Almost everyone today has been lectured to “eat with the seasons”, but instead of arriving at your farmer’s market and immediately filling your arms with the usual summer favorites like tomatoes, corn, etc. this summer, try to diversify your menu to include lesser-known crops that are available in your area. It’s not just the quantity of fruits and vegetables that matters; you’ll need to focus on the quality/nutritional density of these vegetables for optimum health.
Statistically, Americans are really making changes to their eating habits. More and more people are hitting the farmer’s markets for their produce, which is great news. But growing the same, super-popular crops year after year takes a big toll on the soil where crops are grown. Nutrients are depleted from the soil when there’s continuous replanting of a single type of crop, bringing down the nutritional value of the food that’s grown, too.
Some farmers carefully rotate crops, according to the specific state of their soil, to make sure that they add nutrients back in and give the soil time to rest. But can mean planting less popular crops that rebuild that soil but don’t have name recognition that brings in customers at the farm stand. This means that they may take a financial loss while eventually growing much more nutritious products.
Next time you are at the market, ask your local farmers about their crop rotations, and see what lesser-known crops they are offering. You’ll probably discover different types of legumes, try out mustard greens in your salad mix, or swap your rice or pasta for one of hundreds of other under-celebrated grains (like rye, millet, and spelt). Don’t forget to say thanks: a farmer who is paying close attention to their soil and diversifying their crops is one who will provide much higher density of nutrients in their produce.
It can be tempting to treat the farmers market like your grocery store: making the list before you arrive and sticking to it. But veer away from a shopping list and discover lesser-known and usually nutritionally superior produce available from the farmers in your region. This provides huge benefits for your health and also supports your community.