It’s almost summer and farmer’s markets are popping up everywhere. They range from large to small, but they all have one thing in common: farmers selling directly to consumers without a middle man. It’s really a win-win situation. Typically farmer’s markets have a great selection of fruits, vegetables, flowers, soaps, breads and other local specialty foods and crafts. I recently visited a farmer’s market and discovered some pretty incredible, hand-made soap.
There are many reasons to visit a local farmer’s market:
Support your local economy
Buy produce with little to no packaging
Buy seasonal fruits and vegetables
Support local farming
Buy organic produce and products
On your next visit to your local farmer’s market here are a few tips to help you navigate your experience:
Bring reusable bags
Reusable bags aren’t just for the supermarket. Your local farmer’s market is the perfect venue for reusable bags. According to my friend Beth Terry of My Plastic Free Life there’s no excuse for using single-use plastic bags. If you don’t want to carry the large, supermarket reusable bags try a smaller version that fits into your purse or backpack. You might want to bring an insulated bag to keep items cold.
Get there when they open (or when they’re about to close)
It’s a bit hypocritical that I have this on the list. I’m far from a morning person. However, I do know that farmer’s markets tend to be less crowded when they first open. If you’re an early bird you will also have the best selections available to you. You might score a last minute deal if you head to the market when it’s just about to close down. The farmers might be willing to negotiate a discount so they don’t have to take it home.
Heading to the farmer’s market without a detailed list seems to work best. That will enable you to walk into the market and have the flexibility to choose produce and other items that look fresh and interesting.
Talk to the farmers
One of the highlights of a farmer’s market is the opportunity to talk directly to the farmer about the product you are thinking of buying. This is also your chance to ask how to store the product and how long it will stay fresh. We bought tomato plants last week and the farmer was so excited to share planting tips.
Many of the booths only accept cash so it’s important to be prepared. It’s no fun to find a really amazing product and then realize that you don’t have the cash to purchase it.
Lately I’ve been receiving oodles of amazing green questions from Groovy Green Livin readers through Facebook, Twitter and email. I love that so many of you are reaching out. While I try to answer each and every question individually, there are times when it’s impossible. There are also many times when your fabulous questions deserve to be shared. So in light of all of the above, I’ve decided to create a weekly post dedicated to your questions!
This weeks question comes from a longtime groovy green friend and was raised during our monthly book club.
Baking soda is touted as an all natural cleaner and we use it for so many things, but I have no idea what it is and where it comes from. Can you help?
What is baking soda?
Baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate. In its natural form, baking soda is called nahcolite, taking its name from its chemical formula.
It is a naturally-occurring mineral that is chemically known as sodium sesquicarbonate. Trona is the raw material which is refined into soda ash. Soda ash, in turn, is used to make glass, paper products, laundry detergents, and many other products. It also is used in the manufacturing of other chemicals, such as sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and sodium phosphates (detergents).
Baking soda is considered very safe and non-toxic. So many foods contain baking soda. I use it to bake with constantly. It doesn’t taste very good straight up, but you technically could take a teaspoon of baking soda and eat it.
Any environmental issues with baking soda?
My friend Umbra over at Grist raises an interesting environmental issue with regard trona mining:
“…the wastewater is very salty, and when it is piped away to a holding pond, it can make the birds that visit said pond fall sick, and sometimes drown.”
What’s the difference between baking soda and baking powder?
Baking powder contains sodium bicarbonate (the only ingredient in baking soda), but it includes the acidifying agent already (cream of tarter), and also a drying agent (usually starch). You can substitute baking powder for baking soda, but you can’t use baking soda in place of baking powder.
Baking soda uses
There are so many amazing uses for baking soda. I use it for everything from baking to cleaning. Think outside of the cookie box and the baking soda options are endless. Here are a few great resources to help find ways to use baking soda that may not have crossed your mind.
Now I need some help from you: I would like to name my weekly Q & A post with a catchy title-something like Dear Groovy Green Livin (but much more creative!). Let me know if you have any ideas! Also, send your groovy green questions to me and you could be featured as next weeks question of the week!
[Photo used under Creative Commons from Deb Nystrom/Flickr]
On April 22, 2012 more than one billion people around the globe will participate in Earth Day 2012. Earth Day is a day earmarked for action; a chance to show how important the environment is to you. The message of Earth Day can expand far beyond this one day-it can be a theme carried over into our everyday actions and efforts.
In celebration of Earth Day Cascadian Farm sent me an Earth Day Celebration Kit. It arrived in an awesome picnic basket and included Cascadian Farm products, VIP coupons for free products and recipe ideas, along with an extra kit for a giveaway to one lucky reader of Groovy Green Livin!
It’s baseball season for two of my sons, which translates to being out on a baseball field most nights of the week. Trying to squeeze in a decent meal is somewhat tricky, but with a little planning we are able to stick with our healthy eating habits. In keeping with the tradition of celebrating Earth Day every day, we decided to pick a random night and prepare an organic feast together.
My kids love to cook, so it was relatively easy to get them involved in the process. I’ve learned over the years that when they help out they are more likely to eat the final product. We picked out a few recipes from the recipe booklet that was sent along in the kit. Each recipe used some of the great products from Cascadian Farm.
Buying organic is always the better option. Organic food is free of pesticides and other toxins commonly found in conventional products. It’s not always possible and can be cost prohibitive, but we try to buy organic as much as possible. It’s also important to remember that organic doesn’t always mean healthy. It’s important to read the ingredients in every product, organic or conventional.
We started off with roasted vegetable pizza
Added Spa Smoothies for dessert
If you want to join in the fun and create your own organic feast in celebration of Earth day hop on over to the Cascadian Farm Facebook page. You’ll find great recipes, including the pizza and smoothie recipes used in our feast.
Now’s your chance to try out Cascadian Farm products! One lucky Groovy Green Livin reader will receive their very own picnic basket from Cascadian Farm filled with all sorts of goodies (Value $60!).
The giveaway is now over. Congratulations to Christopher S. and thank you to all who entered!
For another opportunity to win this kit, Tiffany at Nature Moms is also giving one away. Check that out HERE.
Fish generally ends up on our dinner table once or twice a week. Salmon is a family favorite with other types of fish being hit or miss. About a year ago I was part of a fish CSA. I loved the concept of buying fresh fish from local fishermen, but what I learned quickly was that I had a lot to do before the fish was ready to eat. The fish were delivered whole-with everything intact. That meant I had to filet it and remove all the parts that weren’t edible. For those of you who don’t know me well, I’m a bit squeamish. I don’t do well with blood, gore and guts. I tried to be a trooper and gave fileting the fish my best shot. It didn’t end well and I turned to my husband, kind friends and neighbors who took over the fileting process. As a result, my fileting days were short lived. So now I frequent the market in search of safe and sustainable fish.
Walking up to the fish counter at the grocery store or at a farmers’ market can be a bit overwhelming. The signs placed in front of each type of fish are confusing unless you know what each term means.
Here’s a general guide to buying safe and sustainable seafood:
Buy wild when possible (in most cases)
Farm-raised fish are generally placed in crowded cages and given antibiotics and exposed to pesticides. Their living environment is less than desirable. Wild fish are out in the wild-living and swimming as they were meant to be. Wild fish aren’t exposed to the same toxins as their farm-raised cousins.
Smaller is better
Larger fish generally have a higher chance of being contaminated with mercury and other heavy metals. The reason for this is bigger fish tend to live longer and have more time to accumulate these toxins. Smaller fish have a shorter life expectancy and are less likely to be polluted by heavy metals. Pregnant women and women of child-bearing age need to be careful of mercury levels in all fish, whether wild or farm-raised.
Do you want to eat fish that traveled for days to reach your table? Think about all the fuel used for transport. Try to buy fish from a local source.
Avoid added coloring
Farm-raised salmon generally has artificial color added to give it that nice pink color. When salmon are raised in a farm-raised environment they are fed “fish meal”, made up of ground fish parts, and as a result, the fish color is a shade of gray rather than pink. Coloring is added because consumers expect their salmon to look pink.
You have the right to know where your fish is coming from. Ask the person behind the counter or at the farmer’s market questions about added coloring, chemicals and anything else you might want to know before purchasing the fish.
Download FishFone from Blue Ocean Institute. Text them the name of the fish in question and they’ll text you back with their assessment and better alternatives to fish with significant environmental concerns.
I jumped on board the Meatless Monday movement a few months ago. Meatless Monday is a campaign encouraging people to improve their health and improve the health of the planet by lowering their meat consumption. I don’t eat red meat, but turkey and fish are often found on our dinner table.
There are so many different ways to green your Meatless Monday and most are relatively simple to incorporate into a meal. My Meatless Monday can (and does) happen any day of the week. There are so many great recipes out there that don’t include meat-thanks to Meatless Monday we have tried so many new foods.
We have a new Meatless Monday staple in our house. You’ll find this easy meal on our table at least once a week. My kids LOVE it and if you’re up to it you can get pretty creative with the add-ons.
Over the years I have been very diligent about planting a garden each spring with my three boys. Working together to create a vegetable garden has always been an incredibly rewarding process. One of my missions as a parent is to help my children understand that there’s a connection between the food they eat and the earth that grows their food. A garden is a perfect place for that lesson.
Not much can compare to watching children tirelessly dig and craft a garden. However, after 6 years of this gardening ritual we gave it up. Our garden space was growing smaller and smaller each year as the trees grew in and the sunlight decreased. I was also finding it difficult to find the time to make our garden work.
Last year was our first year without a garden and we all really missed it. So this year the plan is to bring our garden is back and make it the best one yet.
If you are interested in planting a garden here are a few tips to get you started:
Scout out the perfect spot. I’m going to need a new spot this year. Sunlight is one of the most important elements in growing a vegetable garden. Most vegetables need an average of 6 hours of sunlight. Your local climate will dictate which plants will grow well in your garden.
Test your soil. Different types of vegetables require different types of soil. You can buy an inexpensive kit to test the PH of your soil. Once you have tested the soil you can determine what’s needed to enrich your soil. Having quality soil in place will help your garden grow.
Use compost. Create a compost pile or use what you already have. Compost piles provide excellent nutrients for your garden soil. They also are a great spot for dumping your banana peels, grass clippings and apple cores.
Buy organic seeds. Try to avoid buying conventional seeds since chances are those seeds came from a genetically modified crop. There’s also a good chance that conventional seeds were sprayed with pesticides while growing on the parent plant. If it’s too chilly out to plant consider starting your seeds indoors.
Have fun! Turn gardening into a family affair. Your garden doesn’t need to be perfect- enjoy what it has to offer.
Looking for a few more ideas to make gardening a fun event with your baby? Healthy Child Healthy World has a few extra tips.
Are you going to plant a garden this year? What tips do you have?
I know I’m not alone on this one-I have a sweet tooth and it kicks in A LOT. There’s a reason behind this love of sweets: they make us feel good. The sweet flavors release serotonin in our brains, which creates a feeling of love and well being. It’s nice to have some validation for my love of sweets.
The number of choices out there for sweetening our food or drinks is overwhelming. Artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame, high-fructose corn syrup and Sucralose, have deservedly gotten a bad rap over the years. They are known to cause numerous side-effects ranging from headaches to cancer. Research also suggests that they can actually cause overeating among consumers.
Even natural sweeteners can come with their own baggage. Organic brown rice syrup recently made it into the lime light with findings that it contains arsenic. Agave nectar also came under fire when a report from The Weston A. Price Foundation said that it’s as bad for our bodies as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
With all this negative information looming about so many of the popular sweeteners the question often arises: Is there a safe sweetener choice?
Thankfully there is a way to satisfy our sweet tooth and, if eaten in moderation, our health won’t suffer.
Here are my top three natural sweeteners:
Raw, local and organic are the way to go with this natural sweetener. Not only will it sweeten your favorite cookies, it will also help sooth a cough or sore throat. Honey is often touted for having mega vitamins, minerals, and protein, but I’m not convinced the amount is significant unless you eat honey by the car load (which you shouldn’t do).
Careful when you choose your honey-recent testing by Food Safety News found that more than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores isn’t exactly pure honey. The testing showed that pollen had been filtered out of the honey, thereby stripping the honey of all nutritional value and erasing any way to trace where the honey came from. Your best bet for avoiding honey that’s been filtered is to buy honey directly from bee keepers, farmers’ markets and natural food stores.
Chopped, dried dates are my snack of choice when I’m looking for a sweet fix. Date sugar is made from finely chopped dried dates. It is a natural and non-processed sugar alternative filled with high fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It’s great for baking, but might not work in your hot or cold tea (it doesn’t dissolve very well).
Maple syrup is one of my favorite natural sweeteners. My kids can’t get enough of the stuff on pancakes and French toast. Maple syrup contains fewer calories and a higher concentration of minerals than honey. The syrup comes directly from the maple tree and is clear when it first comes out. After the tree is tapped the syrup is then boiled to remove the water. The end result is the deep maple syrup color and flavor that most of us are familiar with. Maple syrup is perfect for baking and sweetening your favorite drink.
When buying maple syrup it’s important to read ingredient labels carefully. Many of the syrups on the market have additional sugar and/or are not pure maple syrup. Buy organic whenever you can. Use it sparingly because organic maple syrup can be quite pricey.
Lori Popkewitz Alper, Founder and Editor of Groovy Green Livin, provides eco-wellness consulting for businesses, schools, homes and individuals; and inspiration for a greener lifestyle through her Groovy Green Livin blog and website. Read more….