Dinner diva: Farmers market guide

Dinner DivaBy Leanne Ely

Have you been to the market lately? There is a bounty of fresh local goodness to be found at the farmers market in October, straight from the field.

If you’re wondering what’s in season right now, check out our partial list below. We’ve listed the most popular fruits and veggies you can find right now, depending on where you live, of course. We’ve also included the top health benefits of these foods, a guide to checking for freshness and a bonus tip.

Apples

Health benefits: Vitamins A and C, beta-carotene, fiber (apples are well-reputed for keeping doctors away).

What to look for: I could tell you to buy apples that are firm and free from bruises, but you already knew that. Give your apple a sniff. A good fresh apple will smell like a good fresh apple.

Tip: Yes, apples are available all year long, but they are at their absolute best when you get ‘em fresh off the trees. Buy organic apples when possible because of how heavily sprayed this tree fruit is.

Beets

Health benefits: Magnesium, Vitamin C, fiber, folate.

What to look for: Choose beets that are heavy for their size with no surface cuts or nicks.

Tip: Enjoy beets raw in juice or salads or cook them in a variety of ways: steamed, stir fried or roasted. (They are best cooked with a squeeze of lemon juice and some butter.)

Broccoli

Health benefits: Fiber, folate, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, phytochemicals, vitamins A, C, K, B-6 and E.

What to look for: Choose heads with tight green and brightly colored buds. Yellowing is a sign of broccoli past its prime. Stalks should seem young and tender. Look for moisture where the broccoli was cut at the stem (that’s a sign it was just picked).

Tip: Enjoy broccoli in stir fries, eaten raw with other veggies or added to soups and salads.

Eggplant

Health benefits: Folate, fiber, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, calcium, B vitamins, Vitamin A.

What to look for: Don’t purchase eggplants with bruises or tan patches. A ripe eggplant will be smooth with shiny skin. It will be heavy for its size and when you gently press its skin, your finger should leave an imprint.

Tip: Sprinkle a cut eggplant with salt and let it sit for an hour to reduce bitterness. Of course, rinse the salt off before using. The skin of an eggplant is edible, but it may also be removed.

Kale

Health benefits: Fiber, iron, vitamins C and K, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, liver health, calcium, sulfur, digestive aid.

What to look for: Leaves should be brightly colored and crisp with no signs of wilting.

Tip: Toss kale leaves into salads, stir fries and soups. Juice it, braise it and make it into chips.

Onions

Health benefits: Vitamins B1, B6 and C, manganese, copper, fiber, phosphorus, potassium, folate.

What to look for: Buy onions that have crisp, dry outer skins. They should not have sprouting or dark patches.

Tip: Cut onions should be stored in a sealed container and used within a couple of days, before they start losing their nutritional benefits.

Zucchini

Health benefits: Fiber, vitamins A and C, potassium, folate.

What to look for: Buy zucchini that is small in size, firm, and free of cuts. If you see zucchini with bristly tiny hairs on it that means it’s very fresh.

Tip: Try this versatile veggie in frittatas, soups, salads, and pasta.

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