around the country,  With local food purchase, you ensure that more of your food dollars go to the farmer and local economy in the form of revenue and taxes.  Buying local keeps your dollars in your own community.  In Wisconsin, if every household purchased just $12 a week for 8 weeks (summer) at a local market, around $200 million would be reinvested in our local farms.  A million here, a million there and pretty soon we're talking real money!

So, buy local and buy often!

Live in Wisconsin and don't know where to find a market?   Just go to this map...


Here is a great book on cooking from your farmers market.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Farmers market potatoes

The look on a child's face the first time they set eyes on purple or blue mashed potatoes at the dinner table is priceless. We're not talking taters colored with fake food dye. We're talking real, honest-to-goodness old-school potatoes with beautifully-colored flesh.
While you won't likely find these old potato cultivars at your local supermarkets, they are super easy to grow at home and likely readily available at your local farmer's market. (Just be sure to buy organic. Potatoes are often sprayed three times and routinely wind up on the dirtiest produce list.) "Many of the older cultivated varieties might be less uniform in shape than supermarket potatoes, which makes them less attractive for large chains," explains Philip Kauth, tissue culture manager and assistant curator at Seed Savers Exchange, a nonprofit that aims to save vegetables from going extinct. (They also sell seeds.)
So where do these beautiful varieties come from? Many cultivars have actually been bred and selected by researchers with universities, potato companies, or the United States Department of Agriculture, Kauth explains. "Due to a disease epidemic in the 1840s, primitive potato cultivars (like Rough Purple Chili) were brought to the United States from South and Central America around 1850," he says. "These primitive cultivars were crossed with these disease-susceptible cultivars. Instead of heirloom potatoes, many are considered heritage or historic commercial cultivars."
Seed Savers Exchange recommends using fingerling potatoes to roast or use in salads, while opting for large, roundish colorful potatoes for baking and mashing.