Northeast Arkansas farmers market set to open
Local foodies should head on down to the northeast Arkansas Regional Farmers' Market, beginning May 15, for locally grown fresh produce, said Debbie DeRossitte, Craighead County Extension agent with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.
Local farmers markets offer regionally grown produce as it is harvested.
"Nutritionists and economists are on the same page when it comes to touting the advantages of the '100 mile meal'--eating foods grown within 100 miles of home," said DeRossitte. Many people relish the opportunity to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables straight from the farmers market. It is important, however, to handle fresh produce carefully to avoid contamination, said DeRossitte.
"Fresh fruits and vegetables should be washed immediately before they are eaten or prepared," she said. A small set of steps is all it takes before produce is ready to eat.
--Before preparing produce, be sure to wash hands thoroughly.
--Wash all fruits and vegetables, even if the rind or skin is not eaten. Wash the produce under cool, clean, running water. They should not be soaked. Avoid using beach, soap or detergent.
--Some fruits and vegetables require specific handling.
--Throw away the outer leaves from heads of lettuce and cabbage before washing them. Using hands, rub soft fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes and pears. Scrub the skins and rinds of firm fruits and vegetables, such as melons and potatoes, with a clean and sanitized fruit/vegetable brush under cool, clean, running water.
--Wash berries in a clean colander and spray with a kitchen sink sprayer, or rinse and agitate berries under cool, slow running water. Turn and gently shake the colander as the berries are washed.
--Proper storage is important to keep food fresh, said DeRossitte.
--Fruits and vegetables should be stored in the refrigerator away from raw meat, poultry, fish and seafood in the crisper section. Cut fruits and vegetables should be kept in clean, airtight packages (containers, plastic bags or plastic wrap) until ready to serve.
"Fresh produce heightens the flavor of any family favorite," she said.
Visit www.arkansasgrown.org to find a list of other farmers' markets and a list of restaurants that support farmers by incorporating local produce into their menus.
An "Arkansas Fruit and Vegetable Harvest Calendar" is available to help determine when foods will be harvested and available for purchase. Copies will be distributed at the northeast Arkansas Regional Farmers' Market. It can also be obtained by contacting the Craighead County Extension office.