Shop Smart at Farmers' Markets

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Shopping Local - Shopping Smart at Your Farmers' Markets

Visiting your local farmer's market is fun outing - enjoy the time outdoors, visiting with your local merchants and bumping into friends and family that you may not have seen for a while. And remember to choose your fruits and vegetables carefully! Here are some tips.

Buy only the amount you can use in a short period of time to avoid having to throw away spoiled produce.

* Examine the produce and look for items that is free from unusual odors or colors and signs of spoilage such as mold.

Handle produce gently to reduce bruising. Bacteria can thrive in the bruised areas. At the grocery store, keep fresh produce on top of other foods in a shopping cart — and separate from fresh meat — and set it down gently on the counter at the check-out line.

* Remember that buying underripe produce isn't always the best option. Peaches, cantaloupe and nectarines are examples of fruits that may soften during storage, but they won't ripen.

* When buying cut produce, keep it cold during transport. Put it in a cooler with ice if traveling a distance.

* Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water before handling produce and any other food.

* Wash all fruits and vegetables with cool, running tap water right before eating. Don't use dish soap or detergent because the FDA hasn’t approved or labeled these products for use on foods.

* Scrub melons with a brush and running water, because bacteria can be transferred from the outside of the melon to the inside by a knife.

* Don't cross-contaminate: Use clean utensils and cutting boards when peeling or cutting up produce. Wash cutting boards with soap and water, rinse and sanitize between uses. A solution of 1 teaspoon bleach per quart of water is considered safe and effective.

* Cut away bruised parts of the fruit or vegetable before eating.

* Remove the outer leaves from lettuce and cabbage.

*  When serving your fresh cut product, keep it cold by placing serving containers on ice. Perishable food should spend no more than two hours in the "danger zone" (40 to 140oF).

* Store produce in containers that are free from excess liquid.

* Refrigerate cut produce and use within a few days.