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July 31, 2020

Let’s Talk About Farmer’s Markets

While metropolitan apartments may not evoke thoughts of farming, we live in the Union Market District! Shopping at The Market is as much a part of living in Washington DC as any of the other DC metro activities. We have access to delicious fruits and vegetables year-round, but the summer months present the opportunity to partake in some of the freshest and most flavorful produce, often grown locally and seasonally harvested.

Almaala Farms is located at our Union Market. Their family-owned Eastern Shore farm has been providing the freshest produce possible to the neighborhood since 1996. While they do sell a multitude of vegetables and fruit, as well as other food items, take advantage of the farm-fresh seasonal best this time of year, including tomatoes, berries, squash, okra, peas, peaches, lettuce, greens, peppers, corn, and root vegetables. They often have a particularly appealing organic rainbow carrot bunch available!

When shopping at a farmers market, there are some key things to keep in mind to make the most of your experience:  

First, consider your approach. Almaala is closed on Mondays, but for the rest of the week, you may want to scope out the slowest and busiest times of day, to avoid crowds. They also offer order-ahead pickup; so, if you don’t feel the need to hand-select each piece of fruit yourself, this may be a great option.

Next, consider the seasonal ingredients you are likely to find there and plan meals accordingly. Make a list ahead of time, and consider back-ups, in case something is sold out, or unavailable at the moment. No zucchini? Substitute a yellow summer squash.

Lastly, learn about each ingredient. See something interesting when you’re shopping? Google it and learn about it. Sometimes the best experimentation happens when you receive an ingredient you haven’t used before. Food is most nutritious when it has been picked. Each day away from the soil, the produce will lose its nutritional density. This means eating from the farm gives you all of those micronutrients that you might not get from grocery store produce that has been on the shelf and in transit for a while.

While prepared, cut, and cleaned produce has its appeal, go for the whole, raw items whenever possible. These maintain the most flavor. A little dirt is easily washed away, and creating a meal from such beautifully raw ingredients can be quite satisfying. You may find that buying in bulk is the most cost-effective way to shop at a farmers’ market. While fear of spoilage may deter us from buying larger quantities, it can also be an opportunity to try freezing, canning, drying, etc. Learn how to preserve these farm-fresh ingredients to use them for longer periods of time, and your recipes will be that much better!

Finally, give something totally new a try! Beyond the local flavors, you may find some more exotic fruits and vegetables at the market, like rambutan, for example. This is a spherical, colorful, hair-covered fruit, packed with nutrients, and native to Southeast Asia. The redder its spiky exterior, the more ripe it is. Ask the farmers if you have questions about any other unfamiliar produce you may find. They’ll likely be happy to discuss its origins, flavor, and how best to prepare it.

So, don your mask, grab a canvas bag...and maybe even a wagon, and head to The Market for a true taste of summer. Enjoy every bite.