When my children were young (around 8-10 years old) I would give them each a few dollars and let them go shopping for their own goodies at the Farmers market.
We usually set a few ground rules like they had to get at least enough of one item to share with every one else, and they had to ask questions when they made their purchases to find out something new about whatever they were buying, like suggestions for ways to prepare it or the best way to tell if it is ripe, how long will it keep in the fridge etc.
They enjoyed learning about the foods they eat, it made them feel important to share the things they had learned with their siblings, they seemed to be more willing to try new things if they got to make the decision about what it would be by themself. They usually got at least a few items that they could stash in one of the crisper drawers in a bag with their name on it for their own personal snacking. But also they got to where they got a big kick out of planning surprise dishes to try out on their Dad and Me!
They learned quickly that if they pooled the money they could sometimes get better deals and before too long decided that it was more fun to get a whole bushel of something and put things up in the freezer to keep longer. They enjoyed reminiscing in January about the strawberries we were eating, that baby sis had bargained for with her winsom ways from a usually gruff farmer that she made friends with!
My "babies" are 25, 26, 28 & 30 now but they still talk about how they learned the best way to pick out corn on the cob or which melon is going to be the sweetest. We often had a garden in the yard when they were growing up but never had enough room to grow everything we wanted to, so they learned just how useful the Farmers Markets always are.
Each of their significant others has mentioned to me at one time or other that they are so impressed with my kids knowledge of cooking, gardening, bargain shopping or the like. I always have to say they didn't learn it from me, I just tried to teach them how to go about finding the answers for their questions, even when sometimes they didn't know they had a question! I'm a strong believer in the notion that every experience in life is a learning opportunity and I always try to get the most out of every opportunity that I possibly can. If my kids learned that then I feel they learned a lot!
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So for all the newbies out there that need information on how to preserve some of summer's bounty, I thought I would share some of my all time favorite recipes. These recipes freeze well and can be used for a variety of things. Also I buy things like mushrooms and celery, two things that I cannot get at the market when they are on sale and dehydrate them for use all year long. All measurements are approximate, as some people may not use salt or the specific spice that I do. The best way to do these recipes is to set aside a Saturday and cook all day. I always freeze in the freezer Ziploc bags, as they will lie flat in my freezer so they take up less room.
To the basic tomatoes, you can continue on and add any vegetable that you like. I some times add grated zucchini or summer squash into the tomatoes to add extra nutrition and because my family doesn't always want to eat squash and, if it is hidden in the sauce, they don't care if it is there. I use basic tomatoes to make spaghetti sauce, cream of tomato soup, chili or any dish that requires a tomato base. Having this frozen in my freezer in gallon bags, makes making spaghetti very easy. All I do is add Italian seasonings and meat. The sauce only needs to cook for about a half an hour and I have homemade dinner on the table. Same with chili I drain and rinse some beans, cook up some hamburger and add some chili powder and green chilies in a can and then just let it simmer for about a half and hour. I also use this raw which means that I only peel the tomatoes and saute' the onions and garlic for salsa and then add a can of green chilies and freeze.
Onion butter can be put on any bread including corn bread. It can be added to mashed potatoes or used as a topping for baked potatoes. It can be used as a condiment for hot dogs or sausages or hamburgers. Small amounts can be stirred into soups or stews. Try this and I bet you will find many more uses.
I hope like me you will be enjoying the bounties of summer!
Editor's Note: Do you have any favorite recipes for preserving summer's bounty? Share them here!
By Debra Frick
What are some of the most fun things about a farmer's market? What draws you and your family there?
By Coreen from Rupert, ID
My area is extremely lucky to have the Community Action Program which every year distributes $40 in Farmer's Market vouchers to those who are eligible. One must have an income that is below a certain figure, so the vouchers allow us to "buy" the fresh fruits, veggies and honey that we couldn't otherwise afford. What a generous and terrific "draw" to the Farmer's Market! Thank you CAP!!
I am just wondering how I can know if I am getting a good deal at my Farmer's Market? We only have one available near me from the first Saturday in May until the last Saturday in October. Saturdays from 9am-2pm.
Anyway, sometimes I find things that aren't in my local store and I wonder if they are a good deal or not. Like green beans today for $2/lb. I haven't seen any in my local stores for a long time. The farmer said originally that they were half price but I doubt that it was. I am just getting into canning and I don't want to end up spending more for canning stuff that I could get in the store - you know? But then again everything is going up in the stores as well... can you tell that I am confused?
Thank you so much for your help!
Nikkiev from Piqua, OH
If you want to breathe clean air and forestall global warming and support small farms and keep agribusiness from taking over our country, buy from your local farmers. The average American dinner plate represents over a thousand miles of transportation, including pesticides, fertilizer, etc. Your local farmer probably drives 20 miles and most likely uses locally produced compost.
I shop at the year-round farmers' market as well as the cash-and-carry stores, and the produce outlets, so sometimes I find good, cheap deals on produce in bulk quantities (like a case of produce). For example, asparagus and strawberries are on sale around here now. Here's what I did last year: I bought a case of asparagus at a good price. I then cleaned and blanched most of it, and froze it in quart freezer bags to use as my future side-dish vegetable for dinners. (I suppose you could preseason it, too, before freezing, with lemon-butter or even homemade white sauce.) Some of it I made into cream of asparagus soup (works well with other veggies, too), and then froze the soup in quart freezer bags. I laid the bags so they froze flat -- they store more easily that way. I used all this throughout the year, or gave some to friends and family who don't cook. Now I plan to do it all over again. Strawberries can be de-hulled and frozen for future desserts, such as strawberry shortcake, strawberry muffins, or frozen blender drinks. Sometimes I freeze the proper amounts of berries to make cooked jam later, when I have the time. Some people make strawberry "freezer jam". I have not done this myself, but maybe someone can contribute the recipe?
Just some suggestions. Enjoy all the good fruits and veggies!
- Ness - Lakeview, NY