There are few things I like more than a farmer’s market or roadside farm stand. My husband knows this well, and when on trips together, he often pulls over when spotting either. I think we need a bumper sticker with a warning, “Caution – This Vehicle Makes Frequent Stops for Veggies”.
My love of fresh fruits and vegetables began in childhood as my father was an avid gardener. Our yard always had rows of vegetables and fruit trees throughout that he cultivated. Asparagus, carrots, mustard greens, snap beans, eggplants, squash, corn, onions, potatoes, and tomatoes are some of the vegetables he planted. Crab apples, pears, plums, pomegranate, and figs were fruit trees that thrived in our Louisiana climate.
Do you enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, too? If so, we are fortunate that Georgia has a long growing season and plenty of options.
Visit a Farmer’s Market
Chances are there is a market near you. If you don’t know of a market nearby, the Georgia Department of Agriculture provides a list by county of Georgia’s Community Farmer Markets that includes locations and hours of operation.
Grow Your Own
Whether you are new to gardening or a seasoned pro, check out the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Senior Community Gardening Manual. It has great tips on how to start and sustain a community garden for those who want to garden with others. It also provides a checklist of things to do in the garden each month that applies to back-yard gardeners too,
including what grows well in the spring and fall in the Atlanta region.
It is always such a pleasure when friends share their garden’s bounty and the foods they have made from it. This season we have delighted in the pickles, salsa, dried herbs, and pepper sauces others have created.
The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension is a valuable resource for gardening enthusiasts. County Agents will answer questions concerning soil tests, native plants, raised beds, USDA Hardiness Zone Maps (state planting zones), and just about anything else gardening related. You can even become a Master Gardener through a Cooperative Extension program that incorporates coursework and volunteer service to provide on the ground learning.
Forage in Nature
Lately, I have been combining my love of exploring nature with limited food foraging. So far, I have collected wild blackberries that grow in my neighborhood and two kinds of mushrooms (chanterelles and chicken of the woods) that I am certain I can identify.
The worst that can happen with foraged blackberries is they taste a little tart if not ripe, but mushroom gathering requires clear-cut knowledge of what is safe to eat or not so proceed with caution. It is important to utilize reputable references, whether through an app or book, on how to identify and gather wild mushrooms.
Did you know that Atlanta has a group that organizes volunteers to forage produce from abandoned urban fruit trees? Concrete Jungle was founded to distribute neglected fruit to families in need. How wonderful is it that you too can join in this effort if you are in the Atlanta area!
Each season brings many options for fresh produce in the area. I hope that you have the opportunity to enjoy nature’s bounty at its best when locally grown. As we say in Louisiana where I grew up – Bon Appetit!