Spring is in full swing and gardens are starting to bloom. Just-picked produce, which has had time to fully ripen on the vine, is always going to be your best bet. It tastes better and is better for you. If you are dubious, try a grocery store tomato compared with one you pick off the vine, on a warm spring day, and you will see the difference.
If you are not a gardener, what are your options for fresh produce for your family? Actually, there are several. Some of the better grocery stores, like Rouses, have a list at the front of the store of all the locally grown produce. Not only will you be getting better quality, you will be supporting the local economy as well, so it’s a win-win situation.
The next option is to visit a local farmers’ market. Just make sure the market you visit is certified. That means what is sold there is grown or made by the seller. Check out the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce’s website to find one near you.
My go-to markets are the Ocean Springs Saturday morning Fresh Market, the Long Beach Market, and the Wednesday market at Jones Park in Gulfport. What you will find there depends on the season, but you can always expect to find Mississippi ground grits (Original Grit Girl), local dairy products, pralines, mushrooms, and much more.
As the season progresses and summer nears, the markets will be bursting with all sorts of produce. If you want to make the most of the fresh markets, visit on a regular basis and get to know the farmers. They will let you know what is best and freshest.
Once you have scored a basket full of fresh produce, make sure you use a simple recipe to prepare your veggies. Overly complicated recipes that tend to hide the flavor of fresh-picked, should be avoided, as should overcooking. Use the Italian standard of al dente, meaning there should be a little snap left in them, and you will not only be feeding your family delicious vegetables, but you will all remain healthy and full of nutrients.