Tag Archives: organic

National Farmers Market Week

National Farmers Market Week

It’s National Farmers Market Week, and it’s the perfect time to try your local farmers market!

Start off by finding a farmers market near you!

Why should you be shopping at farmers markets? Whether you’re looking for great savings, healthy food and fun, or supporting local business, you’re covered.

Why You Should Be Shopping at Farmers Markets

 

To make the most of a farmers market, make sure you’re prepared.

Making the Most of a Farmers Market

 

If you’re interested in getting organic fruits and veggies, farmers markets are a great stop. 

Organic 101

 

After you’ve bought fresh produce at the farmers market, make sure you clean it well.

Cleaning Before Eating

 

Buying locally can be good for the environment and your community, which is just another reason to shop farmers markets.

Shop Local!

 

Afraid to commit to a beautiful ingredient at the farmers market? This tool can help you find recipes based on ingredient.

Perfect Ingredient

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Serving Health for National Food Safety Education Month

National Food Safety Education Month

September is National Food Safety Education Month. And this year’s theme is about restaurants. If you own or work in one, use these activities for a refresher.

Do you know how best to store your food and keep it fresh? We can help.

Some things you should wash as soon as you bring them home. Others should wait until before you eat them. Learn how to clean your produce.

Do you really know what organic produce can give you? We can help.

Safe food prep is key to healthy cooking at home. Make sure you’re doing it right.

Do you know expiration dates aren’t standard? We can help you make sense of them.

Food poisoning is serious, and nothing kills foodborne illness like heat. Make sure you’re safe.

Enjoying Organic Healthy Greens

Organic 101

You’ve probably noticed in your grocery store that there’s a whole display of fruits and veggies (that usually cost more) labeled organic.

Lots of people just assume that it means they’re all-natural, but everything in the produce section was grown instead of manufactured, so isn’t all of it all-natural?

When something is labeled organic, it actually means that it was grown in a certain way. Organic foods are grown without the use of:

  • Pesticides, which stop weeds and bugs from hurting a crop and are usually made with chemicals
  • Fertilizers, which make the land better for growing crops and are usually made with a town’s sewage, animal manure, or man-made ingredients, like chemicals
  • Bioengineering, when scientists change things about a crop in its DNA or genes to make it grow better
  • Ionizing radiation, when produce is radiated to preserve it, reduce the risk of illness, prevent bugs,  or slow down sprouting or ripening

Before a product can be labeled organic, someone from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) checks the farm and any companies that handle or process the food before you get it to make sure they’re meeting organic standards. This means that when you buy organic, it’s guaranteed to be organic.

However, when you buy organic, you’re also paying more because farmers who don’t use things like pesticides, fertilizers, and bioengineering usually get smaller crops from their land than other farmers. Those things were invented to help farmers grow as much food as possible, and when organic farmers don’t use them, it makes their jobs harder.

Each year, a company called the Environmental Working Group (EWG) puts out lists of which fruits and veggies have the potential to have the most pesticides on them and which don’t.

The Clean Fifteen are the fruits and veggies with little to no pesticides on them when you buy them at the store. The Dirty Dozen have the potential to have the most pesticides on them. Plus, they’re mostly things you either eat the peel of or don’t peel at all.

Whether you buy organic or non-organic produce, it’s important to get fruits and veggies in your diet. Just be sure to clean your produce properly before you eat it.

Clean Fifteen

Dirty Dozen

Up Next:

Why should you shop at farmers markets? One great reason is local food!

And make sure you keep your food safe at every stage by practicing safe food prep.

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Cleaning Produce at Home

Cleaning Before Eating

Cleaning produce carefully before eating it is important for lots of reasons. Some people blame all foodborne illnesses on meat, but in recent years, fruits and veggies, like spinach, tomatoes, and lettuce, have played a role in many illnesses.

Your fresh fruits and veggies can get contaminated by animals or harmful substances in the soil or water during farming. And after farming, they pass through many people’s hands, raising that risk even more.

Easy Steps for Cleaning Produce

  1. Start by washing your hands with soap and warm water.
  2. Always wash and cut off bruised or damaged parts of fruits and veggies before eating or preparing them.
  3.  Always wash fruits and veggies before you peel them, so dirt and bacteria don’t go from your hands or knife onto the parts of the fruits or veggies you eat.
  4. Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, like melons, squash, and cucumber.
  5. Gently rub fruits and veggies under cold, running water. You don’t need to use soap or cleaners.
  6. Dry them with a clean cloth or paper towels to help get rid of any other bacteria.

Tips for Cleaning Produce

Fruits with Stems

Fruits like apples and pears can hold bacteria around the stem, so it’s always a good idea to wash them off right before eating them. And it never hurts to cut off the core’s outer ends before eating.

Fruits with Rinds

Even though you don’t eat the peel of things like oranges and grapefruits, make sure you rinse them well before peeling them. You can always scrub bumpy foods, like avocados, to kill bacteria. If you’re going to use zest in a recipe, cleaning these kinds of fruits is really important.

Berries

Rinse berries gently. Using a colander can make it easier to drain them of extra water.

Lettuce and Cabbage

Throw out the outer leaves of all heads of leafy greens.

Broccoli and Cauliflower

These have lots of spaces for bacteria to hide. Soak these for a few minutes if rinsing them can’t get every spot.

Celery

Things that come in a bunch, like celery, should be pulled apart before washing, so you can get each piece clean.

Root Veggies

Veggies like potatoes and carrots need scrubbed well to get all of the dirt and bacteria off, even if you’re going to peel them after.

Mushrooms

Some mushrooms can absorb water, so it’s important to not let them soak. Rinse them gently or wipe them off thoroughly with a damp cloth or paper towel.

Organic Produce

Still needs washed! And while farmers markets are a great place to get local, healthy produce, you should still wash it all carefully!

Up Next:

Your fruits and veggies can also get contaminated after you’ve bought them. Learn more about storing your food to prevent this. And make sure your food prep is safe.

Fresh Fiddlehead Ferns at Your Farmers Market

Making the Most of a Farmers Market

There are lots of reasons to get out to your local farmers market, but going to a farmers market for the first time is very different than going to the supermarket. We can help make sure it goes smoothly with these tips from a farmers market veteran:

1. Prepare.

  • Illinois has a Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program that gives you a free booklet of checks that you can use at local markets. Check it out on the Illinois Department on Aging’s site for details and participating counties and markets .
  • Many vendors only take cash (and some take SNAP and WIC benefits). Some booths only take small bills, 20s and smaller.
  • Many vendors don’t offer bags, so it’s a good idea to bring a few cloth ones you can use.
  • Most markets don’t allow dogs, so leave them at home.
  • Have an idea of what is in stock at that time of year, so you know what to expect. Use this map to find out what’s in season where you live.

2. Check the info booth first. If your market has an info booth, check there before you start shopping. The people working can let you know if there are any special things going on that day, like cooking demos.

Certain markets, like the new Champaign Farmers’ Market downtown, have special deals for SNAP users, so it’s always good to check with the info booth. At their market, they will double up to $20 of benefits per person while funds last when you bring your Link card to the market booth!

3. Go early or go late. If you go early, you will have first pick of the freshest and largest selection. If you go late, some farmers will offer discounts to clear out their stock before heading home.

4. Take a lap. Unless you know your market really well, don’t just buy the first things you see. By walking a lap through the market first, you can get the lay of the land, compare prices and selection, and taste samples.

5. Talk to the farmers. The farmers can answer questions about how the food was grown and harvested, talk about why their produce is or is not organic, offer recipes, give info about something you’ve never tasted, or recommend their favorites.

6. Be mindful. It’s considered rude to squeeze stone fruits, like peaches, plums, or tomatoes, because it can bruise them. And it’s considered rude to open husks of corn before buying them, which can actually make them less sweet. Also, look for whole produce, meaning veggies like carrots and beets with their green tops still whole. These will stay fresh longer, and you can make things like pesto sauces with the greens.

7. Take a risk. Sometimes you find things that are new, different, or even strange at the farmer’s market. This is the perfect opportunity to try something new because the farmers can usually give you advice on how best to use it.

8. Bring a friend or the family. Grocery shopping, unlike the farmers market, can feel like a chore. Take people with you to talk and walk with outside, and the farmer’s market instantly becomes a more fun activity. And you can always save money and split certain produce.

9. Keep it simple. When you’re cooking your food at home, go for simple recipes. Because you bought such fresh produce, you should let it shine. Put fresh wild strawberries over a salad or in a breakfast parfait instead of baking them into a cake. If you’re worried you won’t be able to use all of something you bought you can always freeze it and use the rest later. Use this guide from the FDA to make sure you’re storing and washing produce correctly.

10. Find the right market. Many areas have more than one farmers market within driving distance. If you can, test them all. Large farmer’s markets have a lot of energy, selection, and sometimes even dining options, but smaller markets often have good deals. Find the one that works best for you.

Find farmer’s markets near you. Learn more about which ones take SNAP and WIC, or check out this list of all the farmer’s markets that take Illinois Link Benefits.

Up Next:

Do you really understand what you’re getting when you buy organic? We break it down in Organic 101.

And make sure you’re cleaning your fresh fruits and veggies the right way to keep your family safe.

Baking Christmas Cookies

Healthy Christmas Cookies

This week in food, we gave you delicious and healthy recipes for Christmas cookies to make for your holiday celebrations.

First up was a classic Gingerbread Cookie that clocks in at just 91 calories.

Gingerbread Cookie

 

Chewy Molasses Cookies are a spicy holiday classic you can leave out for Santa.

Chewy Molasses Cookies

 

These Chocolate and Peppermint Cookies have all the flavors of the holiday season.

Chocolate and Peppermint Cookies

 

These Raspberry Linzer Windowpane Cookies are delicious at just 79 calories each.

Raspberry Linzer Windowpane Cookies

 

Try these easy Pistachio Thumbprint Cookies for a gluten-free option.

Pistachio Thumbprint Cookies

 

These organic Coconut Butter Cookies are also gluten-free and no-bake.

Organic Coconut Butter Cookies/Bark Recipe

 

Mexican Chocolate Cookies have a surprise kick, and are just 80 calories each.

Mexican Chocolate Cookies

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