One inquisitive omnivore’s journey towards healthier and more compassionate eating…

(Click here for why I started)

This week I ventured into the world of farmers markets. It’s not that I’ve never been to one before, but it was usually someone else’s idea and I probably didn’t leave with much.

This time I had a mission: to buy all of the vegetables and fruits I’d need for the week. I know you can get other items, but I was starting slowly…baby steps.

Farmers markets are a healthy and sometimes even more economical alternative to the grocery store./Photo credit: Lisa Singer
Farmers markets are a healthy and sometimes more economical alternative to the grocery store. Photo credit: Lisa Singer

Shopping at a farmers market can be less convenient than the grocery story since you’re restricted with hours of operation and locations, but I’ve come to realize there are also some definite advantages:

1. The farmers market was actually fun. It was a beautiful day so we made a morning of it. There was a large crowd, but plenty of room to move about and no real waiting when we were ready to buy. The vendors were helpful, not as informative as I would have liked, but still very nice. And once we had our shopping done, we hung out eating fruit we had just purchased, did some people-watching, and listened to the live band—basically two guys playing bad wedding music, but still enjoyable.

2. When you shop at a farmers market you’re also helping the environment. Since the food is from local farmers, they don’t need to waste as much energy and petroleum to ship it all over the world. Less shipping could also lead to less traffic congestion—living in Los Angeles, I’d definitely appreciate that—and better air quality.

3. You’re also helping support your community. Buying food from the farmers in your area keeps them in business, so they can in turn put money back into your community.

Shopping at a farmers market is a great way to pick-up organic and fresh produce grown in your area./Photo credit: Lisa Singer
Shopping at a farmers market is a great way to pick-up organic and fresh produce grown in your community./Photo credit: Lisa Singer

4. A lot of the food is organically grown and the ones that aren’t may still have the same benefits since they’re traveling such a short distance. On the other hand, some of the produce found at a supermarket is processed with chemicals to slow down the deterioration process during transport. These treatments can not only negatively affect your health, but the flavor of your fruits and vegetables as well.

5. The prices can vary. Even though some of the produce is technically not organic, as I explained above, it does have a lot of the same health benefits—only at the farmers market it can cost less than most organics at the grocery store. However, for popular items—like carrots, potatoes and peppers—they’re usually more expensive.

Tips to Save:
  • Buy in bulk and freeze or can your produce. (I’ll do this with the fruit—especially the berries for my morning smoothies, but I don’t really see myself canning vegetables.)
  • Lizzi in my office had a great idea: Buy in bulk amongst your friends and then split up the food when you get home. After all, the more you buy of something, the cheaper it is!
  • Buy what’s in season. It’s not only fresher, but since there’s an abundance, it’s less expensive as well.

The majority of the people I spoke with told me the main reason they shopped at a farmers market was the selection and variety. They believed the quality of the food made it worth spending the extra money.

I was also told to shop around. As I had mentioned, the vendors hadn’t been very informative—it seems most of them were just employees and not the owners. However, according to the seasoned shoppers that’s not always the case, and they suggested I try other farmers markets in neighboring towns.

I made good use of my veggie and fruit purchases. The fruits went to my morning smoothies (see last week’s blog for recipe) and I pulled out a couple of my favorite pasta recipes for the vegetables:

SPINACH & GOAT CHEESE PASTA

Spinach & goat cheese pasta is delicious and healthy way to enjoy your farmers market vegetables./Photo credit: Lisa Singer
Spinach & goat cheese pasta is a delicious and healthy way to enjoy your farmers market vegetables./Photo credit: Lisa Singer
  •  1 lb whole wheat penne or angel hair pasta
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 8-10 scallions, diced small
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 10 oz fresh spinach, roughly torn
  • 3.5 oz (1 pouch) julienne cut sun dried tomatoes
  • 6 0z (or less to taste) crumbled goat cheese
  • garlic salt & pepper to taste

Bring large pot of salted water to a boil and add pasta. Cook and drain, reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water.

In large skillet heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and scallions, cooking until scallions soften (about 2 minutes.) Toss in tomatoes and spinach, stirring until spinach is wilted. Turn off heat and add pasta and remaining oil, mixing together. Sprinkle on goat cheese and mix until melted. Add pasta water as needed to create sauce.

FARFALLE, MUSHROOMS & ZUCCHINI  IN GARLIC – OIL

(This is my go-to pasta. I’m giving you the healthy and not-so-healthy versions.)

Mushrooms, zucchini and garlic are all in season at the farmers market and perfect ingredients for this tasty farfalle recipe./Photo credit: Lisa Singer
Mushrooms, zucchini and garlic are all in season at the farmers market and perfect ingredients for this tasty farfalle recipe./Photo credit: Lisa Singer

Serving size: 2

  • 5 large handfuls of farfalle – 2/person plus 1 for good measure
  • 4 tsp olive oil, add more if needed to coat vegetables
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • garlic salt to taste (I use quite a bit, but can use less to make healthier)
  • 8 oz whole mushrooms, sliced into small pieces
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced into small pieces
  • parmesan cheese, to taste

Add farfalle to salted boiling water and cook, usually about 12 minutes. In sauté pan heat oil and minced garlic until it simmers, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms and zucchini; mix, coating lightly with oil. Then sprinkle with garlic salt (I do about 8-10 good shakes.) Cook on low-med heat until mushrooms are slightly browned, about 10-12 minutes stirring occasionally. If you start them together the mushrooms & zucchini are usually done when farfalle is.

Turn off heat and stir pasta into mixture, add garlic salt (again I usually do about 8-10 good shakes, but if concerned about salt intake use a combination of garlic powder with less garlic salt).

Transfer pasta mixture into a large bowl (Important: if you serve directly from pan to plates the pasta doesn’t flavor evenly). Sprinkle on about 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, thoroughly mix with pasta, and serve.

I absolutely love this recipe! It’s so delicious and EASY! As you can probably tell, I like the not-so-healthy version, but it’s good both ways. You can also make the pasta sans zucchini and it’s just as good. I actually like it better (plus less chopping).

Hope you enjoy these recipes and please feel free to experiment—just make sure to let me know what you come up with so I can try it, too!

— Lisa Singer, exclusive to Global Animal

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