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Fresh Herbs & the Farmers Market

By Carol Witte, RDN, Program Director of Nutrition Services and Senior Centers

The smell of fresh herbs is amazing! When paired with the Farmers Market and colorful vegetables, the results are extraordinary! My 92 year old mom reminded me of this when she was visiting for the weekend. She cannot see well, but she could smell the dill and pickles. The smell was so enticing and refreshing!Herbs at Farmers Market

Herbs are a good source of vitamins and minerals and many have anti-antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties that can provide disease fighting health benefits.

Knowing your herbs goes a long way when cooking. Herbs vary in intensity. Some of the more delicate herbs like basil, chives, cilantro, dill, parsley and mint are best when added a few minutes before the end of cooking and are just as good sprinkled on the food items when serving. Other herbs like oregano, rosemary and thyme can be added in the last half hour of cooking. Rosemary, marjoram and thyme go well together and are great in vegetables and stews.

Herbs have always paired well with vegetables, but now more recipes are calling for herbs with fruit. Basil is delicious with plums, peaches, apricots, nectarines, grapefruit and tomatoes. Rosemary and tarragon are great with apples or pears. Be adventurous and try new recipes and new flavors!

Farmers Markets are great places to purchase herbs and other fruits and vegetables. Farmers Markets typically feature farmers who grow the food they sell, but some also purchase from another source and resell it. Talk to the vendors at the market to learn more about where and how the product you are purchasing was grown. Here are some more tips:

Purchasing Your Produce

  • Look for fresh fruits and vegetables that are free from signs of spoilage. Avoid unusual colors, mold, mildew or odors.
  • Handle produce gently to prevent damage or bruising. Bruised areas can be a breeding place for bacteria.
  • Ask the farmer to help you make your selection.
  • Bring clean bags to carry your produce. Avoid using market bags that have carried raw meat items.
  • Make sure items are washed before you taste. You can always bring some water with you to rinse the fresh berries before you try them.

Transporting

  • Limit the time in a hot car.
  • If you will be going on other errands, pack a cooler with ice to store your purchases.

Storing

  • Wait to wash produce until you are ready to use it. Washing before storing, can cause it to spoil faster.
  • Whole fruits and vegetables that are better stored at room temperature include melons, nectarines, onions, peaches, pears, peppers, plums, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and winter squash. Once you cut them, however, they need to be refrigerated.
  • Refrigerate most other fruits and vegetables including beans, berries, broccoli, cucumbers, lettuces, greens, peas and summer squash.
  • All store well in perforated plastic bags that allow moisture as well as ventilation.
  • Crisper drawers are made to store produce separately. Some fruits release ethylene gas which may decrease the storage life of your vegetables, and some vegetables may produce odors that can be absorbed by the fruits and affect their quality.

Finally, enjoy those herbs and produce. The flavors and variety of colors cannot be beat.