Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Trip to Overland Park Farmer's Market, and How to Shop Locally


Howdy, class!

Today, we're going to learn about shopping at your local farmer's markets. Although the closest one to me is City Market in Downtown Kansas City, I have Wednesdays off so that means I can have a trip to the Overland Park Farmers' Market, which is only open on Wednesdays and Saturdays. (Special tips will be highlighted in bold.)

It's hot and humid...but, hey, it's summer! Now where's
that stall with the fruit smoothies...?
The trick to the Farmers' Market is that you should seldom go with an idea of what to buy in mind. Treat it like the grocery store; just wander aimlessly and figure out what you need on the way. 

(For those of you who actually go to the grocery store with lists in mind can throw them away. This ruins the idea of the Farmers' Market in my mind.)

When  I'm shopping for food, I try very hard to not go shopping hungry, because I end up buying a lot of what I don't actually need. When shopping, I highly recommend eating a protein bar beforehand, or stopping at a drive-thru to get an iced coffee. A health teacher told me once that if you're feeling peckish, have a glass of water before you reach for a snack; often, you were more thirsty than you were hungry, and you'll have stopped yourself from overeating by getting hydrated. There are many ways to curb overeating, and staying hydrated is one of them!

Also, bring your own bag. Although the farmers' market vendors will often have bags of their own, you should still bring your own. I have this neat treated canvas bag that I take with me when shopping; it also adds to the ambiance of the place. Plus, it's an excuse to color-coordinate an extra something with your totally cute farmers market outfit. You know what I'm talking about. *wink*


Always make a first pass, up and down, before deciding what you need. Take in absolutely everything. Farmers' markets should be savored; a lot of hard work went into making this delicious food for you, and you'll see those smiling faces of the happy vendors with their glorious produce shine. You should want to take in everything, listen to the buzz of the crowd, and really feel that humming energy. Things are alive around you; and the produce here is fresher than you'll ever get in the grocery store.

I remember that I had some sweet corn, freshly picked and grilled, at a Farmer's market in California once. It was so sweet, and so unbelievably delicious; when I asked what seasonings the man put on the corn, he said he didn't put anything on it. It was just the corn and some sweet cream butter from the dairy farm that was next to his(this was years ago, way before the California drought). Corn, he said, loses sugar in increments from the moment that it's picked. The sweeter it is, the more-recently it was picked. I've never forgotten that.

Oh, and let's remember, class: corn isn't a vegetable, it's a grain. You can use this as your starch for your meal, but pick something else for your vegetable.

Eating healthy is about getting variety in  your diet. Don't just eat the same thing over and over again, but eat a wide range of different fruits, vegetables, meats...etc. If you have children that are picky eaters, and they see you enjoying something new and different, they'll be more opt to try it. If you have kids, be that presence in their lives that shows them that food is nothing to be afraid of. I cannot stress this enough. Even if you don't know how to cook it, ask the vendors what they would do. Seriously, these people know their produce inside and out, so of course they'd have an idea or two of what to do with all of this gorgeous produce.


Another cool thing about my farmers' market(and many farmers' markets now) is that they sell meats from local vendors. You'll sometimes have to get there early in the day, but it'll be worth it. Many places will allow you to call ahead, too, and set aside certain items for you so long as you ask. I can't tell you the difference between fresh farmers' meats and the ones at the local grocers. It's seriously otherworldly, and I can only tell you to try it for yourself. Many farmers out here also run dairies, so they'll sell goats' cheese and whatnot.

See that? That's your non-side-effect-having-allergy relief right there...
The apiaries out here can't be beat, and they'll always have delicious honey for you to sample and buy. Buying and consuming local honey is an excellent and natural way to combat allergies during the summer. The bees in the local area gather pollen from local plants, flowers, trees, etc, and make it into honey. By administering yourself with local honey, it will help to combat your aversion to local plant life; but you don't have to take my word for it.

See what I'm pointing to? That's produce. Behind me are squash, heirloom tomatoes the size of your head, gorgeous cucumbers and wax beans, basically all of the summer bounty that you could be putting into your body but aren't. See how hot and sweaty I am? Of course you do. But is it worth it? Of course it is. If you don't want to get hot and sweaty shopping, consider that these hard-working women and men do every day to give you this bountiful harvest. Consider the beauty in their hard work, their toil, all so you can have some fresh and beautiful meat, vegetables, cheese, all on your plate tonight. Sure, the supermarket is air-conditioned, but you'll be supporting factories, poorly-paid laborers, a crap-ton of antibiotics. Consider organic; if nothing else, it tastes better.

There's a slight chance I went overboard...
And another thing; don't throw away your beet and carrot greens. Those greens are delicious, good for you, and create another dimension to your meal. I love beet greens sauteed with butter and salt, or braised in a stew. Carrot greens can be steamed, roasted, all while left on the carrot. You can butter the peeled carrots and just bake them with some potatoes. By leaving the carrots whole, you minimize prep time for yourself, and who doesn't like that?

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a date with these beets. And basil. And garlic. And carrots. Okay, so it's less like a date and more like an orgy. Sue me.