Middleberg Nutrition
Favorite Farmer's Market Buys

Not sure where to start? Here are my top 4 finds.

1. Raw honey. I'm kind of obsessed with Andrew's Honey. Rooftop beekeeping is just cool.
2. Grainy mustard. It's great as a rub for fish, or mix it with honey and olive oil for a salad dressing.
3. Fermented/pickled cabbage, kimchi, cucumbers, carrots, and green beans. These are excellent probiotics. Add to sandwiches and salads, or just to munch on as a snack. 
4. Jam. Nothing beats the naturally sweet taste of local jam and preserves slathered on toast or used as a marinade! Make sure the first ingredient is fruit (not sugar). 

Lingo to Know

* Heirloom: Heirloom plants are grown from seeds passed down generation by generation. Farmers tend to save seeds from their best plants, and they use traditional growing techniques. Most heirloom plants have unique qualities.
* Organic: Organic produce is grown without chemicals (pesticides, chemical fertilizers, herbicides). Organic meat comes from animals that weren't given antibiotics or growth hormones.
* Biodynamic: A type of chemical-free farming that's similar to (but predates) organic farming. You've probably seen the term associated with wine, but the method can be used across the board!
* Transitional: Converting from conventional/commercial to organic farming can take a few years; "transitional" means that a farmer is in the process of becoming fully organic.
* Natural: The guidelines here are loose, so ask whether the food has been processed -- and in the case of meat, whether it has added hormones.
* Free-range: Meat (or animal byproducts such as eggs) often is called free-range when it came from an animal that roamed outdoors. But the requirements for this label are pretty vague, so ask the farmer/vendor how they raise their animals.
* Pasture-raised: The animals grazed in sunny, open spaces and weren't confined to warehouse-like environments. This is the gold standard. Start looking for pasture-raised eggs. 

3 Common Finds & What to Do with Them

1. Zucchini. This versatile summer squash is delicious in this saute recipe, and as part of a bright carpaccio salad.
2. Heirloom tomatoes. If you like ratatouille, you'll flip for this baked tomato-potato-squash dish.
3. Corn. First, try my favorite grilled corn recipe (with lime, cayenne, and cheese). Then whip up a charred corn salad.

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June Finds

Smushed nectarines? Bruised apples? Not in my house. I'm loving these reusable produce bags.
Quirky's Mercado bag has sections for heavy vs. delicate items, loops to hold bottles, and a wide strap.
Apolis + Kinfolk's Garden Bag is so stylish and roomy! Plus it was crafted by a women's co-op in Bangladesh.

Must-Reads, Must-Views, & Must-Downloads

* Online: Become an expert on local foods with these short, informative articles from Civil Eats.
* Book: Clean Food by Terry Walters. I LOVE this book -- it has a permanent spot in my kitchen. She organizes recipes by season so you're always eating fresh.
* E-book: The folks behind Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett, NY, have an amazing e-cookbook (it's a free PDF) with year-round farmer's market recipes.
* Video: No salad spinner? No problem. Food52 shows you how to wash greens by hand.
* Apps: Farmstand is an iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch app that connects you with locally grown food and farmer's markets. Also check out Harvest to Hand for Apple and Android.

Summer is (finally) here! Beaches, biking, outdoor concerts, dining al fresco, and after a long winter we deserve it.  But the best things about summer are the bountiful and delicious local fruits and vegetables that reach their peak harvest seasons. This is the time to embrace your inner locavore.  Head to the farmer's market, and take advantage of these next few months.  Not only will you pick up tasty nutrient packed fare, but also know that you're supporting local agriculture.

But let’s be honest, the farmer's market can be overwhelming. I know I'm intimidated having to choose among eight varieties of heirloom tomatoes or picking up dragon tongue beans and saying, “Um, what do I even do with this?” I'll help you cut through the confusion (and the crowds). Trust me, when you look in your fridge fully stocked with delicious, fresh ingredients, you'll put on your apron instead of a bathing suit. 

Let's shop!

Picture this: It’s a gorgeous, sunny Saturday, and you want to enjoy the great (urban) outdoors while knocking a few items off your to-do list. You remember the farmer's market is open, so you head over with your reusable shopping bag and a vision of the perfect fruit salad.
But when you arrive it's packed and you're quickly swept up in the bustle. You buy a bag of those delicious sourdough pretzels to munch on as you brows. Then your fruit-salad dream begins to fade as you get caught up in one of the cheese booths, tasting every single aged variety of the local sheep's milk brie. The more you walk around, the less sure you are of what to buy.
Forty-five minutes later, you leave empty-handed—and a little too full, thanks to that now-empty bag of pretzels washed down with cheese samples. What just happened?!

The 6-Step Farmer's Market Guide
Show up ready to rock the farmer's market with these 6 simple steps.

1. Plan ahead.
First, find out where to go. Check Local Harvest or Just Food to discover farmer's markets in or near your zip code. But before you head out, check out this region-by-region guide from Epicurious so you know what's in season where you live. One of the best things about farmer's markets is that you have access to the freshest of the fresh. (And in case you're curious: Yes, it makes a huge difference when it comes to taste!)

2. Bring supplies.
Bring your printed-out list of what's in season (see #5) -- Googling a guide on your phone as you try to shop is kind of a buzzkill. Also stash a hand towel or a bundle of napkins in case you want to clean up some produce before taking it home, along with a bottle of water for a quick rinsing and eating on the spot (you never know what might be irresistibly ripe).
And since you'll be browsing outside, tote along sunblock, shades, and (why not?) maybe even a floppy hat -- you never know which Style Blogger may be lurking. And don't forget to hit the ATM! Many vendors are cash only.

3. Do a loop.
I know it's easy to get revved up and buy from the first stand you see, but survey what's around first. Compare produce and prices. Also, remember that at the farmer's market, the biggest and brightest aren't always the best. This is where the heirloom factor comes into play (see the lingo to know, at left). They may look funky, but they offer one-of-a-kind flavors and textures that regular old commercially farmed fruits and veggies can't compete with.

4. Talk the talk.
Helpful questions to ask farmers
  • "Has anything been applied to the surface of the produce?" This question covers your bases so you know whether pesticides or other chemicals have been used.
  • "What exactly is this -- and how should I eat it?" Do not be intimidated by the unfamiliar veg! Vendors will hook you up with lots of info and some good ways to prepare their foods. 
  • "Is this USDA certified organic?" Only farmers who have undergone extensive testing and verification can use this label, which means the United States Food & Drug Administration has certified its farm (and the stuff grown on the farm) as organic. This can be an expensive so ask if they have any certifications. If they don't, ask why? It may be a pricing issue or they may be in transition.
5. Get your goods home safely.
Unlike at the grocery store, checking out at the farmer's market doesn't come with the question, "Paper or plastic?" Bring your reusable tote (or a few--check out some of my recent finds on the left). Also use a
 few paper towels, a Ziploc bag, and a small bottle of water to keep super perishable veggies (e.g., asparagus and herbs) fresh. Layer produce in your bag, with the most delicate items on top.

6. Store them so they last.
Ask vendors how to best store your purchases. Then, plan your meals so the good stuff doesn't go bad. I like this chart from Oh My Veggies--just print it and hang it on your fridge for quick reference (and zero sad, shriveled peaches). For greens, reference this guide from
 Food52. StillTasty is great to bookmark for shelf-life reference and recipes, and Epicurious also has a fab season-by-season recipe guide.

CSAs: Bring the Farm to Your Table
Before you join a CSA, make sure you'll be able to take advantage of it. You don't get to choose which fruits and veggies are sent your way, so it's not the best bet for picky eaters. Similarly, it helps if you like to cook and get creative in the kitchen. If you don't think you'll be able to use all the produce but still love the idea of a CSA, just split a membership with a veg-loving friend. Be sure to check out the time commitment for a CSA before you join -- membership can range from a couple months to a year.

Joining a CSA is a fantastic way to get a wide range of fruits and veggies while supporting small farms. You don't have to be a super-foodie or master chef to get in on the action. Check out some great CSAs that fit your personality or situation:
  • The Beginner: Local Harvest is the place to start. It gathers a ton of CSAs across the U.S. so you can learn more about how they work and get plenty of info on each farm.
  • The Gourmand: D'Artagnan is for elite-meat lovers. From quail to cured meats to truffles, it's got tons of mouthwatering finds.
  • The Hamptons Dweller: Rustic Roots is a CSA that delivers straight to your Montauk doorstep -- so you don't even have to leave the beach. And if you love fresh fish, you've gotta check out Dock to Dish.
  • The Rocky Mountaineer: This "harvest share" is a concept I hope catches on! If you live in Denver (or have friends there), check out MM Local for regular pickups of cool local preserves, from freshly canned peaches and pickles to dried fruits.
Fresh Food Delivered to Your Doorstep
Whether you have a schedule that just won't quit or get a little thrill when packages arrive, a local delivery service is an awesomely convenient option.
  • The Workaholic: Is your 9 to 5 more like a 7 to 7? Skip the pickup and go with Farmigo. Shop online and Farmigo delivers straight to your office -- so you don't have to make a stop on your way home.
  • The Juice Maven: Rustic Roots delivers an amazing organic juicing basket with fruits and veggies sourced from farms and greenhouses close to home (delivered anywhere in NYC).
  • The Hungry Locavore: Good Eggs delivers fresh, local groceries (from vegetables to bread to eggs and more) straight from farmers and food makers in your area. Pick out what you want, ask questions of vendors online, and set up regular deliveries to avoid the supermarket. Good Eggs is up and running in Brooklyn, New Orleans, and the Bay Area, and it's coming to L.A. this summer.
  • The Flower Fiend: NYC Farm Chic Flowers delivers seasonal, ecofriendly arrangements across Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.

Recipe Roundup!
Not sure what to do with all your righteous produce? Don't sweat it: Here are a bunch of great recipes that will put your farmer's market finds to work.