What’s In Season: Late Summer

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As August winds down and we move into September, farmers are busy cleaning up their fields and preparing to plant fall crops.  September finds us in transition between summer produce and waiting for cooler weather fall vegetables.

So what can you anticipate to find at the Market in late summer? 

September is a peak for many crops right here in the Valley such as chiles, okra and summer squash.   In addition, areas outside of the Valley are coming into high season.  You will see apples, tomatoes, corn, melons and peaches coming to us from areas like Prescott, Flagstaff and Wilcox area.

Apples
Arugula
Basil
Black-eyed peas
Chard
Chiles
Corn
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Figs (late crop)
Green Beans
Herbs
Melons
Okra
Peaches
Peppers
Potatoes
Pumpkins
Summer Squash (and blossoms)
Tomatoes
Winter Squash (Spaghetti, Acorn, Butternut)
Zucchini

 

Bees, Food, and You

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Bees, Food, and You: What You Need to Know to Protect Pollinators

There’s no getting around it: If you like to eat, you need to care about bees.

Bees don’t just pollinate the wildflowers that dot the landscape. They’re also responsible for pollinating nearly 100 crops that humans rely on. From tomatoes to cotton, bees pollinate the crops that sustain us. Without bees visiting their crops, farmers wouldn’t be able to produce as much food with their land. This would lead to big price increases at the grocery store and farmers market and a dwindling selection of fresh food. Some crops might disappear completely, including watermelons, almonds, squash, and avocados. Even coffee relies on bees to increase its yield through pollination.

Bees’ impact isn’t limited to fruits and vegetables: Livestock production relies on bees to pollinate alfalfa, buckwheat, and other animal fodder, and the rangelands used to graze pastured cows and sheep provide foraging and nesting habitat for bees.

It’s clear that humans have a vested interest in saving bees. But how can the average person make a difference? Here are a few changes you can make today to protect the environment for tomorrow:

1. Stop Using Pesticides

Pesticides are a major contributor to declining bee populations. Not only do some insecticides kill bees directly, but other pesticides can interfere with bees’ ability to forage and reproduce. While the most attention has been paid to conventional pesticides like neonicotinoids, even some organic products are toxic to bees. Instead of spraying around the home or garden, opt for bee-friendly pest control methods.

2. Choose Food Grown Without Pesticides

In addition to stopping pesticide use in your own home, start buying food grown without synthetic or organic pesticides. Unfortunately, there’s no labeling standard to make buying pesticide-free food easy; while organic food has its benefits, many large-scale certified organic growers still use pesticides. Buying directly from a local farmer whose growing methods you know and trust is the best way to ensure your food is truly pesticide-free.

3. Buy Pastured Meat

When rangeland isn’t overgrazed, it serves as an important habitat for bees. Bees dine alongside cattle, swine, and sheep in fields filled with forage grasses, and pithy plant stems and bare ground provide homes to cavity-nesting and ground-nesting native bees. That means that when you buy pastured meat instead of meat from animals raised in concentrated animal feeding operations, also known as factory farms, you’re supporting bee health.

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The Power of Purslane

PurslaneFeaturePurslane — also known as duckweed, fatweed, pursley, pussley, verdolagas and wild portulaca — is the most frequently reported “weed” species in the world. It can grow anywhere that has at least a two-month growing season, but little is known in North American kitchens about this delicious and nutritious food.

Purslane is somewhat crunchy and has a slight lemony taste. Some people liken it to watercress or spinach, and it can substitute for spinach in many recipes. Young, raw leaves and stems are tender and are good in salads and sandwiches. They can also be lightly steamed or stir-fried. Purslane’s high level of pectin (known to lower cholesterol) thickens soups and stews.

Here’s a few good reasons to eat this power packed food:

  • This wonderful green leafy vegetable is very low in calories and fats; nonetheless, it is rich in dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
  • High in Vitamin E and an essential omega-3 fatty acids, in fact it provides provides six times more vitamin E than spinach.
  • Purlane provides seven times more beta carotene than carrots.
  • It is an excellent source of Vitamin-A, one of the highest among green leafy vegetables.
  • Purslane is also a rich source of vitamin-C, and some B-complex vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine and carotenoids, as well as dietary minerals, such as iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and manganese.
  • Furthermore, present in purslane are two types of betalain alkaloid pigments, which are potent antioxidants and have been found to have antimutagenic properties in laboratory studies.

 

Produce of the Week: Cucumbers

Cucumber

Even though long, dark green, smooth-skinned garden cucumbers are familiar vegetables in the produce sections of most groceries, cucumbers actually come in a wide variety of colors, sizes, shapes and textures. You’ll find white, yellow, and even orange-colored cucumbers, and they may be short, slightly oval, or even round in shape. Their skins can be smooth and thin, or thick and rough. In a technical sense, cucumbers are actually fruits, not vegetables. But we’ve become accustomed to thinking and referring to cucumbers as vegetables. Cucumbers have not received as much press as other vegetables in terms of health benefits, but this widely cultivated food provides us with a unique combination of nutrients.

Lemon Cucumbers: Don’t be fooled by this heirloom’s unusual shape-these bright yellow balls are excellent for salads and pickling. They have a clean, crisp taste and are never bitter. Lemon cucumber does not have a lemon taste, only color.  Round and yellow, this tennis ball-sized cucumber is a perfect serving for one or two people. It is believed to have been introduced to the US in the late 1800s. 

Armenian Cucumbers: The skin is very thin, light green, and bumpless. It has no bitterness and the fruit is almost always used without peeling. The Armenian cucumber grows approximately 30 to 36 inches long.  You can find them grown quite thick or long and lean.  They’re delicious for slicing and snacking or in salads and other dishes.

Persian Cucumbers:  Persian cucumbers, belong to the burpless category of cucumbers, named as such because these cucumbers are milder and contain little or no cucurbitacin, a compound that makes for a bitter taste and often causes the burping reflex after consumption.  They are usually small, have soft tiny seeds, thin skin that is easy to chew and a very mild almost sweet taste.  They tend to have a soft crunch which makes them ideal for pickling and slicing.

Storage: If you’ll use cucumbers within a few days, store at room temperature. Exposing cucumbers to temperatures below 50º F can hasten decay. If you must refrigerate cucumbers, wrap them in a dry paper towel and slip into a loosely closed plastic bag. Store them in a warmer part of the fridge and for best flavor and quality.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Cucumbers… or maybe you did

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  1. Cucumbers originated from Ancient India where they grew in the wild. Around 2-3 millennia BC, early Indian civilization managed to domesticate cucumbers and start infusing them into their rich cuisine. As time went by, manufacturing capabilities expanded, and they began to trade them with Middle Eastern civilization and Europe.
  2. Cucumbers contain multiple B vitamins, including vitamin B1, vitamin B5, and vitamin B7 (biotin). B vitamins are known to help ease feelings of anxiety and buffer some of the damaging effects of stress.
  3. Cucumbers have have three main varieties –
    • “slicing” – grown to eat fresh and are mainly eaten in the unripe green form, since the ripe yellow form normally becomes bitter and sour. In North America, they are generally longer, smoother, more uniform in color, and have a much tougher skin.
    • “pickling” – are shorter, blockier and perfect for the pickle jar as well as the sandwich. Pickling cucumber plants yield heavy crops of fruit just over a few weeks.  They are never waxed. Color can vary from creamy yellow to pale or dark green.
    • “burpless” – are sweeter and have a thinner skin than other varieties of cucumber, and are reputed to be easy to digest and to have a pleasant taste. They can grow as long as 2 feet (0.61 m). They are nearly seedless.
  4. During 18th century, expansion of cucumbers across North America suddenly stopped when several medicinal journals started reporting that cucumbers and all similar vegetables that were not cooked represented serious health risk. Discouraged by those misconceptions, cucumber use plummeted across the continent, which was reversed only in 19th century.
  5. Placing a cucumber slice on the roof of your mouth may help to rid your mouth of odor-causing bacteria. Some say, eating cucumbers may also help to release excess heat in your stomach, which is said to be a primary cause of bad breath.

Discover delicious recipes and new ways to enjoy cucumbers this season.  We love the inspiration Bon Appetit shared here.

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Summer Menu Favorites

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Whether you’re serving brats or burgers,
cook up these sides to serve a truly market fresh meal this grilling season.

Baked Garlic Parmesan Potato Wedges | potatoes, garlic, parmesan cheese, herbs

Panzenella Salad |bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, fresh herbs, lemon, salt

Roasted Peaches | peaches, honey

Deviled Eggs | eggs, pickles, relishes herbs, onion

Don’t Forget The Munchies | chips + salsa, pita + dip, veggies + dressings

Infused Water | fresh citrus, fruits, edible flowers, herbs, cucumbers

 

Earth Day 2017

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The Open Air Market at the Phoenix Public Market is a program of Community Food Connections (CFC), a 501c3 non-profit organization. CFC creates a downtown community gathering place by supporting small farmers and businesses that strengthen sustainable food systems and produce healthy products for the local community.

Sustainability is the overarching theme in this community driven food system. Farmers engage in sustainable farming practices to produce healthy food to sustain the local community, who in turn provide the money necessary to sustain the farmers. Each shares in the success of the other in a mutually beneficial relationship that has become a model for sustainability.

Farmers who choose to use sustainable practices face a challenging economic climate dominated by large, corporate farms. Many find they cannot compete with the massive volume, low market prices, and government subsidies enjoyed by large operations. Farmers markets offer small and mid-sized farmers a low-barrier entry point to develop and establish a thriving business free from the overhead necessary to sell in large retail outlets. But just as important, farmers markets create a space where the focus of food is on quality and farming practices rather than price alone.

Each year, more and more customers are drawn to farmers markets due to an increasing demand for natural and organic food.  This upward trend depicts a rising consciousness among customers who are concerned with not just what they eat, but how it is produced.

Farmers selling at markets minimize the amount of waste and pollution they create.  On average, food travels over 1,000 miles from the point of production to the retail store.  In contrast, the Phoenix Public Market houses farmers growing within a 50 mile radius of our Market!  Many use certified organic practices, reducing the amount of synthetic pesticides and chemicals that pollute our soil and water. A growing number are also adopting other low-impact practices, such as on-site composting, that help mitigate climate change and other environmental issues.

How you can help reduce waste:

Reduce Food Waste: Most supermarkets refuse to carry cosmetically challenged fruits and vegetables, which means many of them end up rotting in landfill where they release methane gas, a green-house gas more potent than CO2. That ugly produce accounts in part for the 40 percent of food wasted in the US. At the farmer’s market, the sizes and shapes of food vary. And some vendors offer a discount for not-so-pretty—yet organic—produce.  So don’t be afraid to shop blemished produce.

Reduce Plastic Use:  Another aspect of farmers’ markets that is usually overlooked is that you can control the packaging. To be more eco-friendly you can politely decline the plastic bag, or reuse last week’s produce bags by bringing them back to the market with you. Reducing the use of plastic bags and plastic packing wraps can greatly reduce your carbon footprint.  Packaging is one of the most disposable things in everyone’s daily life and it often seems hard to curtail.  Worldwide almost 2 million bags are used each minute, which figures out to be a trillion bags each year.  If you consider the life cycle of the plastic bag, the energy consumed, the CO2 emitted and consider that most plastic bags are made overseas and distributed globally; a whole new picture of consumption starts to emerge.

The real question is do you need a bag at all? This is where being an eco-friendly consumer can factor in. Do you need to put all of your different kinds of fruits and vegetables in their own plastic bag? Can you reuse your produce bags from last week?

Discover more on Earth Day | Saturday, April 22nd

Earth Day theme for 2017 is Environmental & Climate Literacy.

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Market Meal: Frittata + Spring Salad

Crop of the Week: Beetroot

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Beets

Sometimes called table beet, garden beet, red or golden beet, or just beet, beetroot is a taproot part of the beet plant. It is used for nourishment, but it also has use in food coloring and medicine…. Ancient Greeks cultivated beetroot around 300 BC. They didn’t use the roots of the plant and only ate the leaves.

Beetroot is a close relative of spinach and chard and has an earthy flavor and a good nutritional content – it’s also reckoned to be a good detoxifier.   A favorite in 1970’s salads (served cooked and pickled in vinegar), beetroot is a root vegetable with dark, purple skin and pink/purple flesh. It has also enjoyed something of a deserved comeback in recent years, its earthy, rich and sweet flavor and vibrant color lends itself to a variety of both sweet and savory dishes. Beetroot can be eaten raw and shredded into a salad (alone or with other vegetables), boiled, cooked, pickled, or cold as a salad after cooking.

Availability
July through to January, tapering off during February and March. You can try growing in your garden or allotment – it’s generally trouble-free.

Choose the best
Raw beetroot should have their stalks (fresh, not wilting) and roots (nice and firm) intact.

Prepare it
To cook whole, wash but don’t peel, then cut the stalks to 2.5cm and leave the root at the bottom; if either are trimmed too much, the beetroot’s color will bleed. Then, bake in a low oven, either wrapped in foil or in a little water in a lidded casserole dish. It should be ready in 2-3 hours. For boiling, prepare it in the same way, then simmer for around an hour.

Store it
Fresh, they’ll keep for several weeks in a cool, dark place.

Cook it
Roast, chop and dress with walnut oil and chives. Bake in olive oil and cumin seeds, then dot with feta and bake again. Boil the beetroots for a few minutes, drain and serve with olive oil or butter. Juice raw beetroot, and mix half and half with carrot juice for a vitamin-rich drink.

Image Courtesy of: Steadfast Farm

Simple Stir-Fry Recipe

Simple Veggie Stir-Fry with In-Season Produce by cookbook author, Melanie A. Albert

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A simple way to cook all kinds of vegetables is a stir-fry (really a simple sauté) with what’s seasonally available from local farmers. To create a simple veggie stir-fry, chose a few local in-season veggies – some roots, veggies, and greens – at the Phoenix Public Market, and have fun intuitively cooking a stir-fry with these steps as a recipe guide.

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