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Farmer’s Market Produce

Farmer's Market ProduceThis is a topic near and dear to me because I do the farmer’s market purchasing on Saturdays for Sunshine Wellness.  I have always adored going to farmer’s markets, so I was more than willing to assume this role for our weekend prep days.  I go to the Saturday Santa Barbara farmers market every week and I’m recognized regularly thanks to my large red Radio Flyer SUW (sports utility wagon) and my trademark braids and colorful bandanas.

What a blessing it is to have access to a large and bountiful farmer’s market providing a full capacity of vendors all year around.  I personally had never been to a farmer’s market until just a few years ago while in culinary school in NYC.  I grew up in the Midwest, and sadly, there were no nearby farmer’s markets.  Being around fresh produce just makes me happy.  Maybe it’s the genes I inherited from earlier generations of relatives that owned farms.  And when it comes to working in any kitchen (including my own!) my favorite task is preparing vegetable dishes.  From chopping to juicing to sauteeing to roasting – I love working with veggies!

My list of essentials is as follows:

1. Leafy greens (any and all of them!) – hands down a market is the best place to get your greens – most of which have been picked within the last day and taste, oh, you just can’t beat it.

2. Root veggies – I can not walk by a vendor without gazing wide-eyed at the colorful bouquets of carrots, beets, radishes and the like, without my mouth watering.

3. Celery – from a girl who grew up on grocery store produce, who knew that celery grows such gorgeous leafy crowns!  Don’t chop and toss them like the store does.  They are concentrated with flavor and nutrition.  Add them to your salad mix or combine them with your other fresh herbs when cooking.

4. Broccoli – Again, another vegetable with edible leaves.  And store bought broccoli never looks as good as it does at the market.  Period. Same goes for its close cousin, cauliflour

5. Citrus – unless you’re fortunate to have your own citrus trees (don’t I wish!) the market is the best and cheapest way to buy lemons, limes, oranges and seasonal items like mandarins and blood oranges

6. Meat, eggs, butter and cheese – sure, these are considered splurge items, but you won’t be disappointed.  Hand crafted dairy is delectable.  The meat and eggs are often free range and vendors are more than willing to share their secrets on how they keep their animals happy and healthy

7. Berries and bell peppers – these 2 items are on the Top 10 list of pesticide residue.  Even if they are aren’t certified organic, most are pesticide free, which in my book, is just as good.

8. Seasonal produce – apples in the fall, strawberries in the spring, tomatoes in the summer, squash in the winter – buying produce in their natural harvest season means endless bonus flavor points!

Shop at your local farmer’s market and get happy.  I’ll see you there!

By Maria Diaz a Sunshine Wellness chef

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