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Farmers Markets: The Way to Eat

In May the Chicago Tribune ran a list of strategies for making the best of your visit to the farmers market. But, honestly, most of it is common sense.

My list of tips is decidedly shorter and easier to remember:

1. Do most of your food shopping there. Choose whatever fruit’s in season and eat it for breakfast with plain yogurt, ground flax, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Or with cottage cheese and almonds for lunch. Fresh berries with a little cream are a dream for dessert, as are tarts and muffins studded with whatever berry’s in season. For dinner, think grilled vegetables, a veggie stir-fry, or a steamed vegetable plate drizzled with olive oil and fresh herbs. Snacks abound at the farmers market: whatever you can cut up and munch raw you can enjoy to your heart’s content (and your heart will be most content when you eat like this) whenever a snack attack hits. Why not blend up a nice hummus to dip into?

2. See which produce looks best and find a recipe for it after you get home. Use the internet to browse. By Googling “zucchini,” for example, you’ll be presented with an array of possibilities, from zucchini bread to ratatouille (see also today’s recipe in the column at left). This classic vegetable stew can be served over brown rice or on its own–hot, tepid, or cold–for lunch or dinner.

3. Your body will thank you for choosing the widest possible selection of seasonal produce. Spinach and chard are loaded with potassium and magnesium, and some calcium as well. Every cell in your body requires these minerals to function smoothly. They’re vital for a top-performing immune system, strong bones, good blood pressure, and a steady heart rhythm. Eat veggies from the broadest color spectrum you can find, including yellow summer squash, purple eggplant, and bright red peppers. Each color offers unique antioxidants, which neutralize the free radicals that cause health-damaging inflammation.

To find out what veggies are in season where, check out this nifty map from Epicurious, though if you’re trekking regularly to the farmers market you’ll be able to tell by just looking at their offerings.

And remember: buying what’s grown in your neck of the woods supports local farm families even as you’re supporting the health of your own.

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