9 Reasons to Shop at Farmers’ Markets During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Shopping of any nature can seem like a daunting task on a normal day, and even more difficult during the COVID-19 crisis. Usually farmers’ markets are seen as a social event along with a food access point however this year things are a little different. Everyone is concerned with hygiene and sanitization in the pursuit of staying healthy and virus free, and farmers’ markets are no different. Here are nine reasons to shop at farmers’ markets during the COVID-19 pandemic and why they are among the safest and best places to grocery shop.

  1. Farmers’ market aisles are the widest of any market, indoors or out! This makes social distancing procedures easier to follow.
 Many markets are even mapping out the route customers should take through the market to keep traffic all heading in one direction. Vendors are spaced out so that it is easier for customers to shop at the same time with different vendors.
  2. You are buying from the farms and often times even the farmers who harvested the produce. 
This means that far fewer hands have handled the food overall reducing the risk of transmission by surface contamination.
  3. Shopping outdoors means you are in the healthiest air you can breathe! Indoor air systems recirculate their air and with it the virus.
  4. When this all done, you will want your local farmers growing things you like to eat
. When shopping outside your local network of producers (usually products from grocery stores or the internet) many other people are included in the process which increases the risk of transmission of any illness or contaminant.
  5.  It’s more fun, and more relaxed! When the social distancing restrictions are lifted you can meet so many amazing people and local producers at the market. Keeping the markets going means when this all passes you can enjoy all the things markets have to offer.
  6. The farmers’ market can be thought of as your pantry.  They have fresh food every week, so you can stock up slowly, and count on us to have food every market day
. You don’t have to worry about inventory shortages like the grocery store.
  7. The food is fresher
. The food is often harvested within a few days if not the same day as the market, whereas at the grocery store the food has traveled long distances.
  8. You are helping to keep many of your neighbors in business and supporting your local economy. When you buy locally you are putting money directly into the pocket of the local food producer where they can use it to support their families.
  9. Supermarkets have many staff members that handle everything from unpacking, stocking, ringing, bagging, and more. When you shop at the farmers’ market usually there isn’t more than 1-2 people per stall and usually they are the ones who packed the product and even harvested it!

To find markets scheduled near you click here.

SNAP Can Now Be Used at Some Farm Stands

SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), formally known as food stamps, has historically been accepted at grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and only a select amount of farm stands. However, with the current COVID-19 pandemic, it seems like we are going to see a shift to more farm stands/stores accepting SNAP/EBT, especially as farmers’ markets are delayed, reduced in hours and/or vendors, or cancelled.  Individuals on SNAP receive a monthly deposit onto their EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) card in which they can use the funds to purchase food at the outlets listed above (online purchasing pilots are currently being tested in other states, but only for a specific set of larger commercial entities). SNAP eligibility is income driven and is a program to address food insecurity among low income individuals.

Resources available for individuals enrolled in SNAP/EBT services include the ability to receive a discount on fruit and vegetable purchases through Double Up Food Bucks and Granite State Market Match. By utilizing one of these services, you can essentially receive 50% off your fruit and vegetable purchases! At Seacoast Eat Local, we work with the New Hampshire Nutrition Incentive Network, who developed Granite State Market Match. Local farmers’ markets and farm stands/stores that participate in this program have the ability to offer this service (50% of fresh fruits and vegetables) to SNAP customers. If you are SNAP customer and interested in purchasing a CSA we also offer a great deal for a fruit/vegetable CSA from a farm of your choice. As of right now these are the farms accepting SNAP on the Seacoast:

Vernon Family Farm located in Newfields, NH

Heron Pond Farm located in South Hampton,NH

Clyde Farm located in Farmington, NH

Dog Rose Farm in Lee, NH

McKenzie’s Farm located in Milton, NH

Riverside Farm in Berwick, ME

Current changes are being made to policies related to SNAP and they may affect you if you are currently utilizing SNAP. The Families First Corona Virus Responce Act of 2020 was recently put into place to alleviate some of the food access and financial issues that have been associated with the COVID-19 crisis. The act implies that it: 

-Temporarily suspends the work and work training requirements for SNAP during this crisis.

-Temporarily removes the time limit on SNAP for Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents.

-SNAP households will be receiving a one-time (at this time, however as the crisis continues there may be more) increase on their current monthly allotment up to the maximum allotment for a household that size. 

If you or someone you know is currently struggling with food insecurity, you can apply for benefits by visiting https://nheasy.nh.gov/#/ or call 1-844-275-3447. There are also other resources including food pantries in the area that are offering food to individuals and families in need. 

Food Pantries in NH

Food Pantries in ME

Food Pantries in MA

If you are a farm and have an operating farm stand or store and would like to offer SNAP/EBT services please contact us at morgan@seacoasteatlocal.org

 

Two Recipes to Try While in Quarantine

Post by UNH Student and Seacoast Eat Local Intern, Chris G.

Having been a few weeks since Seacoast Eat Local’s winter markets have been operational due to social distancing practices related to COVID-19, I wanted to highlight a couple of great recipes. I have attempted to make or modify these recipes with food I have saved from past farmers markets, as well as smaller-scale local markets! As always, please remember to practice social distancing when you go out to shop for local food items, and enjoy!

Green Bean Pasta Salad

Recipe and Photo Credit: https://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/lemony-green-bean-pasta-salad

Ingredients:

12 ounces penne pasta,

1/2 pound French green beans,

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

5 teaspoons lemon zest

1/4 cup finely chopped roasted salted pistachios, plus more for topping

2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar

1 tablespoon minced shallots

1 garlic clove (minced)

1 teaspoon table salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cups loosely packed arugula

Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions: Boil pasta, adding green beans to the pot for the last two minutes of cooking time. Rinse/drain when cooked. Next, toss pasta and green beans, thyme, and 3 teaspoons of lemon zest in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk in remaining ingredients, adding the olive oil last and at a slow rate. Drizzle mixture over pasta salad, and season with parmesan cheese.

Why am I a huge fan of green beans? While they boast a high nutrient density,  they also have a low calorie/energy density! This means you can eat a lot of green beans and consume minimal calories. Eating just one serving of green beans provides B Vitamins like Folate, Riboflavin and Niacin, as well as the minerals Iron and Magnesium. Iron deficiency is of concern to me personally, having multiple family members in my past deficient over the years. At the same time, B Vitamins play a host of roles in the body, including digestion, eye health, brain function, red blood cell formation and they support regulation of hunger.

In season availability: Green beans are in season from July to September, but are available in frozen or canned form year round. Arugula will be in season starting in May going through September, but may be available year round locally due to the use of high tunnels or other growing practices.

Sweet Potato Fries

Recipe and Photo Credit: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1014647-sweet-potato-fries

 

Ingredients:

2 pounds peeled sweet potatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut sweet potatoes into sticks approximately ¼-inch wide and 3 inches long. Toss in olive oil. Next, toss in a mix of garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Spread fries onto a baking sheet and and bake approximately 10 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Finally, allow fries to cool. Enjoy!

Sweet potatoes are among some of the most beneficial root vegetables you can incorporate in your diet. A serving provides you quadruple the recommended amount of Vitamin A for the day, and over 50% of Vitamin C! Additionally, the roughage from the skin of the potato provides for an excellent source of fiber, and the natural sugars within the fries pair excellently with the savoriness of the spice added. Additionally, baking them to a golden brown adds a crisp texture.

In season availability: Sweet potatoes are available over the winter months when stored correctly, you can learn more about produce shelf life and storage by visiting Chris’ last post here.

As always, if you are looking for a specific farm or food product you can use the Seacoast Harvest search tool.

A Spotlight on Salami

Salami also known as salame has a history that predates ancient Rome. Salami as a term refers to any form of encased meat, but is most commonly a pork sausage, pork blended with pork fat and a variety of spice mixes. Different types of salami can not only vary in flavor but also the part of the pig that is used to create it. Salami can be in fresh, cook, or dry-cured varieties and should look compact with a red or pink dominant color with speckles of white fat throughout. When cut, the fat should stay within the slice and not separate. Seasonings can vary and may include salt, pepper, garlic, fennel, wine, cinnamon, and many more. All the ingredients are mixed together and formed into the shape of a sausage, it is then encased and stored in a dark, cool place to age depending on the variety. Once stored, fermentation begins and that is how the salami continues to gain its flavor. When kept in a dark cool place, the salami can have a long shelf life. Another way to increase shelf life is to add coriander as a spice to the salami mix.

When preparing to eat, soft or cooked varieties should be sliced thin and hard or aged should be cut thick.  Depending on the variety, salami can be served in a number of ways including on a pizza, in a sandwich, on a charcuterie board, as antipasto, and many other ways. Different types of salami include but are not limited to chorizo, ciauscolo, finocchiona, genoa, kulen, pepperoni, and soppressata. The United States even has a salami capital, San Francisco. This is because the humid weather is the perfect environment to cure meat. Salami is both high in fat and protein, and the carbohydrate content depends on the additives in the mix. B vitamins are plentiful in salami however, it has a very high amount of sodium so it should be consumed in moderation. Similar to other fermented foods like kimchi or kombucha salami offers beneficial bacteria to the diet. You can purchase salami from Short Creek Farm and at some of these local markets.

A Spotlight on Honey

Honey has been around since the start of written history and most likely before that however there is not records prior. Since 2100 B.C.  it has been recorded as the first commonly used sweetener by humans. The first record is in Sumerian and Babylonian cuneiform writings and writings from Egypt and India. In years past it was used as currency, to make cement, polish and varnish, and in medicine.

Honey does not spoil and is best kept in a cool location out of sunlight. It is mostly sugar but does have some antioxidants depending on the bees and plants is comes from. There are different types of honey depending on the type of flower the bees go to. Some examples include lavender, clover, acacia, chestnut, sage, and many others. Honey can go threw different production and can be created into liquid in raw and pasteurized varieties, it can be in honeycomb, and also whipped. Honey can be used in many different recipes including baked goods, marinades, and can be added to tea.
Honey begins as nectar collected from flowers by bees. The bees then store the nectar in their honey stomachs. Those bees regurgitate the nectar into the hive and give it to worker bees. The worker bees then evaporate the water in the nectar by swallowing and regurgitating until the water content is lower. Once the water content of the nectar is lowered it is considered honey.
Honey can be found at you local farmers’ markets and from these farms.

A Spotlight on Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is made by tapping maple trees and collecting the sap. The sap is then boiled until it becomes thicker and resembles a syrup. The sap is clear and looks almost like water but when boiled the brown color comes out. Once boiled the syrup is then filtered to remove any sediment, and that is how the smooth textured maple syrup is created. North Eastern Native Americans were the first known to make maple syrup. European settlers learned how to tap maple trees from indigenous tribes.

Maple trees make sugar in the summer and the starch is stored in the roots over the summer. The trees are then tapped for sap in mid-February to mid-March. Sap collection ends when temperatures stay above freezing or when the trees start to produce buds. 80% of the world’s maple syrup is actually made in Quebec, Canada. Maple syrup can be either grade A or grade B depending on the color of the syrup. Grade A can be either light amber, medium amber, or dark amber. Grade B is the darkest maple syrup available and is created from sap that is collected later in the season. It has a stronger maple flavor and is commonly used in baking, whereas grade A is usually drizzled over food like pancakes.

Maple syrup isn’t only a sugary treat, it is a great source of manganese and riboflavin. It also contains calcium, thiamin, copper, and potassium. However, the sugar content is very high, 1/3 cup supplies about 60 grams of sugar! With this high of a sugar content, maple syrup should be consumed in moderation. You can find maple syrup at your local farmers’ markets.

A Spotlight on Garlic

Garlic is often used to flavor food, but has had many uses in the past including medicine! The flavorful bulb has antibiotic properties and has been used since the Egyptian times. In Ancient Greece the original Olympians were given garlic to “enhance” their performance. Garlic is known to have anti-inflammatory properties and can act as a natural blood thinner.

Garlic is related to onions, leeks, and chives and is thought to have origins in Siberia. Garlic can maintain its shelf life in a dry, dark place with air circulation. If stored correctly a whole bulb can be stored for up to 6 months, however if peeled it will last a few days to a week in the fridge. You can tell if garlic has gone bad if you see brown spots and the clove is no longer firm to the touch. The smell garlic produces is actually from an enzyme called alliinase. The alliinase breaks down a chemical called alliin into allicin. Allicin has sulfur molecules and that is where the pungent smell comes from.
Whether you enjoy garlic as a flavoring agent or on its own there are so many recipes out there. If your looking for inspiration here are a couple recipes that put garlic at the forefront. Garlic can be found at your local farmers’ markets and from these farms. What is your favorite way to use or eat garlic? Let us know in the comments.

A Spotlight on Hot Sauce

Everyone has heard of hot sauce in one form or another.  Hot sauce has been around for a long time and can even be tracked back to Mayan culture! Hot sauce became bottled and industrialized by the Tabasco company in the 19th century, and almost all cultures have their own rendition of hot sauce. The chemical that gives the sauce its spicy flavor naturally occurs in peppers, and is called capsaicin. Capsaicin has been shown to be beneficial to one’s health, it has anti-inflammatory properties and promotes a healthy metabolism. Peppers are ranked on the Scoville scale, a scale that measures the amount of capsaicinoids in the pepper. Scoville units range from zero, sweet bell peppers, all the way to 5,000,000 units, law enforcement pepper spray. You can tell how hot a hot sauce is based on its Scoville units.

Most commonly hot sauce consists of chili peppers, vinegar, and salt but there are many different combinations. Some sauces can be fermented to give a more tangy flavor. Naked hot sauces has many different varieties of hot sauces and can be found at some farmers markets, to learn more you can go to their website. The hot sauce I tried is called The One, and it is both spicy and savory. I used the hot sauce by making crispy breaded tofu and tossing it with this sauce, it was a tasty treat! What is your favorite variety of hot sauce? Let us know in the comments.