Your local fruit market is probably much closer to you than you think. As Americans become more and more health-conscious, local farmer's markets are booming. The shift to more natural ingredients and organic meat and produce is increasing at a rapid pace. More people are trying to balance a better diet, reducing their intake of processed foods, and adding more fruits and vegetables.
Fruit Market: A Growing Part of Local Farmer's Markets
We continue to learn more about pesticides, additives, chemicals, and the other icky stuff contained in processed foodstuffs. More and more people will be making the shift toward organic foods and an overall healthier diet. With that shift, we will see an increase in the number of farmer's markets. Supply and demand is the rule of our economic system. As demand rises, the supply stream will steadily increase until the market can provide what buyers desire.
The search for good, organic, locally grown produce starts at the nearest farmer's market. Many markets now include a separate space designated as a fruit market. These new sections contain the best of the best in local fruit, organic fruit, and even hard to find exotic or specialty fruit.
Do fruit markets really exist?
Yes. But searching for a fruit market can prove to be difficult unless you know where to start. The starting point to finding a good fruit market is to locate a good local farmer's market. Amazon even provides fresh fruit and produce delivery service for specific zip codes.
As the desire for fruit increases designated sections of farmer's markets will continue to grow. More and more space will be dedicated to providing the types of fruit that people want.
How to find a farmer's market near you
We used to let our fingers do the walking through an archaic soft-bound book called The Yellow Pages. Now we ask Alexa or Siri or OK Google for the nearest fruit market. The magic of technology gives us immediate access to a list of local markets specializing in any number of products from the nearest plumber to the nearest Starbuck's.
If you don't have the magic of voice-activated search tools at your disposal, you can still easily find local fruit markets and farm markets near you using the internet. A simple search on Google, Bing, Yahoo, or any other search engine will net you a listing of markets in your local area. Some websites are designed to assist you in your search also.
Local Farm Markets has a state-by-state search tool (you have to scroll down a bit to find it). Find and click on your state, then follow prompts to isolate the region, then scroll down the list to locate your local market. Each listing contains information about the market, their location, what types of payment they accept, and how they obtain their produce. The listings also include a couple of places outside the United States, just in case you're planning on traveling.
Additional location tools are available at Eat Well Guide, which lists local sources of sustainable foods, including farmers markets. Local Harvest maintains a listing of local markets sorted by locality using a point-and-click interface.
The USDA provides the service allowing a zip code search to help you locate farm and fruit markets in your local vicinity.
So if you don't have a digital assistant within earshot, you can still let your fingers do the walking. The medium has just upgraded from tissue-thin paper to the gentle tappy-tappy of the keyboard.
Organic Fruit Market
Organic fruit markets often remain hidden within the local farmer's market. The increasing demand for organic fruit is creating a trend toward greater availability. Almost every grocery store now has sections dedicated to organic foods of every type from apples to zucchini. There are organic loaves of bread, meats, vegetables, snacks, and fruit.
Why bother with organic fruit?
There is no doubt that organic food products cost more than standard processed food. So why bother buying organic when you can purchase regular foods and save that money to buy an Alexa?
When fruit has an organic label it means:
So, the payoff for buying organic means safer food for your family. The less human-made "discoveries" we pollute our food with, the healthier that food is to consume.
When you have a nice car, you pay extra for premium fuel. So it really makes sense to pay more for the premium fuel that keeps your body and mind running smoothly and efficiently.
Understanding what organic labels mean
If the whole concept of buying organic foods is new, there are a few things about current labeling that you should learn before heading out to the local organic fruit market. Just because a product says "All Natural" doesn't mean it is. Labels can be confusing as suppliers vie for your business.
The most honest labeling for organic food is "100% Organic." If you see that label on a product, it means that it must have all organic ingredients. Don't be fooled by a label simply stating "Organic," because that allows for five percent non-organic ingredients. Likewise, "Made with Organic Ingredients" means that a product is only required to contain 70 percent organic ingredients. The other 30 percent can come from a list supplied by the USDA of acceptable components.
“Natural” or “All Natural” is perhaps the most deceptive of labeling. This is a designation placed on food items by a manufacturer or producer, with no verification of validity. The USDA definition of "natural" means that a product contains no artificial coloring or flavoring, no synthetic ingredients, and no chemical preservatives. Unfortunately, that official definition only applies to poultry and meat products.
While we're discussing meats, the terms “Free-range” or “Free-roaming” can also be misleading. It does not mean that an animal spends carefree days out in an open pasture. It merely means that outside access is available to an animal for a portion of the day. There are no specifications on the length of time the animals are permitted to roam freely.
The long and short of it? The only label you can trust for organic products of any kind is the "100% Organic" label.
Apples, Bananas, and Prickly Pear?
We all grew up with the common fruits -- apples, oranges, grapes, bananas, lemons, and limes. Unless you lived in the Southwest, you probably never heard of a prickly pear. Being raised in the Midwest, I had no clue until well into adulthood that cactus even produced fruit.
Exotic and unusual fruits and their benefits
Durian, a large, spiky fruit, is said to taste somewhat like "garlic pudding." While probably not the most appealing to an Americanized palate (it stinks so much that Singapore's mass transit system has banned it), it is a mainstay in Asian cultures. You can find it whole or frozen at many Asian grocers. Durian boasts a long list of beneficial boosts to our physical health. It helps alleviate anemia, lowers blood pressure, protects against heart diseases, strengthens immune system health, promotes stronger bones, and will even improve your digestion. Most of the benefits of Durian are a result of the tremendously high vitamin and mineral content.
Dragon fruit (which I thought they just invented for the game Fruit Ninja) is native to Mexico. It currently grows in Latin America and Asia. The bright red and green cactus fruit hides a white, seedy interior that looks like an explosion of vanilla bean ice cream, heavy on the bean. The kiwi-like texture has a mild, nondescript flavor.
Jackfruit, another Asian staple, is gaining popularity in the United States as a vegan meat substitute. When cooked, the "meat" of the fruit shreds like a pulled pork roast and it takes on the flavor of the other ingredients. It is sold fresh, whole, or sliced. Healthwise, it may be a superfruit. Jackfruit is high in vitamin B, potassium, and protein. It is low-carb and only has around 95 calories in a half-cup serving.
Add these additional exotic fruits to your shopping list
While we don't have room here to cover all the exotic fruits that are available, we can leave you with a list of some that you should consider:
- Tamarillo (also known as tree tomato)
- Korean melon
- Sour plums (aka green unripened regular plums picked early)
- Physalis (aka golden berries)
- Mulberries (yes, we have those in the US on huge, messy trees)
- ChomChom (aka Rambutan)
- Kiwano (aka horned melon)
- Water apple (aka Thai wax apple, bell fruit, and rose apple)
- Feijoa (aka pineapple guava)
- Prickly pear
Adding Fruit to Your Diet
If you were raised eating a lot of fruit, then broadening your palate and adding new tastes is generally not a problem. But if you were in a family that didn't eat a lot of fruit, things could be entirely different. In my family, the only fruits known to us growing up were apples and oranges. There were two kinds of apples -- red and green. And nothing but Sunkist oranges.
In the Navy I discovered bananas. And more than two kinds of apples. Grapes, cherries, pineapples, and dehydrated fruits. And so many different fruits I never knew existed. A fantastic new world of new taste sensations and textures opened a secret portal to palate-pleasing goodness. I learned to never say "No" to trying something new and different.
Fruit allergies and what to watch for
When adding anything new to your diet, there is always the possibility that you will stumble onto something that causes an allergic reaction. While it can be a scary experience if it is a severe reaction, many people miss the subtle signs of mild allergic reactions.
For a severe allergic reaction, call 911 immediately. Some severe reactions can include:
- The feeling that your throat is getting tight
- Your tongue suddenly seems to grow eight sizes
- Difficulty breathing
- Sudden rash, hives, and/or itching
- Vomiting and stomach pain
These are called anaphylactic responses, and they are dangerous if not treated quickly.
Less frightening, but still concerning are the signs of mild allergic reaction or hypersensitivity to a new fruit. Some of those symptoms may include:
- An itchy mouth
- Mild itching or slowly developing hives or rash
- Itchy, runny nose, possibly with sneezing
- Mild stomach discomfort or nausea
Mild allergic reactions will generally go away on their own. Over-the-counter medications such as Benadryl and Zyrtec can lessen the symptoms in many instances.
Even with a mild reaction, or suspected reaction, you should seek medical advice. Your doctor can perform testing to narrow down the specific allergin so you can avoid it in the future. So, if you suspect that you have had an allergic reaction to a new fruit, please check with your medical professional.
Add fruit with a tasty smoothie
Now for the fun stuff. Smoothies are a fun, delicious, and easy way to introduce fruit to your diet. All you need is a blender, fresh or frozen fruit, and a few other ingredients.
Simple banana smoothie recipe
This simple recipe takes about ten minutes to prepare. Chances are you already have most of the ingredients in your kitchen. The fruit (banana and chopped fruit) can also be any other types of fruit, which makes this a very versatile base recipe. The addition of optional wheat germ adds a healthier twist.
- 1/2 cup any flavor yogurt
- 1/2 cup fresh or frozen chopped fruit
- (Optional) 1/2 cup ice cubes
- 1/2 cup milk or juice
- 1 banana
- (Optional) 1 teaspoon of wheat germ
- (Optional) 1/2 cup ice cubes
Toss it in your blender and blend until smooth. How easy is that? Using frozen fruit and adding the ice cubes will offer a cool, refreshing, slushy-type drink. For a creamier drink, you can add up to a full cup of yogurt.
Other optional ingredients you can add are honey (1 tablespoon), 1-2 teaspoons of your preferred sweetener, and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. Adding optional ingredients, or changing the type of fruit mix that you use can change the taste. Don't be afraid to experiment a bit. You might make something totally icky, but you'll know what not to mix the next time won't you? Head out to the local fruit market and have a smoothie this afternoon.
Picking the Right Fruit
Organic fruit is the way to go, but the cost could make it prohibitive. Find a local fruit market, or explore your local farmers market to see what they offer. Check out the specialty aisle at your local supermarket. Take a Sunday drive and stop at a roadside fruit and vegetable stand.
Don't be afraid to try new fruits, but be aware of how your body reacts to them. It is best to introduce only one or two new food items at a time to isolate potential problems should they arise. This goes for all new foods, even if they're not fruits.
All fruit is good fruit so if you can't go organic buy regular fruit and wash it thoroughly. If you can't afford organic fruit or it is not available in your local area, you can still add fruit to your diet. Head off to the fruit market and get healthy!