Farmers market guide

Swap the produce aisle for farm-to-table and your body will thank you

FARMERS’ MARKETS can be daunting places, full of foods you can’t pronounce and people who seem to have way too much free time on their hands. But they’re also full of nutrient-packed foods and ensure seasonal eating.  “The more variety you pack into your diet,” says nutritionist Saskia Kleinert, “the less chance your body will be missing that one vital nutrient.” Kleinert, who often helps athletes identify the best “power” foods, says that shopping produce aisles at the grocery store—even in places like Whole Foods—can actually be more confusing because they have so many unseasonal (often imported) options on hand at all times. Farmers’ markets, on the other hand, take the guesswork out of eating seasonally. “Plus, most vendors will let you try foods before you buy them and even explain the best ways to cook whatever you get,” Kleinert points out. “It’s a great way to be introduced to new fruits and vegetables.”

THE FIELD GUIDE

Fennel

Fennel has a licorice-like taste. Shave it fine and use it in salad, or cut it into chunks and eat it as a snack. If the flavours overpower- roast it until it’s buttery, then sprinkle with a bit of Parmesan. Why it’s good for you?: It’s packed with vitamin C, and one of its phytonutrients, anethole, has strong anti-inflammatory and recovery properties. What to look for:Healthy fennel is white with some green; the smaller ones are more tender.

One cup of sliced fennel has less than 30 calories.

Carrots

Kleinert considers carrots a “sports” food because they provide a low-carb boost before a workout and help replenish energy afterwards. Why they’re good for you: The bunches with greens still attached are perfect for carrying around with you as a snack. Larger, rougher-looking ones are best peeled and then used for cooking or in juices. What to look for: If you see small roots growing from them, they’re old; young, fresh ones will snap when you break them.

Snap Peas

They’re a quick and easy snack. Just watch out before a workout because all that fibre can cause bloating. Why they’re good for you: Like all legumes, snap peas are high in protein. They’re most nutritious served raw when the minerals are in their most potent state. What to look for: Fresh peas are crisp and snap when broken.

Asian Mushrooms

Mushrooms are best grilled or sautéed or added to pasta or a stir-fry. Why they’re good for you: Asian mushrooms have anti-cancer nutrients and are potent immunity boosters. They’re one of the few foods with vitamin D. What to look for: Avoid any that appear shrivelled, slimy, or moist. You want them to be firm with a woodsy scent.

Kale

From salads to sautéed sides to smoothies, kale can fit in any course. Why it’s right for you: It’s good for your heart, fights inflammation, and is loaded with vision-protecting vitamin K. What to look for: Opt for smaller leaves when possible. Large ones are bitter.

Artichokes

Throw them on the grill whole or peel the leaves and char only the hearts. Why they’re good for you: The silymarin inside is a potent liver detoxifier. What to look for: Compact,
uniformed leaves, and colouring are good; smaller ones are usually sweeter. Asparagus Steam or grill it and eat it as a side or atop a hearty salad. Why it’s right for you: It’s the ultimate post-cardio potassium bump. What to look for: Firm stalks with plump, tightly closed tips.

Strawberries Kleinert 

Kleinert thinks of strawberries as a “transition” food for clients who eat too much sugar. “I tell people to eat them anytime they crave sweets,” she says. Eat them alone or on top of cereal or fresh cooked oatmeal. why they’re good for you: Strawberries are low on the
glycemic index, high in vitamin C and antioxidants, and great for joint health.
What to look for: If a berry’s red DON’T FORGET… through to the middle and sweet, it’s ripe; a white ring around the top means it was harvested too early.

Tart Cherries

Tart-cherry juice is a typical recovery drink. But you can eat tart cherries, too—the
whole cherry is not as tart as the juice. Reach for these as a snack or after a long run
or bike ride. Why they’re good for you: Tart cherries are a super anti-inflammation food.
What to look for: Tart cherries are yellowish, with a red cheek (not deep red like the typical sweet cherry); avoid brown flecks.

DON’T FORGET…

Honey

Not only is honey a healthier sweetener for cereal, but many markets have single-serving honey sticks, a great pre-workout energy boost. Eating local honey is also thought to reduce seasonal allergies. Ask the vendor if they leave some honey behind for the bees to feed on—many commercial bee farmers replace it all with sugar water, which often causes the bee community to become unhealthy and require antibiotics— which eventually end up in our jar of honey.

Fresh and Dried WalnutsWalnuts 

Walnuts Nuts are an easy snack to carry and are packed with protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Mix them with dried berries, and you’ve got the best pre- or post-workout energy bar available. You can also add walnuts to everything from oatmeal to salad. The freshest ones come out in autumn, and usually lose their oomph by early summer. If they taste off, they’re probably rancid.

 Pickled Vegetables

Fermented foods not only boost healthy gut bacteria to help with digestion and support the immune system, they’re also a rich addition to hearty salads and can be eaten on their own or as a snack with cheese and crackers. Also, a fall staple, the most common pickled veggies are cured in a salt-and-herb brine.

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