Last Saturday (just like every Saturday when I am in town) started with a visit to the Kitchener Farmers' Market. My mission was to stock our fridge for the week ahead. To tell the truth, I could have done it at my local grocery store as well. However, the market is my preferred place to go as I love to connect with my community and enjoy having conversations with our local farmers and their little helpers. On Saturday, I had a privilege to enjoy a short lecture from one of the vendor's grandsons. When I asked him not to chop off the green stalks of the carrots (because our guinea pig loves them), he explained what the best food is for small pets.
Alongside the social aspect, shopping at the farmers' market has other benefits too which are just as important for me.
1. Purchasing vegetables, fruits, meat, eggs and bread at the market is more economical. Overall, I find better prices here than at the grocery stores. Before I start to shop, I always walk around to find out where to get the best deal (without compromising on quality). To further lower the price, I buy some food in bulk. Blueberries are in season right now, so on Saturday, I got a large basket for a great price. What will I do with all those berries? A large part is for immediate consumption, but I also freeze some berries for winter.
2. My local farmers' market is the place where I can get the freshest produce possible (unless of course I go to one of those farms where you can pick your own veggies and fruits). Why is it important? Because food begins to lose nutrients shortly after harvesting. While produce in the grocery stores has likely been picked many days, maybe even weeks before while still unripe and then transported huge distances, the food offered by our local farmers is generally picked the previous day. This freshness ensures not only the nutrient-density of food but also its great taste.
3. Buying the majority of food from local sources is my way of saving the environment. No fuel needed for long transportation and no chemicals to preserve freshness.
Summer is my favourite time of year to visit our market as many of our local vegetables and fruits are being harvested now and the selection is the greatest. If you would like to find out what is in season, check out the following guide:
As I mentioned previously, I got a large basket of blueberries (and I will buy some more next Saturday) as my family eats a lot of them on their own as well as in combination with other foods. We like to top our yogurt with them, mix them into our homemade granola, add them into salads and prepare smoothies from them. Although I occasionally use them for baking, I prefer eating them in their raw form as heat destroys many of their nutrients. Blueberries are not only delicious but also provide great nutritional benefits and are considered to be a superfood. They are loaded with phytonutrients such as anthocyanins (that give that deep bluish purple colour), flavonols, resveratrol and many other responsible for a wide variety of health-supporting properties. Research has shown that regular consumption of blueberries provides antioxidant-based support of the cardiovascular system, protects the eye's retina from oxidative damage, plays a positive role in blood sugar regulation and stimulates a healthy cognitive function. As an example of how to include this nutritional superhero in your daily meal plan, here is my Chocolate Blueberry Pudding recipe which can be used as a quick breakfast or a healthy snack.
Chocolate Blueberry Pudding
Mix the seeds and cocoa powder into coconut or almond milk. Cover and place in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. The next morning, remove about 1 cup and mix in the blueberries and the maple syrup. Top your pudding with pecan nuts and enjoy! The rest of the pudding can be used later as a snack.
The next recipe that I am sharing today is an Italian sauce called pesto, the main ingredient of which is fresh basil. Lots of it ! I like almost all herbs and use them generously in my meals, but my favourite is basil. It enriches many Mediterranean dishes with its characteristic flavour and fills the kitchen with its unique 'basil fragrance'. Most importantly, it harbours a spectrum of active compounds involved in many health-promoting processes. Regularly eating a variety of basil-containing foods can support the cardiovascular system, provide anti-inflammatory effects and help to protect your DNA against oxidative damage. In my kitchen, basil is being used in a variety of salads (not only the classic Greek salad), sauces, as a garnish for pasta dishes, and even for juicing in combination with some other vegetables. However, basil is best known as the famous 'pesto ingredient'. The picture below shows today's lunch: Baked Chicken with Dairy-free Pumpkin Seed Pesto.
Here is the pesto recipe which can also top fish, pasta or pizza. Pesto can even be mixed with cooked quinoa or rice.
Dairy-free Pumpkin Seed and Basil Pesto
Blend all ingredients in a food processor in short pulses. Scrape the sides of the processor when needed. Pesto can be stored in a glass jar in the fridge for about a week. If you prepare a larger batch of it, pesto can also be frozen in single portions for winter.
More information on the location of farmers' markets in our area and the days they are open is provided by the following website: