Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wellness Wit and Wisdom

By Maureen Deutermann, MSN, R.N.
Director of Community Education

My Sunday routine has undergone its annual spring renewal. Translation: the Farmers Market has reopened!! So after this sinner dutifully attends Sunday church services, I trade my hymnal for a canvas grocery bag and head for the market. There are many reasons to make the local Farmer’s Market part of your weekly routine, most of them healthy and economical. Here’s what you’ll find:

Fresh seasonal fruits and veggies at reasonable, competitive prices. From berries and tomatoes, greens and potatoes earlier in the season to succulent peaches and nectarines in mid-summer, to a myriad of apple varieties, squash and pumpkins in the fall, the selection is dizzying. The market is a great place to experiment with fruits and veggies you may not see in the local grocery.

I am a great fan of Swiss chard, but had only seen it in the green and red varieties. Little did I know it comes in a rainbow of colors, found at the Farmers Market. If you think summer squash equals zucchini and yellow crookneck, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the different varieties to try at the market. Red romaine lettuce? Yep, there is such a thing and I picked it up just last week. If you are going organic, you’ll likely to find at least one stand that boasts organic, pesticide-free produce.

Herbs, herbs and more herbs. If you are at all interested in growing your own herbs, the Farmers Market invariably boasts several local growers’ offerings, robust and healthy. I took a teensy little mint plant last year and it grew into the herb that ate Cleveland (almost!). Having nowhere near a green thumb, I was pretty impressed. Nothing like snipping fresh herbs all summer long to add nutritious pizzazz to any dish. This year I planted basil, rosemary, oregano and Italian parsley. The mint? My teensy plant from last year is alive, well, and has grand ambitions of becoming a ground cover!

Flowers and decorative plants. No need to go to a pricey nursery, the Farmers Market always has a great selection of flowers and plants in season. Other vendors get in on the action as well. Fresh breads, pies, kettle popcorn (ok, some of these aren’t all that healthy!) and even goat cheese all can be had at the Farmers Market.

The real beauty of this experience is the fact that all this bounty is not only fresher and more varied than the local grocery, but inexpensive! Last year I put myself on a $20 budget per visit and came home with enough produce to feed a family of four for a week. Celebrate spring by treating yourself to a visit to the Farmers Market; you’ll boost your health and spare your pocketbook!

*The Farmers Market I frequent is the Dale City Farmers Market, located in the commuter’s lot at Dale Boulevard and Minnieville Road. It is open Sundays from 8:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. There are also Farmers Markets in Old Town Manassas and Haymarket. For more information, simply Google them by location.