Farmers market season has officially begun and many local markets already have their first market day of the season. Our local markets are a great place to buy fresh local fruits and vegetables. Our region’s early produce includes asparagus, rhubarb, spinach and other greenhouse grown foods.
Often, buying in season at a local market can be more affordable than buying from a big box store or out of season. Buying seasonal produce in bulk, as long as you have storage space and can use up all the food, is a great way to stretch your food dollar throughout the year.
Take berries for example: you can wash and dry the berries, arrange them on a baking sheet or in a baking dish and put them in the freezer for several hours. Freezing in a single-layer pan helps the berries not freeze into one big lump. When they are frosty and frozen, transfer them to a ziplock bag or other container. Then, throughout the year, you can enjoy seasonal flavors at any time.
There are also plenty of farmer’s market incentive programs to help you increase your food dollar even more. If you use SNAP/EBT dollars, you can also use Double Food Bucks (DUFB), which allows you to “double” your purchasing power up to $10 each market day. For example, when you visit a market, stop at the market manager’s desk and let him know that you will be using SNAP and want to “double up”. If you’re going to use $10 of your SNAP dollars, you can get another $10 in fruits and vegetables for free.
The Lockport Community Farmers Market and the Veggie Van Cornell Cooperative Extension are markets where you can double your profits. More great market programs will follow later in the summer, such as WIC Farmer’s Market Checks, the Senior Farmer Market Nutrition Program, and more. Be vigilant and ask your market manager what ways to save are available to you.
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As you travel through your market, look for a local SNAP-Ed Dietitian. You can find us at Lockport Market on the first Saturday of the month where we share information and put on delicious food demonstrations. SNAP-Ed nutritionists also work closely with Veggie Van in most locations.
Here is one of our favorite recipes to make when the region is growing produce. You can find this recipe at Nutrition.gov/recipes/asparagus-mushroom-melt. Two muffin halves contain 230 calories, 7g fat, 480mg sodium, 31g carbs, 3g fiber, and 11g protein.
This recipe is quick to make in 30 minutes or less and makes a great breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Mushroom asparagus melt
4 English muffins
1 cup onion, finely chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 teaspoon oil
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch rounds
1 teaspoon ground thyme (or oregano or basil)
1 teaspoon of vinegar
1 dash of salt
1 pinch of pepper
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese (3 ounces, grated)
Toast the muffin halves and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.
In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté the onion and mushrooms in the oil, stirring frequently, until they begin to brown.
Add asparagus, seasonings and vinegar. Saute, stirring often, until the asparagus is barely soft. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Divide the vegetable mixture evenly among the cupcake halves. Sprinkle grated cheese on top of each muffin.
Bake muffins until cheese is melted. Watch carefully so you don’t burn out.
Refrigerate leftovers for 2 hours.
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If you’re ready to explore more delicious and inexpensive recipes you can make from your market finds, visit https://www.youtube.com/snap-edny.
For more tips and advice, as well as free virtual or face-to-face classes, visit www.SNAPEDNY.org.
For information about the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides assistance to people with low incomes, call 1-800-352-8401.
Justin Hayes is a Senior SNAP-Ed Dietitian at the Niagara County Cornell Cooperative Extension. Contact her at email@example.com.