The benefits of eating fresh, locally grown produce are many. No matter whether you get it from a farmer”s market, a produce stand, a farm-to-table restaurant or your own backyard, you can bet it”s going to be bursting with nutrients and filled with flavor. And right now is the time to get a bounty of fresh food.
“There are countless reasons to buy and eat local produce,” said Timothy Daly, Gwinnett County Extension Agent with the University of Georgia. “But one big reason? It just tastes better in my opinion.”
When grown locally, fruits and vegetables are picked at peak ripeness. In contrast, produce that gets shipped long distances is typically harvested early so that it remains “fresh” upon arrival at stores.
Georgia gardeners will find a wealth of opportunities for growing crops this time of year. Late spring and early summer is the prime time for sowing everything from cucumbers and tomatoes to peppers, pumpkins, and watermelons.
Aligning your eating habits with the seasons is easiest when you”ve got seasonal fruits and veggies springing up from the very earth around your abode.
“Growing food in your backyard is an educational experience for the whole family, and it fills you with pride to be able to do it successfully,” Daly said.
Daly added that with the last frost long gone, it”s a good time to plant tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, beans, field peas, okra, corn, and all kinds of peppers.
For specific dates on each crop, visit the University of Georgia”s Cooperative Extension. You”ll find a handy vegetable planning chart on the site as well as other helpful tips and lists to assist you.
Farmers markets are the perfect place to find what”s in season. Gwinnett County residents are lucky, because nearly every city has a designated farmers market.
Suwanee Events Manager Amy Doherty says the market in Suwanee has “a loyal group of farmers and other vendors as well as a lot of regular customers. The market has really become not only a great place to find fresh, delicious items, but also a place for old friends to gather.”
Braselton Town Manager Jennifer Dees said the farmers market offers patrons a “unique opportunity to get to know local farmers and enjoy shopping in their hometown or close to work.”
Lawrenceville Market Manager Hazel Barrett said it”s just a “great chance to come get some reasonably priced, delicious food.”
Daly said no matter which city you live in, it”s definitely worth your time. “You really should consider visiting the farmers market, especially if you”ve never been. It”s a great thing to do with many positive benefits.”
Several local farmers markets and their hours are as follows:
Parsons Alley Farmers Market,
from 4pm-8pm in Parsons Alley
153 E. Crogan St.: Every Saturday,
June 7 – Sept. 6, 8 a.m. to noon
Town Center Park: Saturdays, through Oct. 5 (except 9/21),
8 a.m. to noon; Tuesdays, through Aug. 6, 4 to 7 p.m.
Harrison Street: Fridays, through Oct. 10; 4 to 7 p.m.
Grayson Community Park
Wednesdays year round, 4 to 8 p.m.
Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church Friday
June 6-Aug. 29, 4 to 8 p.m.
Thrasher Park, Tuesdays, 4 to 8 p.m.
in front of city hall, Saturday
June through September, 8 a.m. to noon
Whether sitting down to a post-harvest meal in your kitchen or dining out at a farm-to-table restaurant that offers local fare, you”ll likely agree that nothing else tastes quite so good.
Other options include visiting locations like Washington Farms in Loganville which let patrons pick fresh strawberries from their fields.
You”ll find restaurants in and around Gwinnett County that embrace the principles of sustainability with locally sourced ingredients. For instance, 1910 Public House in Lilburn uses dishes inspired by what”s available locally with a nod to southern cuisine. Other similar farm-to-table eateries include Graft in Grayson, The Georgia Pine in Lawrenceville, and Local Republic in downtown Lawrenceville.
In the words of Gwinnett”s extension agent: “Eating locally grown food just makes sense. It”s good for you, and it”s good for the community.”