While it’s true that Oklahomans rank last in line for our consumption of fruits and veggies, it’s not necessarily because of a lack of ability to grow some really good tasting produce throughout our state.
Our shortfalls in getting the recommended five to nine servings per day are more likely related to the eating habits we develop at young ages, a high prevalence of fast food venues, lack of high quality produce availability in some communities, and poverty which stretches income, time and willpower in ways that don’t support healthier choices.
Fortunately in Muskogee, we have a number of locations where fresh produce is readily available, such as the Muskogee Farmers’ Market, Arnold’s Fruit Company, several quality grocers, roadside produce stands, home gardens, plus a growing number of community gardens.
One item that’s now widely available through most of these venues is fresh cantaloupe, also known as muskmelon, for the distinctive fruitful aroma of these ripe melons.
A member of the same plant family as squash, cucumbers and watermelons, cantaloupes come packed with high levels of vitamins A and C. In fact, a 1 cup serving provides the full recommended daily allowances of these two nutrients. Cantaloupe is also a good source of potassium and has a diverse mix of several important anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients.
Besides the fresh cantaloupe, a wide variety of other locally-grown produce is available at the farmers market, including okra, green, red and pink tomatoes, grapes, watermelon, cucumbers, peaches, green and colored bell peppers, cayenne and other hot peppers, yellow squash and zucchini, cabbage, eggplant, red, yellow and white onions, new potatoes, green beans, Brussels sprouts, basil, rosemary, mint and other fresh-cut herbs, radishes, beets, garlic, asian spinach, collards, swiss chard, kale, micro greens and more.
Growers will also have various potted herbs, aloe vera and fresh cut-flower bouquets.
Other food items expected at the market include ready-to-eat lunch and breakfast items such as breakfast burritos, tamales, hot dogs, polish sausages and chicken dogs with grilled veggies, lemonade and other tasty items.
Vendors will also have hand-made candles, soaps, natural body care products, pet treats, jewelry, aprons, handbags and more. Not all produce or other products listed are available on Wednesdays.
On most Wednesdays, from 10:30 a.m. until 1 p.m., OSU Nutrition Educator Michelle Carter-Brown will be at the market fixing simple, affordable and healthy meal and snack ideas with free samples and recipes, featuring items fresh from the market.
SNAP benefits (food stamps) are accepted at the farmers’ market. Customers wishing to purchase eligible foods with their Oklahoma Access card can visit the farmers’ market tent, swipe their card in exchange for tokens, and shop with vendors offering eligible items, which also include food-bearing plants.
And on most Saturdays, B.J. Charbonneau of the Muskogee Swim and Fitness Center will teach free Tai Chi classes near the band-shell and lawn area next to the market at about 10 a.m., weather permitting.
Also on most Wednesdays and Saturdays, Muskogee County Master Gardeners from OSU Extension will be on hand with handy demonstrations and ready to tackle yard and garden questions from anyone needing their help.
The Muskogee Farmers’ Market is open every Wednesday from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. until noon, rain or shine, under the covered parking pavilions downtown in front of the Civic Center.
Makes about 2 cups of salsa
2 cups diced cantaloupe
1/4 cup diced sweet onion (red, or white)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or cilantro
1 fresh hot red or green chile (skip the seeds if you want to dim the heat), minced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Mix everything and eat immediately. Serve with tortilla chips or on fish or chicken.
Reach Doug Walton at (918) 360-2012, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.