When buying at the farmers market, you can get great-tasting
vegetables that are in season. As you know, when a vegetable
isn't in season locally, it may be coming from hundreds or
thousands of miles away, trucked or flown in. That adds
significant transportation and fuel expense to the cost of
vegetables -- which aren't as fresh as in-season produce. So
buying in-season can be cheaper, and you get fresher, tastier
To learn what is in season, check out the handout
from the Illinois Department of Agriculture at
If you find a vegetable that's new to you at the farmers
market and want to give it a try, ask the farmer how to prepare
it. For the best tips, specifically ask how they like to
eat it. Many farmers have recipes available.
My two favorite cookbooks for ideas about how to eat
seasonally and cook local foods (and those that are familiar)
are "From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh
Seasonal Produce" and "Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating From
America's Farmers' Markets," by Deborah Madison. Both books have
delicious recipes and are interesting reads.
Using local foods does not have to be complicated or
expensive -- it isn't just a luxury for people with lots of time
and money. The University of Illinois Extension has developed a
list of suggestions on how you can incorporate local foods into
your everyday meals. The following are tips for easy ways to
enjoy local foods every day:
with sliced strawberries or other fresh fruits.
Make your own
convenience bags of pre-cut vegetables to have in the
refrigerator for easy snacking. Carrots, celery and broccoli
Let your eyes
tell the story as you look for great vegetables to make a
pot of homemade, homegrown vegetable soup.
favorite cereal with locally grown fresh strawberries,
peaches, raspberries and other fruits.
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grilling, top burgers with onions, lettuce and tomatoes from
your own garden produce.
With omelets or scrambled eggs,
find some peppers, onions, zucchini, spinach or tomatoes to
add color, flavor and great nutrients. Take it one step
further and use farm-fresh eggs and fresh garden herbs.
Top your fresh
garden green salad with slices of apples, strawberries,
raspberries, pears or other fruits.
Enrich the value
of pancakes or waffles by adding grated apple and a dash of
cinnamon to the batter. Serve with locally produced honey.
Freeze pieces of
your favorite local fresh fruit, such as strawberries, peaches
and raspberries, and process in a blender with a cup of milk and
a tablespoon of honey for a quick fruit smoothie.
Freeze cut-up rhubarb, onions, green
peppers, pears and apples on baking sheets. Package into freezer
bags or containers, label, and enjoy during the rest of the year
in your favorite recipes.
[By DEBORAH CAVANAUGH-GRANT,