By Lisa M. Belisle, MD, MPH
Originally published August 7, 2008, The Maine Switch
Bushels of just-picked basil; crates overflowing with cucumbers; artfully arranged buckets of bouquets: all in a convenient location, crawling with friends and neighbors.
Wondering where to find such a scene? Look no further than your local farmers’ market.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated this week (August 3–9) as “National Farmers Market Week.” According to the USDA, “4,400 farmers markets across the country offer consumers farm-fresh, affordable, convenient, and healthful products.” Maine is home to more than seventy farmers’ markets—ten in Cumberland County alone.
The beginning of peak produce season, National Farmers Market Week is a perfect time to discover (or rediscover) the benefits of locally grown edibles. There are many reasons—ethical, ecological and economic—to take advantage of local foods. These have been well-described in books such as Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma. Local eating has been championed by the ‘locavore’ movement, and by self-described ethicureans: “individuals who seek out tasty things that are also sustainable, organic, local, and/or ethical—SOLE food, for short.”
While I’m supportive of the SOLE food concept, my farmers’ market forays are actually fairly self-serving. I go to the market for the basil, cucumbers and buckets of bouquets. I go because the sights, smells and textures of fresh veggies make my heart swoon. Being at the farmers’ market is like experiencing Christmas—only I get to eat most of the gifts I receive.
Looking for a “Christmas in August” experience?
- Identify a local farmers’ market at www.getrealmaine.com.
- Get there early for the best selection.
- Go without set expectations. Explore what is available, rather than what you were hoping to find.
- Select at least one unfamiliar fruit or vegetable to try.
Then, learn how to prepare your market finds using cookbooks such as Jane Brody’s Good Food Gourmet or Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood series.
Make the most of your market finds during National Farmers Market Week, and throughout the harvest season. By purchasing local basil, you’ll be encouraging your inner ethicurean and making your heart happy. You’ll get to experience the joy of Christmas in August.