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It’s National Farmers Market Week!

Celebrate By Targeting These 5 Market Fresh Foods Farmers’ Market by NatalieMaynor, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  NatalieMaynor It’s not unusual to get a hankering for a bag of farm fresh potatoes (bursting with a variety of phytonutrients). Around the time when the urge hits, wouldn’t it be great to watch them instantly turn into a Garden Vegetable or Zesty Corn and Potato Salad? You can! Maine Foodie Finds digs deep into Maine’s farmers markets and comes up with gorgeous red potatoes and glowing yellow string beans, all fresh from the ground and vine, then uses a little culinary magic to turn these summer nuggets into foodie gold.

It’s easy to get inspired with seasonal ingredients when there is so much pleasure in the hunt. Take a lesson, and hit your own kitchen with your take. It’s the perfect activity for National Farmers Market Week. In July, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack proclaimed August 7th to the 13th, 2011 as National Farmers Market Week – again. It marks the twelfth year markets have been given the national nod.

According to the USDA, the number of farmers markets have multiplied continuously since in 1994, increasing by 16% just last year – these beloved gathering places for fruits and veggies (and other things, like meats, breads, and cheeses, of course) currently number 6,132 nationwide. Year-round markets have increased as well. It means better access to local, fresh food for more people more often. That’s something to celebrate.

In honor of National Farmers Market Week, the Portland Farmers Market  in Portland Maine is challenging everyone to prepare at least three meals this week using ingredients entirely purchased at the Market. The food gauntlet is down!

5 Fresh Fruit & Veggie Finds for August

What’s healthy and delicious in August for your (at least) three market-sourced meals? Here are five fruits and vegetables that are likely to populate your local shopping hot spots this month. Get them while you can, and make the most of this seriously servings-rich season.

Wild Blueberries

The verdict is in! It’s harvest time for the tens of thousands of acres in Maine and Canada currently being stripped of their glorious blue color. If you aren’t already smothering your plate with antioxidant-rich disease-preventing wild blueberries, now is the time to start a healthy habit. Initiate yourself with a handful for your salad, sauté some up with a little red wine for a sauce or vinaigrette, use them to lend a spark to fish (try this Tuna Carpaccio with Wild Blueberry Wasabi Sauce), chicken or pork (Wild Blueberry Rhubarb Pork Chops anyone?), and finish with a charlotte or a crumble. The big, blue world is open to you!

dogs n corn by 46137, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License by  46137 

Corn

Nothing tastes more like August than corn fresh from the garden. August is the month when those pencil-thin stalks start growing to edible size, and the golden gems of summer offer up their sweet taste straight off the stalk, if you like. Get your fill of the essential summer taste of corn by grilling it with a shake of cayenne or cilantro. Make some summer corn chowder, or use it in a colorful salad. While buttered and salted may be a family favorite, we’re up to our ears in ways to leverage this classic summer veggie. Here’s ten sweet recipes from The Kitchen.

Tomatoes

Whether you put their taste on display in a classic caprese salad, in an elegant tomato and lemon mascarpone tart or stuffed with fresh summer corn, tomatoes are the best ever in late summer. There’s simply no taste like a late summer tomato warm from the sill, and thanks to their lycopene, they provide superior health benefits to boot. Eat up, or save your take for a midwinter marinara by preserving them says, the Portland Press Herald.

Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License 

Peppers

There’s a lot to love about peppers, and while bell peppers can be found year round, late summer they are at their shiny, tasty best. Peppers are a good source of vitamin C, thiamine, vitamin B6, beta carotene, and folic acid, and they contain large amounts of phytochemicals, providing exceptional antioxidant activity. Not to mention, they are a perfect ingredient: they provide sweetness, crunch, and bright color to hundreds of recipes. If you love a stuffed pepper (go meat!) now’s the time. But don’t limit yourself to stuffing. Make it simple, with a sweet and sour bell pepper salad, or try Gourmet Magazine’s logic-defying Chilled Red Bell Pepper and Habanero Soup, a sensational cold soup that’s also hot.

Summer Squash

Summer squash peaks at summer’s end and these long, green vegetables are plentiful for good reason. While they may not be known as one of the antioxidants powerhouses, summer squash is a very strong source of key antioxidant nutrients, including the carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, which could play a role in preventing memory loss, vision loss and heart disease. The skin of summer squash is particularly antioxidant-rich, so leave it intact when you can. (You can read up about the health benefits of summer squash at Livestrong.com.) This versatile veggie can be your go-to summer food during all of August and beyond. It is perfect for stuffing, grilling, tossing with feta and tomatoes, or even putting it in a cupcake.

How are you preparing your (at least) three meals this week using ingredients entirely purchased at the farmers markets? Tell us!

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