Sensational Spring!

Period of renewal begins as gardening, farmers’ markets flourish

By Deb Dittner

springIt’s that time of year when the sun starts setting later, the sun feels warmer as it shines down on your face, and you start itching to get your hands dirty exploring the soil for this year’s garden.

You may not believe it right now as there are probably remnants of snow outside your door, but it will melt sooner than later.

In the meantime, preparation is key.

If you have a porch with a number of planters, a small plot outside the back door, or a 20-by-4-foot raised bed, you need to start dreaming of what will be when it comes to vegetables and fruits.

So get your hands dirty and get ready for growing some of your own whole nutrient-dense foods.

Some of you may not even have the opportunity of growing your own outside of a pot or two of herbs by the kitchen door.

This is where farmers’ markets come into play.

Local growers are able to remain on their land providing you the best produce, and allowing them to maintain a lifestyle to help the economy in the community. Talk with your farmers. Ask them questions about their growing practices.

I have always found they are more than ready to discuss how they farm their land, why they grow certain vegetables over others, and what it takes to get the produce from seed to you.

When you buy your food at farmers’ markets, you are speaking and voting with your dollar for locally and often organically grown foods. By being proactive, you are helping to sustain agricultural practices such as erosion control, cover crops, and habitats for natural pollinators. The seeds used by the farmers are often from numerous varieties that have been passed down over the generations as compared to genetically modified, patented, limited variety of seeds grown by commercial agribusiness.

And then there is the taste. Oh my, you can so taste the difference in locally grown produce. And the color! A locally grown tomato, for example, is a beautiful red, yellow, orange, green and even black.

Community feel

Community-supported agriculture is a wonderful way to support a specific farmer (or two). You usually sign up in early spring, which provides them the finances to start the spring gardening essentials.

They begin working in the greenhouses, pressing seeds into the soil that soon sprouts and grows in a heated environment until ready for transplant outside when weather permits. Some CSA’s can also have just fruit, or added eggs, or breads. There are so many options for you to choose. If you can’t find an option that works for you, talk with the farmer.

If you are growing your food or purchasing it at farmers’ markets, you can be guaranteed top-notch flavor. Your vegetables or fruits are picked at peak ripeness and delivered to you within a couple hours or so.

Far-away growers pick produce long before natural ripening, place in cold storage, and ship in a truck for thousands of miles.

As a result, there is more often than not no flavor, poor coloration, and overall poor quality. Buying your produce that was sun-kissed also provides you with peak nutritional values.

Locally and organically grown foods contain higher levels of cancer-fighting and heart-healthy antioxidants.

If you are new to farmers’ markets or CSA’s, start with one product at a time. For example, if you buy eggs at the grocery store, start buying eggs locally at farmers’ markets or roadside stands. The next week, make another change and so on until it becomes second nature.

I always tell clients to try a new vegetable each week. Experiment by adding different seasonings such as curry.

At season’s end, there can be an abundance of certain vegetables. It is so worth preserving the crop by freezing, canning, or dehydrating.

Come winter, you’ll be happy you did.

• Deborah Dittner is a family nurse practitioner and health consultant. Her mission is to transform as many individuals as possible through nutrition and lifestyle changes. For more information, check out her website at www.debdittner.com or contact her at 518-596-8565.

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