How to Use Up Farmers Market Produce
Farmers Markets for the Win?
Farmers Markets are great for scoring fresh, plastic-free fruits and veggies and also for supporting local agriculture. However, if you are anything like me, you can end up with a hodgepodge of fruits and veggies with no particular use in mind. This can become problematic for our dear planet when we end up throwing away produce after a week of watching it wilt with no rescue plan in mind.
Project Drawdown calculated that cutting down on food waste can be the third most effective way to reduce global emissions. Over a third of food produced in high income countries is wasted. Cutting down on that waste means cutting down on the wasted water and energy that go into creating it. So its better for our planet and better for our wallets
Why is buying locally at a farmers market important?
There are so many reasons shopping local produce is good, but my favorites are as follows:
It is more delicious (think fresh garden tomato versus store-bought tomato)
It supports your local economy
It helps protects local agricultural land which is an important way to fight climate change
It means food is transported a shorter distance, cutting down its carbon footprint and reducing waste associated with the typical produce distribution
But even in light of these perks, there is always the issue of being stumped by the random selection of available. I'll never forget cooking for a family that got a CSA box delivered weekly. I was forced to spend many an afternoon trying to google characteristics of the random greenery to identify what I was working with.
Ideas for Using Farmers Market Produce
To help save produce from being abandoned to the compost heap, I wanted to share a few key ways we use up our produce. These ideas are not specific to any region or time of year, just general ideas you can adapt with what you haven on hand. And if you are ever really stumped, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org)- I'll be happy to help come up with recipe ideas.
Quick side note: These recipes aren't all my own. I share links to some of my favorite recipe creators that you can try too!
Stone Fruits and Berries
If I buy fresh stone fruit or berries that I don't enjoy fresh or in oats or smoothies, I normally make chia jam. It is easy, very healthy and can give fruits a week of new life. This recipe from Pick Up Limes is my favorite. I like using chopped peaches instead of berries for making a peach compote as well!
Apples and Pears
If I have a herd of apples or pears, I make apple/pear sauce in the crockpot (or Instapot). It is easy, DELICIOUS, and healthy. I just dice the fruit with skins on or off, add the pieces to a crockpot over high heat for about 4 hours with a splash of water, a pinch of cinnamon, and salt until all the fruit has broken down. Then I puree it in a blender or with an immersion blender. If you want specific crockpot directions, check out this post from the Pretty Hungry blog. And here is an Instapot applesauce recipe for you if you want it ready in 10 minutes.
If you have too much apple or pear sauce to enjoy fresh, you can freeze it and use it later when baking muffins or breads.
These are the top ways I use up veggies I get at the farmers market:
1) In a curry.
Mushrooms, onions, carrots broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, fresh spinach, sweet potatoes, pease and potatoes can all be added to a delicious curry base and served over rice.
To try this out, I have a Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Curry and a Thai Green Curry and Vegetable Soup recipe. I also love this Thai Sweet Potato and Chick Pea Green curry recipe from Pick Up Limes (I love this site, as you can see).
2) In pasta sauce.
This is another way to use up all kinds of veggies, from root to greens. My favorites to use in tomato sauce are onions, mushrooms, red pepper, zucchini, peas and Brussels sprouts. I recommend sautéing or roasting your veggies in a bit of olive oil with garlic. Then stir in your favorite jarred or homemade pasta sauce. Serve over cooked pasta, spaghetti squash or polenta.
3) In a wrap or taco.
Potatoes, sweet potatoes, peppers, onions, corn and diced tomatoes all make perfect wrap stuffers. You can buy tortillas or make your own (I have step by step directions in my Instagram stories if you click through them here). I add salsa from my farmers market (or use store bought), warmed refried beans (homemade or Ducal refried black beans are the best store bought ones), and veggies that have been sautéed on the stove top with a touch of chili powder and garlic. I love to add a drizzle of cashew cream sauce (made with cilantro instead of basil) to top any wrap or taco off.
4) In an omelet.
Clearly, this isn't the option for vegans, but we have local eggs at our market which I will use to make omelets filled with sautéed veggies. Sauté some minced garlic and the veggie of your choice. I enjoy sliced/ diced mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, greens (a great way to use up mysterious leafy veggies), peppers, squash, or root vegetables like potatoes. Be sure to add veggies that take longer to cook like potatoes at the beginning of sautéing and quick cooking veggies like spinach at the end. Add this filling to an almost set omelet and bon appetite. A step-by-step omelet tutorial is here is you need it.
5) In a bowl.
In deference to my husbands deep abiding passion for bowls of any kind, I would like to offer this as my final idea for using up mysterious or abundant veggies. Cook up a grain base (think couscous, rice, or quinoa) using broth instead of water for a cooking liquid, add a mighty handful of roasted veggies (see cooking guides below), throw in cooked and salted chickpeas or lentils and top it with your favorite sauce. You could use my lemon basil cashew sauce, guacamole, a store bought Tzatziki sauce or a tahini sauce (check out this one from the Minimalist Baker). Voilá- a bowl is served.
Let me know your favorite way to use produce you get from the farmers market!