With spring right around the corner, there’s no better time to begin using fresh ingredients in your meals, whether they are locally-sourced or homegrown. Not only will these ingredients and produce have a greater taste, but they also will provide numerous benefits, ranging from supporting local farmers to helping you by constituting a cleaner and more natural alternative to store-bought foods.
Living in Arkansas, we have the widest range of crops grown within the United States. What better way to start your spring than by supporting your local farmers and farmer’s markets? The 2023 season for the Downtown Benton farmer’s market runs through the first Saturday in April to the last Saturday in October, and hosts a wide array of produce, along with other goods made and provided by Saline County locals, and possibly some locals from adjacent counties. Another local farmer’s market is the Front Porch Market located off Salem Road, open every Friday and Saturday, from 10 to 4:30. They work with local farmers to put out their fresh produce year-round.
Outside of farmer’s markets, several stores and restaurants focus on different types of produce and foods that are locally owned and sourced: Baja Grill in Downtown Benton sources all its meat products from local Arkansas farms, along with Blue Heaven, which sources locally grown produce and meat when available.
When growing your own ingredients, you have complete control over the quality of food you produce and consume. Growing various herbs, fruits, vegetables and other ingredients—or getting them from your local community—ensures they are both fresh and free of pesticides and other chemicals. Fresh produce makes for delicious and nutritious meals, providing you with a fun and rewarding experience as you grow them yourself or make trips to the local farmer’s market, gaining more appreciation and nutrients in the food you consume in the process.
It may take some time and research, but growing your own ingredients will prove much more rewarding than making those dreaded grocery store trips and purchasing products that lack the same health benefits. Start with an herb garden or begin growing some fruits and vegetables as spring brings warmer temperatures and a thriving environment for plants and produce.
Seeing your ingredients grow from seed to harvest and using them in your family meals afterward will not only provide you with great satisfaction and pride, but also guarantee you are eating the healthiest, cleanest, and most natural foods.
Some other great benefits of shopping locally, or even pivoting to growing some of your own ingredients, is saving money and helping to build a more sustainable community. Instead of taking a trip to an overwhelming supercenter, you can buy exactly what you need in a more natural environment, and straight from the source. And consider that when you shop at your standard supermarket, you have little choice over how much is in each package, and if you’re not able to use it all, it goes bad.
With local markets, you get exactly what you need for your specific household. Taking the time to give back to your community and those within it is good for your wallet, but also great for your soul. This is a great eco-friendly, cost-efficient, and practical process that will benefit everyone involved.
Cooking with local and/or homegrown ingredients creates healthier and more flavorful meals all while allowing you to support local farmers and markets and connect with your community. This is a simple and powerful way to make a positive impact on your health, local community and even the planet, so why not give it a try this year?
Herbed Yogurt Dip & Roasted Veggies
Herbed Yogurt Dip:
– 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
– 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
– 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
– 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
– 2 cloves garlic, grated
– Zest of 1 lemon plus juice of ½ lemon
– Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
(You can add any fresh vegetable you want)
– 5 parsnips, cut into sticks
– 3 carrots, cut into sticks
– 2 zucchini, cut into sticks
– 2 red onions, cut into quarters
– ½ cup olive oil
– Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the herbed yogurt dip:
Combine the yogurt, mint, parsley, dill, garlic, lemon zest and juice, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl and mix well; taste to check the seasonings. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
For the roasted veggies:
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.
Arrange the parsnips and carrots on a baking sheet in a single layer. Arrange the zucchini and onions on a second baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle both with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
1. Roast the parsnips and carrots until lightly browned but still firm, about 10 minutes. Roast the zucchini and onions until lightly browned but not soggy, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a zip-top bag and refrigerate until cold.
2. Serve the roasted veggies cold with the herbed yogurt dip.