SIMPLE – Enjoy Locally Grown Produce

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Simple Innovative Meal Planning - Love EatingSummer is here and no one wants to spend hours planning meals, grocery shopping or cooking in a hot kitchen. It’s also a time when there is an abundance of fresh local produce available, if you know where to find it. Once you locate all those delicious flavors of summer, you have to have a plan for preparing them before everything spoils in your refrigerator.

There are a few different ways to buy locally grown produce. Farmer’s markets are the first thing that comes to mind for most people. You can find so much more than tomatoes and carrots at these markets. The variations of produce are endless. Vendors also sell flowers, honey, eggs, locally roasted coffee, baked goods and handcrafted items. While browsing your local farmers market, you have the opportunity to meet the people that grow the food you purchase. Knowing where your food comes from and seeing the passion that went into growing the food that will grace your table adds another element of enjoyment. It’s also a great way to spend a couple hours on a beautiful day whether you are alone, with friends or with family.

An idea that is growing in popularity is CSA food shares. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. This system allows you to pre-order a season’s worth of produce to be delivered to a set location weekly or every other week. Just like farmers markets, the options are widely varied. You can choose a package based on the size of your household or food preferences. CSA bundles give you a great chance to try some items that you may not usually select on your own and some even include a recipe or two for the items in your bundle.

You can also find fresh local produce at roadside stands and some farms offer stores right on their property. Are you thinking this all sounds great but you don’t have these options in your area? Chances are that you do, if you know how to locate them. This map shows all the listed farmers markets in the continental United States.

Map of Farmers MarketsThat is a lot of farmers markets!

If you want to find the market, CSA, or a farm that sells right at their location, you can go to this website: Choose which type of location you are looking for and then enter your location. Another great resource is your local library; they often have information about local food resources.

Now that you know where to get wonderful local produce you need a plan for enjoying it. Grilled vegetables (kabobs) are great and keep the kitchen cool. Salad doesn’t have to just be vegetables you can add pasta, rice, quinoa, chicken, fresh herbs, crumble cheese….you get the idea. Toss items together with flavored vinegar and some oil and you have a light cool meal on a hot summer night. These salads also make great leftovers to take in your lunch the next day.

Fresh fruit can be enjoyed as is any time of day. You can slice fruit and stir the pieces into plain Greek yogurt sweetened with a little stevia for a refreshing treat. You can also add fruit to pancake mix or in your oatmeal. There are plenty of things that are better with fruit. It doesn’t have to be time consuming to be delicious.

All that produce looks so good and there is a chance that you will buy too much. Freezing produce is quick and easy and allows you to save your great buys from going to waste. Good quality zipper bags or containers are all you need. I generally rinse and dry fruit before packing it up and putting it in the freezer. Vegetables usually need to be steamed just a little and then cooled rapidly in ice water and dried before freezing.

I hope you find time this week to get out and enjoy some of your local produce and meet the people that help bring all that great food to your table. It’s the most fun you can have “grocery shopping.” Just don’t forget your sunscreen.