Late May heralds the return of farmers markets to areas near and far. I love a good farmers market and am fortunate enough to have three very close to me on three different days of the week. If you have never been to one, I highly encourage you to find one near you (the website www.localharvest.org can help with that) and check it out. Established markets typically have a little bit of everything, from meat to produce to honey and flowers. You will probably find a bakery with fresh baked scones or muffins as well.
Not convinced that farmers markets are better than your supermarket? Here are my top 5 benefits of farmers markets:
- Speak directly with your farmer - When you visit a stand at your local farmers market, you have the opportunity to talk directly with the farmer and workers who are growing your food or raising the animals who's meat you are purchasing. You can ask any questions you may have about their farming techniques, inquire about whether the farm uses any pesticides or fertilizers and how they butcher their animals.
- Smaller carbon footprint - When you buy locally, your food doesn’t need to travel as far to reach you, resulting in a smaller carbon footprint. Some of the food we find in our local grocery markets comes from places completely across the globe and a lot of energy is spent shipping those goods. The cost of shipping is passed to the consumer in the price of the product and is also passed onto Mother Earth in the form of pollution.
- Food is fresh - As I mentioned in #2 above, food at your local farmers market does not travel very far to come to you. As it comes straight from the farm, it is picked right before travel to market when the food is at its peak of ripeness. Produce picked at just the right time tastes much better than produce that was picked prior to becoming ripe and has been out of the ground for the better part of a week. Don’t believe me? Try a blind taste test with strawberries, which are in season now through the end of June.
- Food is more nutritious - Most produce in your grocery market is picked prior to ripening and typically ripens while in transit. Produce picked at just the right time is much more nutritious than produce picked early. There is also a significant difference between pasture-raised meat fed a traditional diet versus meat from animals raised in factories on industrial farms. For example, beef from cows raised on pasture eating natural grasses (the food cows have eaten for centuries) has higher amounts of alpha-lipoic acid (essential for metabolism, lowers blood sugar and improves insulin sensitivity), contains CLA (an omega-6 fat that fights cancer and builds lean muscle tissue), has higher amounts of omega-3 fats (prevent obesity, diabetes and heart disease), contains stearic acid (a saturated fat that lowers LDL cholesterol), and has vitamins E and A.
- Support local businesses - Shopping at your local farmers market will also provide you with the opportunity to give back to your community and support local small businesses. Currently, approximately 10 large companies control 90% of our food supply.
Open-faced Toasted Tomato Sandwich
Tomatoes are one of the produce stars of the summer. To me, it is hard to beat a fresh, local tomato just off the vine. They are bursting with flavor and contain lycopene, an antioxidant that has been found to help prevent diabetes, age-related muscular degeneration and cataracts, aging of the skin, and osteoporosis. Tomatoes can be eaten in so many different ways - sliced on a sandwich or burger, chopped and put into a salad, eaten raw like an apple, or layered with fresh mozzarella for a Caprese salad, to name a few. My current favorite is open-faced toasted tomato sandwiches. Though tomatoes won’t be at their absolute best for a few more weeks, I can’t help myself. :)
Makes 1 sandwich (vegetarian and vegan)
- 1 tomato, sliced
- 2 slices whole grain bread (my current favorite is Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted 100% Whole Grain Bread)
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- Sea salt, to taste
Toast bread in toaster oven and spread with coconut oil (about 1 tbsp per slice, load it up!). Let sit for 30 or so seconds so that oil can melt and seep into the bread. Lay sliced tomato on top and sprinkle with sea salt. Enjoy!!
~Peace, love and farmers markets~