Buy fresh and local

June 17, 2009|By LYNN LITTLE / Special to The Herald-Mail

Buy fresh, buy local, shop farmers markets. It's a win-win situation for the farmers and for you the consumer. You, as the consumer, profit from the availability of fresh-picked produce. The farmer can increase profits by selling directly to the consumer eliminating the middle man.

Locate the farmers markets near you. The following markets are available in Washington County:

Hancock Farmers Market

8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays

Joseph Hancock Jr. Park, 161-171 W. Main St., Hancock

Hagerstown City Farmers Market

25 W. Church St., Hagerstown

5 a.m. to noon Saturdays

Open all year

Washington County Farmers Market

Elks Lodge No. 378, 11063 Robinwood Drive, Hagerstown

3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Oct. 28

Farmers market

Washington County Agricultural Education Center, 7313 Sharpsburg Pike, about seven miles south of Hagerstown


9 a.m. to noon through Oct. 31 Saturdays

Buy local, buy fresh at Washington County farmers markets throughout the summer and into the fall. This will allow you to purchase and eat produce at its peak.

Some tips to keep in mind:

Go early for the best selection unless you're a bargain shopper. Some vendors will barter near closing time if that's more your style. However, going late does risk more limited availability, because some vendors will sell out.

Allow time to shop leisurely, to survey the market and make your selections. Take your time to enjoy the local color, smells and sounds as you stroll. Remember to dress comfortably.

Take advantage of the opportunity to get to know the farmers. Ask about the produce they are selling - when was the food harvested, how to select the best of the crop, how to cook, store or preserve it. Be sure to ask about less familiar foods such as a pink heirloom tomatoes, white eggplants or unfamiliar squashes or greens.

Plan to choose one or more new food items or varieties each week, to add flavor, color, texture and nutrients to your meals. Ask the vendor for recipes or preparation tips.

Bring your own basket or reusable bags with handles to help reduce waste.

Bring along cash because not all vendors will accept credit cards or personal checks.

Plan to return home soon after your shopping trip or bring a cooler. Leaving fresh produce in a hot car will quickly compromise the just-picked quality. Once home, store foods promptly to preserve freshness.

Shop often to ensure you are able to enjoy produce while it's fresh. Purchase quantities that fit your family's needs, so that you can eat fresh produce at its peak.

As a general rule, wait to wash fresh produce until you are ready to use it. For example, wash melons before slicing and serving to reduce the risk of transferring naturally occurring bacteria found in the soil in which the melon was grown to the edible portion of the melon. For crops grown either in soil or in close proximity to the ground, it's OK to simply brush off dirt or other debris.

Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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