Bring farmers markets to your table

Local farmers marketsRavishingly red tomatoes. Ripe, juicy cantaloupe. Colorful bell peppers picked just hours ago. The freshest veggies and fruits imaginable are yours for the taking this summer at more than 30 farmers markets in the Kansas City area. Compare this to most supermarket produce, which travels an average of 1,500 miles from farm to table.

Seasonal fruits and vegetables are fresher, better tasting and more nutrient rich because they are allowed to ripen on the plant, vine or tree. And it’s great family fun to select and purchase your produce from the folks who actually grew it.

Seek out locally grown produce

“The food you get from a farmers market is superior to food off the truck or out of a box,” said Michael Foust, owner and executive chef at The Farmhouse, a farm-to-table, tip-to-tail restaurant in Kansas City’s River Market. “We know each one of our farmers and their families.”

Chef Foust’s favorite seasonal ingredients include locally grown mushrooms, microgreens (plants grown from seed and harvested when less than 2 inches tall), spinach, turnip greens and young, tender root vegetables like parsnips.

Chat with the growers

Another advantage to shopping at a farmers market for your produce is being able to talk to the people who nurtured, grew and harvested your food. They can often tell you how to prepare a fruit or vegetable that’s new to you and the best way to store it until you’re ready to use it.

And if vegetables and fruits get pushed around the plate at dinnertime at your house, try making small changes, advises Kelly Skretta, registered dietitian at The University of Kansas Hospital.

“It can be overwhelming to suddenly make a radical change like dedicating half your plate to vegetables and fruits. Or eating the nine recommended servings each day,” she said. “While that's your ultimate goal, start where you are now and remember that every small step counts toward a healthier lifestyle.” 

Fresh ideas for upping your veggie intake

The idea is to increase the access, volume and frequency of fruits and vegetables in your diet, Skretta said. Start by adding a vegetable and a fruit to every meal. Try a recipe like Summer Vegetable Curry that’s loaded with yummy veggies. Then up your intake of fruits and veggies with these ideas.

  • Make fruit smoothies.
  • Sneak chopped or pureed vegetables into chili, stew, lasagna or meatloaf.  
  • Plan a meat-free meal once a week.  
  • Satisfy sugar cravings with dark chocolate drizzled over berries or baked pears.  
  • Try a new vegetable every week. 
  • Swap potato chips for kale chips, mashed potatoes for pureed cauliflower, spaghetti for spaghetti squash.
  • Put fresh fruits and vegetables on the counter where you can easily see them at snack time.