By Gina Noe
MADISON COUNTY —
We all know we should eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, but many of us don’t get the recommended servings. Fruits and vegetables are important to our diet because they provide necessary nutrients and are high in dietary fiber and low in calories, fat and cholesterol. They provide a variety of phytochemicals, antioxidants and nutrients that help you stay healthy in a variety of ways.
Summer is an excellent time to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet as all of them will be in season at some point in the coming months. In-season produce is the peak of a particular fruit or vegetable’s freshness, and its flavor is going to be wonderful.
The farmers’ market season is well underway, which means we can get fresh produce almost every day in Madison County.
On Tuesday the Madison County Market is open from 8 a.m. to noon and 4 to 6 p.m. in the Lowe’s parking lot in Richmond. The Berea Market also is open Tuesday from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. in front of Saint Joseph hospital in Berea.
On Thursday the Richmond Market will set up at EKU behind Alumni Coliseum from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
On Saturdays the Madison County Market is open from 8 a.m. to noon at Lowe’s in Richmond, and the Berea Market is open from 9 a.m. to noon at St. Joseph Hospital in Berea.
Kelly’s Fruit Market on the Eastern Bypass in Richmond is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Kelly’s carries locally grown produce when it is available.
Wherever you shop, choosing the best quality produce is important to maintain both taste and texture. Learning to choose the freshest produce will also ensure you receive the maximum nutritional benefit.
To avoid throwing away spoiled produce, select an amount you can use within a short time. Here are a few tips to follow:
• Look for produce that is free from unusual odors, colors and mold.
• Handle produce gently to reduce bruising. The outer coating of produce serves as an excellent protectant against bacteria, but bacteria can thrive in bruised areas.
• At the grocery store, keep produce on top of other foods in the cart and set it down gently on the checkout counter.
• Buying under-ripe produce isn’t always a good option. Some produce such as peaches, cantaloupe and nectarines may soften during storage, but they will not ripen.
• If you buy cut produce, keep it cold during transport.
It is equally important to store your produce correctly to maintain freshness and nutrients when you arrive home. The longer produce is stored, the less nutritious it becomes. So eating it as soon as possible is the best option. (Source: Amelia McGrew, regional extension agent, Alabama Cooperative Extension System.)
If you will be growing your own garden this summer or you plan to purchase fresh produce at its peak at one of the local markets, you might also be interested in learning how to preserve it for use throughout the year.
We will be offering several workshops at the Extension Center. On Tuesday, July 16, and Thursday, Aug. 8, join us for Food Preservation 101. Learn about all the ways you can preserve your fruits and vegetables safely. The class will be offered twice both days, 9 to 11 a.m. and 6 to 8 p.m.
For a more hands-on experience, sign up for Boot Camp on Thursday, July 18, or Aug. 15.
These classes are $5 each, but space is limited. Call 859-623-4072 to hold your seat.
Educational programs of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.