We’re coming up upon the traditional harvest season—a great time to check out the offerings at a farmers market! Here’s what you’ll find:

The freshest produce! Fruits and veggies at the grocery story may have traveled long and far before they show up on the shelf. Grown, packaged and treated to survive the journey, taste and quality can suffer from the trip. Because their produce doesn’t have to be shipped or spend time in a storehouse, farmers market vendors are also able to grow succulent, more delicate varieties of fruits and veggies. A grocery store tomato vs. one that’s right off the vine? No contest!

Great prices! When a certain crop is ready for harvest, it’s ready right then, and a vendor may have it in abundance! For example, this time of year many tomatoes are at their moment of absolute perfection. Make sauce! Buy a big basket of cucumbers and make pickles. Take home a huge bunch of basil and make pesto. Of course, you don’t want to waste food; consider going in with a friend to purchase a whole bushel of peaches or that giant box of chard that you could never finish by yourself.

Local farmers and vendors! When growers sell their produce themselves, they’re likely to take home twice as much money as they’d get through a middleman. This difference can help them stay in business—and in many growing communities, it means they can keep their land growing crops rather than selling to developers. And how fun to meet the very family who so lovingly grew those cantaloupes.

Fruits and veggies are just the beginning! Fresh produce is the true heart of a farmers market, but vendors also sell baked goods, yummy sauces and jams prepared in small batches, honey, meats, ciders and artisanal cheeses. And you may find gorgeous plants and cut flowers at a fraction of what you’d pay at a florist. Vendors of many ethnic backgrounds might be selling new treats you’ve never tried! What’s that little cucumber? Is that pepper spicy? Are those little fruits a relative of raspberries? Vendors often offer advice and recipes.

It’s a great outing! Just walking around taking in the sights, sounds, scents—and tastes!—is a feast for the senses in itself. And this can be a great outing for older loved one, even as they are dealing with memory loss or vision problems. The trip might well inspire fond memories of farms or gardens of the past.

Find a farmers market near you

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers the National Farmers Market Directory (www.ams.usda.gov/local-food-directories/farmersmarkets). It’s handy and fun! You can search for markets that are within five miles—or up to 200.

Many of the markets have websites where you can find out ahead of time which produce is in abundance, which vendors will be there on a particular day, and whether they are cash only. You’ll find that the web addresses on the USDA directory aren’t 100% up to date, but you can always Google the name of a given market. And some have migrated entirely to Facebook these days.

One note of caution: Though farmers markets offer a cornucopia of healthy food, you should always wash produce thoroughly just as you would from any other source. In addition, be sure prepared foods have been properly stored. For older adults, this is especially important.

Source: IlluminAge

The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Ask your doctor if you have questions about food safety or your nutritional needs.