OSU Extension's Pat Brinkman: Farmers’ Markets Are Back!

It’s mid-May and our Farmers’ markets are back. Farmers’ markets are great places to get fresh produce (often picked that morning) and get inspired to eat and/or cook with fresh ingredients.

Since this is the beginning of the fresh produce season in Ohio produce will probably be limited for a few weeks. The farmers’ market in Washington Court House started last Saturday.

Produce you may find include:

  • fresh lettuces
  • green onions
  • asparagus
  • rhubarb
  • herbs
  • mushrooms
  • strawberries
  • cabbage
  • radishes

Some producers may have other produce which they grew in a green house or purchased from someone in a southern state. These can be delicious too.

To locate a farmers’ market near you check here. Most farmer’s markets have other items for sale too, such as baked goods, honey, jams/jelly, soap, plants, meat, eggs, cheese and others. There has been gift items, jewelry, homemade cards and décor items at a local farmers’ market I visit.

Some farmers’market require you to order ahead for pick up. Other ones are open for people to walk around and check out what is available.

If you are looking for organic food items, many farmers' markets have a wide variety of options that may be certified organic or grown with specific practices that vendors would be happy to share with you.

Not sure what to look for when purchasing foods in season now?

  • Choose loose leaf lettuce over iceberg for more nutritional benefits. Choose lettuce with healthy outer leaves that are green and crisp, not withered and/or with brown or yellow edges. Darker green colors indicate higher nutritional value, and don’t negligent the purple edges or other darker colors as those contain other good nutrients. Don’t forget to choose spinach, kale, and collards. Choose firm, heavy heads of cabbage.
  • Choose green onions that look fresh.
  • Choose asparagus that have stalks able to stand up with firm heads, and a smooth texture.
  • Look for smooth, brightly colored radishes with green, fresh-looking tops.
  • Mushrooms should look fresh and smell good. One surprising fact is you can’t overcooking your mushrooms. Whether sautéing mushrooms quickly or in an hour-long dish cooking in the oven mushrooms retain a firm texture. Enjoy them in many different dishes.
  • The size of rhubarb stalks are not important. If you want a sweeter and richer taste choose deep red stalks, which are usually not as tart. Mixing rhubarb and strawberries in a pie helps reduce the sugar needed to keep it from being tart. Check out this Rhubarb Strawberry Topping for pancakes, ice cream and yogurt. Rhubarb stalks are a good source of potassium. Don’t eat the leaves of rhubarb as they are poisonous.
  • Fresh strawberries from the farmer’s market are delicious. They are usually ripe all the way through, smell wonderful, and taste great. They may not last as long in the refrigerator as grocery store ones, but they have so much more taste.

Another one that can’t be beat at the farmers’ market is when they have fresh tomatoes, usually in July, August and September. It’s a explosion of flavor in your mouth compared to eating store purchased tomatoes.

Enjoy buying from a local farmers’ market as it supports your local economy. Check out what day your local farmers’ market happens and go shopping!

Pat Brinkman is the Family and Consumer Sciences Educator for Ohio State University Extension Fayette County.

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