Farmers’ markets are bursting with fresh-picked fruits and veggies now through the end of summer, providing the opportunity to take children to your local market for an appetizing outing and learning opportunity.
Whether you are in search of nostalgia or nutrition, you will find both at farmers’ markets. Vine ripened tomatoes, bushels of sweet corn, shiny purple eggplants, beets, potatoes, green leaf let-tuces, as well as fragrant nectarines and peaches are presented in baskets on low display tables within easy reach of children. Even picky eaters will likely want to take home ears of corn and watermelon.
They will meet the farmers who raised the food. If they are outgoing, they can ask how the food was raised or what the farmer expects to bring for next week’s Market Day.
Part of the allure is the possibility of encountering the unexpected and the opportunity to try something new. Several varieties of pickles are served from the modern equivalent of wooden barrels. Olives, relishes, jams, preserves and chutneys are usually available as well. Some markets feature cheeses that are unique to the cheese maker who brought them.
On a recent Thursday afternoon at the market in Somerville, N.J., Mount Salem Farm from Pittstown, N.J. was selling fresh lamb chops, ground lamb, sausage and kebobs. Griggstown Farm, in Griggstown, N.J. sells its chickens at more than a dozen area markets.
Looking for sweets? Pies, cakes, pastries, local wildflower honey, breads, dried fruits and nuts abound.
Most farmers’ markets are open one day a week. However, a particularly large farmers’ market, Union Square Greenmarket, is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday in New York City’s Union Square Park, East 17th Street and Park Avenue South. It was established nearly forty years ago when a few farmers banded together to sell their produce there. These days there are more than 30 vendors selling a variety of comestibles ranging from whole ducks and fresh fish to ostrich eggs, lavender and maple syrup and on weekends visitors number into the thousands. http://www.grownyc.org/greenmarket/manhattan-union-square
To locate farmers’ markets to visit, search online for farmers’ markets near your city of choice. Go early for the best selection.
Be sure to take sturdy tote bags for carrying the produce home. A cooler will be important if you buy perishables such as fresh meat and poultry or dairy products.
Several related children’s books, available online, can reinforce the experience.
“Farmers’ Market Day” by Shanta Tant and Jane Dippold, follows a little girl through a farmers’ market as she searches for the perfect treat. This picture book is suitable for preschool through second grade.
“At the Farmers’ Market with Kids: Recipes and Projects for Little Hands” by Leslie Jonath, Eth-el Brennan and Sheri Giblin, profiles the fruits and vegetables available at most farmers’ markets, explaining how to tell which ones are ripe and how to store them. It offers age-specific tips plus dozens of recipes to put your farmers’ market produce to use.
This post was prepared by Marilyn Ostermiller, a long-time business journalist who has begun writing for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.