The farmers’ markets here in Minnesota are bursting with the first produce of spring. Enterprising farmers with hoop houses have been supplying us for several weeks now with breathtaking spinach, stunning kale, lovely arugula, and even those delicious Hakurei turnips with their yummy greens (a great twofer vegetable!).
Almost always, fresh vegetables at the local farmers’ markets are less expensive than grocery stores, not to mention far more nutritious as they haven’t languished in far off warehouses for weeks before reaching our refrigerators. Most vegetables start to lose nutrients the minute they are picked, and can lose 50% or more in less than a week. So, buying directly from the farmer who was up pre-dawn picking those leafy greens is smart shopping.
In Minnesota we have a program called Market Bucks where folks can use their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) dollars to buy produce AND be matched with up to $10 of additional market produce purchases! A Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota survey of SNAP customers who took advantage of the program in 2011, reported:
- 86 percent thought the quality of fruits and vegetables was better at the markets than at grocery stores
- 95 percent said they shop at the farmers market more often because they can use SNAP there
- 88 percent said they eat more fruits and vegetables because they can use SNAP at the markets
The MN Market Bucks program is a win-win for the SNAP users and our local farmers. What a deal! If your state doesn’t offer a similar program, start writing your lawmakers to plant the idea.
WHY EAT GREENS?
Greens, especially dark greens, are probably the most nutrient packed food group. They are a great source of important minerals like iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium; and several vitamins like vitamins C, B, E, and K. And then there are the phytonutrients that we hear a lot about: beta-carotene and lutein. Lutein, for example, is shown to promote long term eye health, lowering the risk of cataracts. So, just like saving now for retirement in your 401K, save your eyesight in retirement by eating your greens today!
DON’T LIKE KALE?
I didn’t like kale at first either. But, knowing what a great nutritional value it is and loving a bargain, I forced myself to eat it. First, I cut it up into tiny slivers so it wasn’t as noticeable in my soup or scrambled eggs. Eventually, I got tired of the work of fine chopping and the pieces got bigger without noticing a thing. Just like beer or coffee, I didn’t like it at first, but now I love it! In fact, I crave dark leafy greens. And, if you still can’t stomach kale, there are other green powerhouses that have milder flavors: spinach, swiss chard, turnip greens, or beet greens for examples.
All of our body functions, not just our eyesight, depend on those important nutrients. Eating greens is a smart investment in your future health (and reduced medical expenses!) And buying at your local farmers’ market is a smart investment in your community.
No experience cooking greens? The World Wide Web is your answer! YouTube has a video for everything, including cooking greens. Here’s one to start for you: Collard Greens 101.
Want some more info/tips? Check out The International Year of Pulses and Creating a healthier home environment while saving money.