Efforts to expand farmers markets are making locally grown fruits and vegetables more accessible for consumers. When you buy locally grown food, you not only contribute to your personal health, you also support Missouri farmers and enhance the economic well-being of area communities. According to Lynda Johnson, former University of Missouri Extension nutrition specialist, there is truth in the familiar national slogan, “Buy Fresh, Buy Local.”

Farm fresh farmers market signWhen eating locally grown produce, you also get to experience the difference in freshness and quality. “Farm fresh, locally grown produce is picked at its peak and comes straight to your farmers market with minimal time in transit, so these fruits and vegetables really do taste better,” Johnson said.

Including seasonal vegetables in family meals is a great way to add variety and color, while promoting nutrition and health. When eating vegetables at their peak, you will discover rich flavors that need minimal cooking or seasoning to taste great. In fact, overcooking vegetables can result in a mushy texture and strong, undesirable flavors.

One staple at many farmers markets is dark green, leafy vegetables like fresh spinach, lettuces and Swiss chard. These greens are filled with nutrients and antioxidants, and serve as rich sources of vitamins A and K, folate, calcium and fiber.

To keep greens fresh, store them unwashed, wrapped in a damp paper towel in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator. Change the towel to keep it damp and use greens within one week.

Pick up nutritious, fresh greens during your next visit to the farmers market and try one of these flavorful recipes.

Greens sautéed with apples

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 6 cups greens, chopped (Swiss chard or spinach)
  • ½ teaspoon coriander
  • 3 apples, peeled and chopped

Heat oil, then add greens and coriander. Toss to coat. Cover and steam until limp, 5 to 10 minutes. Add chopped apples and sauté for 2 minutes.

Rainbow Swiss chard and feta

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 1 bunch rainbow Swiss chard, cut in small pieces
  • ½ cup feta cheese, crumbled (about 2½ ounces)

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the garlic and cook, stirring until golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chard. Cook, stirring, until the chard ribs are tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Put in serving bowl and sprinkle with feta cheese.

More tips and recipes like these are available in the MU Extension publication MP909, Seasonal and simple, a guide to help consumers select, store and prepare fresh fruits and vegetables. The fruits and vegetables are listed in the guide by their growing season, and the recipes use simple preparations and seasonings. Purchase the publication at the link above or check out the free app