When was the last time you went to a farmers market? For some people, the produce mecca is a part of their weekly shopping routine. But depending on where you live, you might not be able to access a farmers market year-round. As a New York City resident, I'm lucky to be able to visit them 12 months a year. And, while my purchases obviously vary by what fruits and vegetables are in season, I do seek out one staple: Pickles. Kosher, dill or horseradish, these are my favorite farmers market items – hands down. Sometimes when I have a snack attack, nothing can satisfy me quite like a pickle. Wondering if I was a lone pickle lover, I decided to ask my nutritionist pals what their must-haves are in a farmers market at this time of year. Here's what they said
"I am drawn to fresh basil, as its fragrant, sweet flavor can freshen up any dish from sliced tomatoes to tomato sauce out of a jar. It's like adding perfume to your foods. On a nutrition note, it will add calcium and potassium to your dish – two nutrients many Americans don't consume enough of. Basil can also displace the need to season your foods with salt, a substance many Americans are consuming too much on daily basis. Basil is a culinary and nutrition must."
– Joan Salge Blake, registered dietitian nutritionist, clinical associate professor at Boston University and contributor to the U.S. News Eat+Run blog
"My favorite items to purchase are fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes, local cheese and honey, and fresh cut flowers. Often, the tomatoes, cheese and honey, combined with a loaf of fresh bread, becomes a light lunch or dinner or an easy appetizer. Fresh flowers add that visual-sensory element to the table or tray and help frame the food beautifully. The presentation of the cheese, honey, bread and tomatoes can be simple and elegant and still create a hearty, healthy meal."
– Robin Plotkin, registered dietitian and culinary nutritionist
"Whenever I see them at my local farmers market, I snap up some husk cherries. They are pale yellow-orange fruits the size of a cherry tomato, but they have papery husks like tomatillos. They are sweet and plump and make for a fun snack or different addition to a veggie platter for dipping."
– Ellie Krieger, registered dietitian and host of the new public television series "Ellie's Real Good Food"
"I just picked up gorgeous purple flowering chives at my neighborhood farmers market. I go nuts over any plant with edible flowers! They look too pretty to eat, but the best part is that they add beauty to your plate and are even more enjoyable to eat than to just stare at!"
– Jackie Newgent, culinary nutritionist and author of "The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook"
"I have given up on the notion that I will find a ripe peach at the grocery store, so I patiently await their arrival at the farmers market every year. In my opinion, a ripe juicy peach screams summer. I welcome the mess as the juices cover my hands. If they make it home, I love grilling and roasting peaches as part of a savory dish or naturally sweet dessert."
– Katie Cavuto, registered dietitian, chef, blogger at Nourish.Breathe.Thrive and contributor to the U.S. News Eat+Run blog
"There's nothing like fresh corn on the cob in summer! As an important part of our family's Sunday barbecues, we love to keep them in the husk and just throw them on the grill. Since they are delish whether served hot or cold, we always grill extra servings to make the most of leftovers by adding crunchy kernels to salads or nestling them in other veggie dishes later in the week."
– Bonnie Taub-Dix, registered dietitian nutritionist, founder of Better than Dieting, author of "Read It Before You Eat It" and contributor to the U.S. News Eat+Run blog
7. Heirloom Tomatoes
"It may not be the most creative, but my favorite thing to buy at my local farmers market has got to be heirloom tomatoes. There is something about a juicy summer tomato that makes you appreciate summer and farm-fresh food. Tomatoes can be used in sauces and jams, eaten as as snacks (with a sprinkle of sea salt) or enjoyed in a 'deconstructed omelet' by layering them with slices of avocado, mozzarella and fried eggs."
– Stephanie Middleberg, registered dietitian and founder of Middleberg Nutrition, a health and wellness practice in New York City
"I'm on a kale kick right now, so that's what I always buy at my local farmers market in Lexington, Massachusetts. My favorite way to prepare it is to simply remove the leaves from the stems, rip them into small pieces and then saute them in extra virgin olive oil with sliced green onions. It's simple, fresh and packed with vitamin K, which is good for bone health."
– Liz Weiss, registered dietitian nutritionist, writer at the family food blog Meal Makeover Moms' Kitchen and co-host of "Cooking with the Moms" radio
9. Oil and Vinegar
"I love buying olive oil and vinegar from our favorite farmers market. Unique flavor pairings, such as lavender vinegar and lemon olive oil, bring the fabulous to the field and the fork."
– Leslie Bonci, registered dietitian, owner of Active Eating Advice by Leslie and contributor to the U.S. News Eat+Run blog
"I'm all about the rhubarb this time of year. Its tart flavor pairs well with other naturally sweet fruits like strawberries, blackberries and cherries. I use it in healthy fruit crisps or make a rhubarb compote and add it to oatmeal."
– Alissa Rumsey, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
11. Veggie Burgers
"My farmers market has the best hand-made veggie burgers made from kale, other veggies and beans. They are perfect on the grill at a summery backyard barbecue."
– Dawn Jackson Blatner, registered dietitian nutritionist and author of "The SuperFood Swap"
"Since I'm a vegetable and herb gardener, I look for things I don't grow myself when I'm at a farmers market. Locally, I'm drawn to the amazing array of squash varieties, like pattypan and round zucchini. When I'm driving to our vacation home in Vermont, I always stop along the highway to buy maple syrup and New York state apples."
– Robyn Flipse, registered dietitian nutritionist, cultural anthropologist, owner of Nutrition Communication Services and author of "The Wedding Dress Diet" and "Fighting the Freshman Fifteen"
Source 2016 U.S. News & World Report