What’s in Season and What’s It Good For?

The Covent Garden’s Outdoor Farmers’ Market opened Saturday, May 16, under a clear blue sky on a warm sunny day! During this crucial time, it’s essential to think about the importance of our food supply, health and nutrition. The desire to focus on local food systems may finally get the push it deserves as we seek out seasonal foods that nourish. This article will focus on what vegetables are in season right now and how to make the most of them. 

Locally grown produce starts slowly in the variable temperatures that are experienced in May. However, a few cold-loving and fast-growing items are first to emerge. This unique, first to the market collection includes baby turnips, green garlic, radish, rhubarb and a wide variety of leafy greens and herbs. There are some common attributes to the vegetables on this list and some very distinct health benefits that should be of special interest to the public. 

The Brassic family, formerly known as the cruciferous family, but commonly known as cabbage or mustard vegetables, are well represented in the first spring vegetables. These pungent tasting vegetables are either root types like baby turnips and radishes or leafy greens like kale and pok choi/bok choy. Even though both offer admirable amounts of soluble fibre, greens provide higher amounts of vitamins A, C, E, K and folate! There are health claims that Brassic vegetables are protective against some cancers, and chronic age-related diseases like cardiovascular disease. These health claims come from the phytochemical (plant chemical), specifically the antioxidant, glucosinolates which are sulphur-containing compounds that give these vegetables their strong taste. For optimal nutrients, you should consume these vegetables raw and fresh!

Green garlic or spring garlic from the Liliaceae family seems to be a well-kept secret amongst regular Farmers Market patrons. This doppelganger to the scallion (green onion) is usually only available until the end of May. Both the white bulb and green stalks are edible and have a mild nutty onion flavour that can be enjoyed cooked or raw. The health benefits of this immature garlic bulb are the same as mature garlic. It has a high amount of allicin, a powerful antioxidant and may boost the immune system when consumed in large quantities.  

When season-extending growing methods are utilized, farmers can produce an extensive array of early leafy greens. You can find examples in spring mix salad and spinach available at the Farmers Market! The deep green colour is so appealing, and it provides you with lutein that may help decrease the risk of age-related macular degeneration. On top of that, they are sources good vitamins A, C, K and iron as well as some dietary fibre! 

A spring Farmer’s market would not be complete without rhubarb! It is the stem (petioles) of the oversized leaf that is the edible portion; the leaf is poisonous due to the high content of oxalic acid. This slightly sweet but tart vegetable is more commonly considered a fruit and often referred to as a pie plant. After 1775, when sugar became more plentiful, rhubarb gained appreciation. Although it can be consumed raw, the most common method of preparation cut in chunks, and cooked with sugar.  Rhubarb can also be frozen for use later but will last up to 3 weeks when refrigerated. It pairs nicely with ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon and is often combined with strawberries. Rhubarb is low in calories, has Vitamin A, C, K and Calcium and dietary fibre. It has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol, and the presumed antioxidant effect may offer some benefits to the immune system.  

 As farmer markets continue to open up, keep an eye out for these nutritionally dense and fresh vegetables! 

 

About the author: Susan Smith is a volunteer at the MLFPC with long-standing expertise in nutrition. She graduated from UWO, Brescia University College in 1995 and has been a clinical dietitian at the London Health Science Center for almost 25 years! Susan has a keen interest in sustainable food systems that create a harmonious urban-rural relationship with a focus on community health and a minimal carbon footprint. 

 

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What You Need to Know About Covent Garden’s Outdoor Farmers’ Market

Covent Garden’s outdoor Farmers’ Market will brighten up downtown London again, starting this Saturday, May 15. Here’s how the market will focus on customer safety during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

The market will only be operating on Saturdays from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM.  In consideration of the COVID-19 situation, however, it won’t yet be the social gathering place we’re used to. Instead, the market will be focused on grocery operations for customers to purchase essential items and support the local economy. Here’s how the market will focus on customer safety

 Prior to entering, customers will be screened and asked to sanitize their hands while following rules that will be laid out on a signboard by the entrance. They will also have a hand-washing station set up for vendors. The market square will be roped off to limit the entrance and exit to Talbot Street, where they will have Security posted. On the ground, customers will find chalk markings leading them to a safe exit as they shop for essentials. These restrictions are to ensure that shopping is an ‘in and out’ process, and the flow of traffic is controlled. 

 The market encourages the use of cashless methods; however, they will be allowing cash depending on the vendors’ choice. They are also allowing vendors to operate their stands as a pick-up point or a hybrid situation for pre-orders and immediate sales. Most importantly, they are following all of the recommendations that have been provided by the Middlesex-London Health Unit and are monitoring the situation carefully.

A great aspect of this market is the accessibility to those who bike in the city. It offers a central location with secure bike parking. Even though the Covent Garden’s Outdoor Farmers’ Market is not currently a place of social gathering, you can make the most of an essential trip by getting some fresh air!

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Farmers’ Markets Provide a Welcome Option for Fresh Local Food!

Farmers’ markets in London and Middlesex County are open for business! While we mostly stay at home and practice physical distancing, many of us still regard an outing to gather groceries an essential trip. Grocery stores are also doing their best to keep their spaces safe, but we know that crowds and lineups have occasionally developed. Luckily, more food outlet options are on the horizon! Farmers’ markets in the Middlesex-London community are open for business. When you go to a farmers’ market, not only will you have access to many of your grocery store necessities, but you will also be able to bring home the freshest restaurant-quality ingredients. 

A farmers’ market offers a different experience from a grocery store. Even at a careful distance, you get to recognize growers and build relationships with them while learning about the origins of your food. In many instances, you get to stay outside in the fresh air that we’re all craving, with enough space to feel secure. When you purchase at a farmers’ market, you support your local economy and help reduce carbon emissions from the hauling of food. Finally, by shopping close to home, you reduce the crowding of public spaces in the grocery stores and elsewhere.

To make sure that shoppers and vendors are as safe as possible, Farmers’ Market Ontario has released public safety protocols for farmer markets so that you feel confident in your shopping choices! There are two options that farmer markets can follow.

Option 1: Protocols for the multi-vendor, multi-stand market (for food sales only)

Market managers must first ensure their landlord approves of the reopening. They will then contact their local public health unit and present their health and safety plans for reopening. The FMO COVID-19 Fact/Info Sheet is then given to vendors and shoppers, while records of all active vendors/volunteers are recorded daily. When walking into the market, hand sanitization for vendors and shoppers are required and continuously restocked. Though it’s not required, The Western Fair Market even does active screening of every shopper when they arrive and turns away anyone who does not pass. Vendors must also wash their hands and sanitize their stations regularly. Each vendor must be adequately spaced so that circulation can be monitored. Unlike regular operations, shoppers will not be able to sample food or use reusable containers. All of these regulations will be put in place alongside the maintenance of social distancing (2 meters apart).

Option 2: Protocols for E-Commerce/E-Market protocols

This model is for markets that plan to operate an e-commerce model with a drive/walk-through pickup for pre-ordered and prepaid food. Similar to the previous model, market managers must also ensure their landlord approves of the reopening while contacting their local public health unit. The market must provide the local health unit with a plan displaying traffic circulation, and a delivery plan which includes physical distancing measures. This model also highlights the importance of hand sanitization. Before starting, vendors and volunteers must be screened for COVID-19, ensuring that they are healthy, and have not travelled outside of Canada recently or have come into contact with someone who has COVID-19. All surfaces where orders have been placed must be continuously cleaned. Each food product will be prepackaged in single-use containers with proper labelling. Finally, all refrigerated and frozen items must be stored at proper temperatures. For more information on these protocols visit: https://www.farmersmarketsontario.com/covid-19-modifying-market-operations/

As farmer markets have been identified as an essential business, the Middlesex-London Health Unit has also posted their recommendations. In terms of setting up, it’s recommended for markets to create a diagram of the layout. When creating this layout they should consider the flow of traffic making shopping an ‘in and out’ process. Social distancing of 2 metres is maintained by reducing the number of vendors and customers purchasing at once. Prior to attending the market, vendors must submit the Market Vendor Form to the Middlesex-London Health Unit. All vendors who show any symptoms of sickness (fever, cough, sore throat, etc.) will not be able to attend the market. It is encouraged that payment is done through cashless methods. Payment devices and high-touch surfaces will be disinfected multiple times a day. Similar to the regulations we see from the government of Ontario, sanitation resources must be provided for customers and vendors. The health unit also prohibits the use of customer-supplied containers and food sampling while limiting customers’ contact with food. Markets can also consider taking orders before opening and offering pick-up service. In addition, the health unit advises markets to consider prepackaging food and having only vendors handle products. For more information on these recommendations visit: https://www.healthunit.com/covid-19-resources-workplaces#Setting-Specific-Guidance

You may still need to visit a grocery store now and again, especially one in your own neighbourhood. But with the abundance of farmers’ markets in the Middlesex-London area, there’s plenty of room to shop and support our local economy!

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