Market update: here's a little "inside info" on some of the fresh farm goodies you'll find at farmers markets right now.
Flowers on the farm help to attract beneficial insects and, in some cases, as with French marigolds, to repel pests from attacking neighboring crops. Of course, flowers also add beauty, color, fragrance and movement to the farm that increase the pleasure of working or visiting in the fields. At your home, they provide a memorable accent for your dining table and multiply the enjoyment of your farm-fresh food.
Organic flowers, however, are a sign of a trend fueled by those interested in both environmental and health issues. Our nation’s surge in organic flower production over the past couple years is a result of the realization of damage that pesticides do to the land and to flower farm workers. The majority of flowers sold in this country are grown elsewhere, where pesticide rules are more lax and labor is cheaper. Many workers there, mostly young women who work in floral greenhouses, suffer symptoms of pesticide poisoning. By supporting a marketplace for organic bouquets, you help create a demand for safer working conditions and more environmentally sound use of the land. Plus, you're not bringing those toxic chemicals into your home or the homes of your loved ones as gifts.
Sure, they’re fuzzy when you pick them and sticky when you cook them, but that hasn’t stopped okra from earning a cherished spot in the hearts and kitchens of southerners. An easy-to-grow crop, okra thrives in our long, hot summers and rewards us with three-to-four inch green or red pods that are loaded with vitamins, folate and fiber. The Creole culture of Louisiana found a perfect and popular use for okra—as a thickening agent in gumbo. Okra is fried, sautéed, baked and tossed into soups and stews in diverse cultures around the world. With a taste similar to eggplant, okra pairs particularly well with tomatoes and corn. FYI--my younger daughter insists on calling okra "opera" because she thinks the word "okra" is not very attractive. Hey, whatever works!
“WHAT are those furry things in the brown paper bag?” you may ask. You’re not alone. Many people have never seen fresh edamame. Most commonly sold shelled and bagged in the frozen food section of supermarkets, edamame have skyrocketed to fame in this country in the last few years. A staple in Asian diets, edamame are young, green soybeans that resemble baby lima beans, but taste sweeter and nuttier. They are protein powerhouses, containing all nine essential amino acids, thereby making them an excellent meat substitute. Edamame are loaded with isoflavones and nutrients, especially calcium, potassium, phosphorus and folate. To eat them, simply boil them in salted water and then pop the beans out of the shell right into your mouth. Kids love to do this! Shell a bunch and sprinkle course salt on them as a snack, or add shelled beans to soups and salads.