October is a wonderful month to visit the farmers market. Just when you think things are slowing down and harvests are coming to an end, Mother Nature starts showing off. With an array of apples, winter squashes, and pumpkins, it’s an excellent weekend activity with the family. Here are a few ways to make the farmers market both fun and educational for the entire family.
Sample and taste. The farmers market is a great place for kids to familiarize themselves with different kinds of fruits and vegetables—and even sample them! Most farmers are willing to share a taste if you ask. Encourage kids to pick things up and see how they feel. The farmers market is much more relaxed than the grocery store and touching the produce is not frowned upon. Vegetables become more interesting when you can pick them up and hold them. Is it heavy? Is the surface rough or smooth? Can you eat the whole thing or do you have to peel it? The learning opportunities are endless!
Variety is the spice of life. Use the farmers market to your advantage by getting one of everything! Can’t decide what kind of apples to buy? Get four or five different kinds and then have a taste testing party later on. Explore the difference between sweet and tart. Which one is the juiciest? Make up a ballot and have your kids vote for their favorite in each category. This can be done with a variety of items such as pears, peaches, potatoes, onions, mushrooms, and peppers. When kids get to choose which one they like best, the yellow peach or the white peach for instance, it’s easier to get them to try new foods.
Try something new. Pick a new fruit or vegetable to try. Ask the farmer what it tastes like. How does it grow? Does it come from a tree or a plant, or the ground? How is it prepared? What other fruits or veggies go well with it? The farmer may even have recipe recommendations. Make it a game, an adventure, or an exploration! Only get one or just enough so that the whole family can have a sample. Then, back in the kitchen, you can cut and prepare it together. Kids are much more willing to try new things if they have helped to pick it out and prepare it. Discovering new food is fun!
Play with your food. The farmers market is the perfect place to teach kids how produce is sold and practice math skills too. Give each child an age appropriate amount, for example $2 for little ones for one or two pieces of fruit and perhaps $5 to $10 for older kids to get enough for the whole family. Let them read signs and figure out how much each item costs. Have them watch as the item is weighed and help them figure out if they can get more or need to put some back. These real life skills will take them far and help them understand the cost of food.
Everyone’s doing it. On Friday, October 24, you can help set a world record at The Big Apple Crunch, a citywide event promoting healthier eating. The main event takes place at noon at the Union Square Farmer’s Market, but you can participate at any of GrowNYC’s Greenmarkets or Youthmarkets, or even host your own event! Find out more at bigapplecrunch.org.
Bonus Tip! Go as early as possible. There will be less crowds and the farmers are fresh and ready to talk. Plus, even though there’s lots of food, going to the market at lunch time is not the best idea. The crowds are more dense and everyone is way too hungry before lunch to make it fun. By going early in the morning, everyone has just had breakfast, so you can nibble and enjoy samples, but not feel too rushed.