Friday, August 19, 2011

Local Gold Mines

Growing up, I remember going to farmers markets with my mom and sister.  I didn't really understand why we went to a farmer's market when we could just go to the grocery store and get the same food.  Now, I really appreciate and LOVE going to farmer's markets.  There are so many in the Northern Va area, so pretty much any day, I can find a market close by! Just look at some of the stalls and the beautiful displays of fruit and veggies!  One thing I love about farmers markets is that the food is local.  We don't always think about the fact that sometimes, our organic watermelon was grown on a completely different continent and probably cost a LOT of money to ship it here.  Then, there's also the fact that there was probably a lot of pollution created by having the food shipped so far away.

Another thing I love about farmer's markets is that a lot of the time, the farmers are right there!  You can ask them all sorts of questions.  I've asked them if they are organic or if they use chemicals... I've asked where they are located... I've asked what type of vegetable I'm holding... I've even asked what I could cook with a certain vegetable.  Most of the time, the farmers love answering questions and having the opportunities to brag a bit about their products.

Also, sometimes, local markets have other goods besides just fruits and vegetables.  This market had a beautiful and large selection of flowers!  The prices were very good and the arrangements were really big.  A lot of markets have local ranchers too.  I'm not sure what the difference is between a farmer or a rancher, but I always thought a farmer grows veggies and fruit and a rancher grows animals... so that's the context I'm going to use here.

I actually get my grass fed beef, pork, and chicken eggs from a local place called Chicama Run Farms.  They raise everything themselves and everything is hormone free, chemical free, and free range!  Their products are delicious and they sell products at their farm or at the farmers markets they attend.  The quality is amazing, the prices are great, and the taste is wonderful.  The eggs they sell have deeper yellow yolks and their shells are browns, whites, and soft tans.  Also, they are guaranteed to be laid by their free range hens that week, so they stay good for 60 days!  Which leads me to my next point...

Food that you get from a farmer's market usually stays fresh for longer!  I hate it when I buy some veggies from a grocery store, then 2 days later when I want to use them, they have gone bad!  Doesn't that suck?! If you think about it, when you pick up veggies from a farmer's market, they have been picked recently and brought to market on a truck that day!  Then compare that to veggies that may have been grown in a different state, picked then put on a truck to a distributing center, then taken on a different truck from that distributing center to another store, then maybe it sat in the back for a day, then displayed, then sat there for a day when you pick it out and take it home.  It's easy to see that farmer's markets are more fresh! 

Farmer's markets also offer opportunities to try new things!  Did you know that there are several different types of avocados?  This nice guy actually cut up 2 different types of avocados, Reed and Haas.  Then he told me I had to try them both and taste the difference.  The Reed were very sweet - perfect to put on a salad or eat lightly dressed.  The Haas were what I am used to.  They were very good too, but I definitely noticed a very distinct difference!  You learn something new every day!

Look at all the vendors that lined the street!  There were even people selling hand crocheted blankets and goat cheese (made by the guy who was at the booth - he milks the goats 2 times a day! - delicious!!!!)  Then there are also those people who sell cookie and breads and other glutinous stuff that I stayed away from... mainly because of the gluten, but also because there was a kinda creepy guy that was trying to flirt with me >yuck<

One last picture- look at those artichokes! I didn't know that they had flowers to them!  According to the farmer, you cut the flower off, boil it in water, then strain it and drink it as a tea... I think I might stick with my favorite mint tea personally... but at least now if I'm ever on one of those extreme cooking show where I get a flowered artichoke, I know what to do!

So... there you have it!  The best local gold mines ever - farmer's markets.  If you haven't checked one out, you definitely should.  I think the ones on Saturdays tend to have a bit more vendors at them, but you never know! 

If you don't know of any near you, just google your city or county and then farmer's markets. 

Good luck and enjoy!

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