(BPT) – This time of year is about warm weather, vacations and relaxing afternoons. It also heralds the return of farmers markets. A trip to the market is a great opportunity to indulge in fresh healthy produce and to expand your horizons by trying new items or preparing them in different ways.
Here are eight tips to make the most of your visit to the local farmers market:
* Note the hours and dates of your local market on your calendar. Set reminders on your smartphone that will alert you when favorite items such as tomatoes, peas, beans and strawberries come into season.
* Prepare your refrigerator and kitchen for the season’s harvest. Clean out your fridge’s produce drawer, and stock up on items that complement fresh produce, such as salad dressings and seasonings that can be used to turn basic veggies into delicious meals.
* While farmers market vendors will almost certainly have plastic bags on hand, take your own reusable bags or baskets to carry your purchase – they’re better for Mother Nature. If you’ll be buying perishable items, consider packing a cooler as well. Remember to place heavier items (like melons) on the bottom of the bag and lighter ones (such as berries) on top.
* You’ll find the freshest produce and best selection early in the day. Setting your alarm to wake you a bit early could ensure you get the pick of the day’s produce.
* Leave the $20 and $50 bills at home. Smaller bills will provide you with greater buying flexibility, and vendors will appreciate the change.
* Scope out the entire market before you begin making purchases. Certain popular items, such as tomatoes, cantaloupe, melons, peas and potatoes will be available from multiple vendors. Strolling through the market first will allow you to compare prices and taste samples to ensure you’re picking the best and most delicious buys for your family.
* Unpack bags as soon as you’re home and store each item appropriately. Create a menu plan for the week that incorporates everything you’ve purchased to help ensure nothing goes to waste. Don’t forget to incorporate snacks into your meal plan.
* Every week, try something new. By all means, enjoy your familiar favorites, but also add in new items like kohlrabi, chard or broccolini. Not sure how to prepare something new? Seasonings are a great way to add flavor without fat. Spice-filled marinades or rubs are a perfect complement to produce. Throw your veggies on the grill to bring out the freshness. On its website, www.simplyorganic.com, Simply Organic offers numerous flavorful fresh produce recipes.
Here’s a tasty recipe to try on your grill today:
Adobo Grilled Asparagus
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 8 to 10 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6
Use organic ingredients where possible.
2 ounces slivered almonds
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons Simply Organic adobo seasoning
1/2 teaspoon Simply Organic paprika
In a dry 8-inch skillet, toast the almonds, stirring often, until fragrant and lightly golden, about five to eight minutes. Remove and pour the almonds into a small bowl and set off to the side. In a shallow dish, toss the asparagus with the olive oil, adobo seasoning and paprika. Preheat your grill. Real wood charcoal tastes best, but gas works fine. Avoid briquettes; they make food taste like lighter fluid. Aim for medium-high heat. If your grill lid has a thermometer built into the lid, it should read about 375 degrees. Once hot, lay the asparagus perpendicular to your grill grates and cook for eight to 10 minutes, turning once until fork tender yet still firm. Serve on a platter topped with toasted almond slivers.