Shopping Farmers’ Markets Like a Pro: Exploring Star Shaped Delights and Exotic Twists

The Fourth of July holiday is over, and the hottest month of the year is just starting. July is often “go-go-go” with days spent on the river, weddings, kids’ sports, and more. Grocery shopping might be a pain, but sneaking off to the farmers’ market can be a mini getaway to slow down and enjoy nature’s gift of food. This week, take a leisurely stroll through the market to find okra and eggplant. 

Okra

Okra 

Okra is a fruit that’s typically eaten as a vegetable. It’s also called “Lady’s Fingers.”  You may have only seen it in gumbo, stews, or fried, but okra is versatile. It can be prepared in many dishes in a variety of ways. 

Nutrition Facts 

  • Okra is a great source of antioxidants which help your immune system, heart, and brain health, like many other fruits and vegetables 
  • Okra has been shown to decrease sugar absorption, aiding in balancing blood sugar 
  • Okra is a good source of folate that supports a healthy pregnancy   
  • Okra can help manage cholesterol levels with its gel-like substance, mucilage  

Storage 

  • In the refrigerator, store in a paper bag or wrapped loosely in plastic for up to 4 days 
  • In the freezer, store in a freezer bag; wash first, then *blanch in boiling water for a few minutes, followed by a dunk in an ice bath; then allow to dry before putting it in the storage bag 

What To Do With Okra 

Okra is versatile and can be pickled, grilled, deep-fried, or added to soups and stews. In the heat of July, soup or stew is probably not at the top of your list.  In the summer, there’s nothing like a refreshing, chilled salad to add to your picnic. Here’s what you’ll need: 

  • 12 to 15 okras 
  • Salt 
  • Sesame seeds 
  • Soy sauce 
  • Dried bonito flakes (optional)** 

Directions 

  • Wash okra, dry, then sprinkle with salt  
  • Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan 
  • Blanch* okra in the boiling water for 2 to 4 minutes, no need to rinse off the salt 
  • Drain okra and place in an ice bath for a few minutes to quickly stop if from cooking  
  • Remove the stem and cut okra into small circular pieces, like a cucumber 
  • Chill in the refrigerator then serve topped with sesame seeds and a side of soy sauce and optional bonito flakes 

*Blanching means briefly immersing an item of food in boiling water, especially as a technique for removing the skin from nuts or fruit or for preparing vegetables for further cooking or preparing 

** Bonito flakes, also called katsuobushi, can be described as mildly salty, smoky, slightly fishy, and deeply umami—a meaty, savory flavor. Because of the smokiness, it is almost like a cross between dried fish and dried bacon, 

Grilled eggplant with feta cheese

Eggplant 

Eggplant is a glossy, often purple, teardrop-shaped vegetable that comes in many colors and shapes. Dig a little deeper at the farmers’ market and you may find oval, long and slim, and melon-shaped eggplants with white, green, pink, orange, and even striped skin. Eggplant has a rich, meaty inside that has a creamy consistency when you cook it. The hearty texture makes it a good stand-in for meat. 

The eggplant is a nightshade vegetable, like potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers. It originally comes from India and Asia where it still grows wild. Eggplant has been used in traditional medicine for years including aiding in the treatment of diabetes and relief of asthma. 

Nutrition Facts 

  • Eggplant is rich in potassium, an important mineral for fluid balance in the body 
  • Eggplant is a good source of fiber that supports blood sugar balance, gut health, and cholesterol levels 
  • Eggplant is also a good source of folate, vitamins A, C, and K, and magnesium 

Storage 

An uncut eggplant can be stored at cooler room temperatures, out of direct sunlight, or in the refrigerator. Good airflow will keep it fresh on the counter for about four days. In the refrigerator, wrap your eggplant loosely in a paper towel or unsealed plastic. 

What To Do With Eggplant 

Eggplant can be prepared in many ways from pastas, in traditional dishes, or as eggplant parmesan. Be adventurous and try adding it as a side to your burger night with this recipe for eggplant fries.  

Ingredients 

  • 1 eggplant  
  • 1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs 
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese 
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder 
  • 1 tsp sea salt 
  • 2 eggs 
  • ½ cup milk 

Directions  

  • Wash eggplant and cut into ½ inch circles, then cut the circles into strips about ½ in wide 
  • Mix the eggs and milk (an egg wash) in one bowl, and mix the breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese in another dish 
  • Dip each slice into the egg wash, then dip in breadcrumb mixture until coated 
  • Place fries in a single layer in your air fryer or on a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet, and spray with olive oil or avocado oil 
  • Air fry at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes, or  
  • Bake for about 15 minutes at 425 degrees in a conventional oven 
  • Flip halfway through the baking time 
  • Sprinkle with sea salt and serve with a sauce of your choosing  
  • Enjoy! 

 



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