Find Fresh Food & Friends at the Farmers Market

Today’s post is written by Dillan DiGiovanni, a certified integrative nutrition health coach and teacher. He creates programs for healthier people and workplaces from his office in Union Square. Dillan regularly contributes his expertise on health and wellness to the Beat.

As we begin to prepare for another change of season and head into summer, I have one thing on my mind: food. After a cold, gray winter and plenty of meals featuring an abundance of root veggies, I’m more than ready for fresh, fast food in many forms. Greens, fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats, fish and herbs!

We Somervillians are lucky because we have several options for buying fresh, local food this summer thanks our local farmers and awesome folks who run our farmers markets. Along with the farmers markets, Somerville spots like Dave’s Fresh Pasta and M.F. Dulock Meats sell food from local sources.

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Given the current drought in California, it’s more important now than ever to consider the source of our food and the impact of our choices. Much of the food we consume from large grocery stores comes from California. While it’s likely not realistic to completely opt out of eating food from the West Coast, for a few cents or dollars more, you can support local business and help alleviate the situation in California.

Whether you’re new to the market scene or a seasoned shopper, here are some tips for making the most of your local market!

Meet your farmers.
Unlike at grocery stores, farmers markets put you right in front of the people who grow the food you’re eating. These folks plant, harvest and haul themselves from the farms to set up shop and serve you the fruits (and veggies) of their labor. When you shop the markets, you not only get the freshest food grown hours away from you, you also get to keep your money in your local community with small business owners AND meet them in person! Talk to them and ask them questions if you don’t know what to buy. The farmers also often have great recipe ideas, like one vendor at the Somerville Winter Farmers Market that gave me a roasted potato recommendation that was perfect for my winter meal.

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Find what’s fresh.
Ideally, you’re eating food because of its nutritional make-up as well as how it tastes. Local, freshly picked foods provide the most nutrients possible for what your body needs. At the markets, you’re not picking over food that’s been sitting on a truck or in storage for weeks (or months)—you’re getting something that was growing in the ground sometimes moments before you purchase it. Fresh food not only feeds you well, it tastes better, too. Why not get the best of what’s available for the money you’re spending? And, speaking of money, Mimi Graney from Relish Management, which runs the Union Square and Assembly Farmers Markets, says, “at all the Somerville markets we match EBT. Those customers who receive SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) can get a 1-to-1 match up to $10 per customer per week. This helps our low-income customers stretch their dollars further.”

Shop like an artist.
Markets can help you tap into your inner artist, allowing you to do creative things with the fresh food you find. Take in all the colors, shapes and smells of the market and make your meal a true work of art. When heirloom tomatoes are in season, combine them with some fresh mozzarella cheese and basil for a colorful, summer appetizer. Or pair strawberries, blueberries, some fresh mint and a squeeze of lemon for a zesty, summer fruit salad. Scroll down to check out a tasty kale salad recipe that’s perfect for summer.

Know your neighborhood.
Making your way to the market means you get out and about with the people in your neighborhood. Standing in the sunshine and cool breeze with friendly folks sure beats harsh, fluorescent lights and tiled floors, wouldn’t you say? In addition to fresh food, you can find other community vendors selling all sorts of cool items or spreading the news about their missions. You’ll find such groups, as well as some new vendors to the Somerville scene, at the Assembly Farmers Market at Assembly Row opening on June 7. Mimi says, “we welcome community groups looking to do activities and education at our community booth as well. We seek those with missions that match that of the market—healthy eating, active living, environmental care.”

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Farmers markets offer many options to supplement your daily diet and a few ways to make a significant contribution to your local community. Consider taking a trip to one of these markets to make some fresh, fast food or make some new friends. And if you’re looking for a way to use up some of those farmers market finds, check out my kale salad recipe below.

Dillan’s Kick-­Butt Kale Salad

1 large bunch of fresh, local and/or organic kale, chopped (red or green)
2 large organic or local carrots, shredded
3 cups organic or local red cabbage, diced
2 avocados, diced
1 cup tamari‐roasted almonds, chopped
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 roasted, salted pumpkin seeds

Wash kale thoroughly, tear the leaves away from the hard spine and chop into bite-sized pieces.
Toss kale with remaining ingredients into a large bowl, mix with salad dressing of choice and serve!

P.S. Check out full details on when and where to find Somerville farmers markets.

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