Summer is the time to enjoy our local season for fresh fruits and vegetables.
At the same time, you can improve your immune system while we continue to battle COVID-19. Locally grown fruits and vegetables travel less time to our table and you can purchase them in prime time for flavor and nutrients.
Local farmer’s markets, farm stands or your local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program is where to find the freshest produce. Some larger chain grocery stores are also now stocking locally grown produce.
Farmers markets, farm stands and CSAs may be modified during COVID-19 requiring you to arrive at a certain point and be tested before shopping. Or you may be able to arrange a pick-up option by calling in advance. In a typical CSA a membership fee is paid in advance and you receive a regular share of fresh produce that you pick up at a designated location.
If you visit in person, observe the same rules you would observe in a grocery store: keep your distance from others, wear a mask and sanitize your hands. These markets may be less busy than typical grocery stores.
Mixing more locally grown produce into your meals supports your local farmers and improves your health. Locally grown fruits and vegetables tend to have increased levels of vitamins, minerals, fiber and anti-oxidants than highly processed foods typically found in grocery stores. The processing improves convenience but also adds sugar, salt, and preservatives.
At local farmers market or farm stand, you may have the opportunity to try a new and different vegetable for the first time — such as heirloom tomatoes, yellow beets, garlic scapes, fennel or rhubarb. Color is a great way to experiment. Be sure you are choosing greens, reds, yellows, and purples to reap the benefits of anti-oxidants and vitamins and minerals.
Often the farmer can give you suggestions to cook and eat the new and different items they are selling. With the internet, it is easy to find recipes. One of the easiest ways to prepare new and different foods is to shred the vegetable, mix it with parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs and lightly sauté. This simple rule of thumb is the basis for “Utica Greens.”
Social distancing because of COVID -19 has taken its toll on seniors and a local farm stand or farmer’s market is an opportunity to get to know the people who grow your food, even though it is done at a distance. Ask if you don’t know what to do with a certain fruit or vegetables.
Farmers often have suggestions about using the food they grow and they are happy to share. Talking about the food and ways to prepare it can reduce feelings of loneliness and allows you to stay connected to others who can suggest new ways to eat.
Farmers markets and farm stands are also a place to purchase many other items, which are less processed and have travelled less to your table, such as farm fresh cheese, eggs, honey, spices, jams and salsas.
Apple fennel slaw
I med fennel bulb (smells like licorice)
1 medium apple
2 carrots grated
2 Tablespoon raisins
1 Tablespoon olive oil
I Teaspoon honey
2 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Thinly slice fennel and apple. Mix in carrots and raisins. Make a dressing of olive oil, honey and vinegar. Drizzle over the slaw and mix to combine. Chill and serve.
Nutrition Counseling and Education is provided by Oneida County Office for the Aging and Continuing Care/NY Connects. Anyone with questions about services and programs for older adults and caregivers, including the Senior Nutrition Program, should call Oneida County Office for the Aging/NY Connects at 315-798-5456. You will be connected to someone who can assist you.