On a recent weekend, my kids pondered bagel flavors at the Plymouth Pond Farm & Bakery stand at the Orono Farmers Market. The bagels would be breakfast for the next few days.
We wandered to the Tangled Oak Farm stand, where my daughter selected steak tips for an upcoming dinner. At Fuzzy Udder Creamery, we found a ball of fresh mozzarella too.
A single trip to the farmers market can practically yield everything my little family needs for a week’s worth of meals, save the grains that I’ll serve with them — something that wasn’t possible at the markets we went to back in Connecticut. We have choices too — a kaleidoscope of farm stands that sell everything from seafood and meat to fresh vegetables and dairy products. Want local baked goods? They’re there too.
But for some families, accessing the plethora of fresh, healthy, local food available at farmers markets isn’t so simple. Across the nation, and here in Maine, there are families that struggle with food security and as a result don’t feel they can afford to shop at farmers markets when supermarkets offer cheaper alternatives. Though local, healthy food is plentiful, that’s a footnote to life when money is tight.
That’s why it’s important that farmers markets throughout Maine accept SNAP benefits, and some even offer matching funds programs, which extend how much food can be bought there with benefits. Markets accepting SNAP benefits have improved food accessibility for low-income families across the state.
This year more than 30 markets are accepting the benefits, according to the Maine Federation of Farmers Markets. While Orono isn’t among the markets accepting the benefits this year, the Bangor Farmers Market on Sundays and Brewer Farmers Market are among the many that do.
That’s a good thing.
The ability to access fresh, healthy, local foods isn’t a given. That’s why programs like farmers markets accepting SNAP benefits, and the Summer Food Service Program, which offers free, nutritious lunches to kids during the summer months, provided by Good Shepard Food Bank in Bangor and Brewer are important.
For some, it’s essential.
This fried rice? It’s an easy way to use the veggies currently in season here in Maine and available at the farmers market. Combining parsnips, radishes, spinach and shallots with rice, sesame oil and a few other things, this recipe creates a hearty dish that’s filling and inexpensive to make.
I love to serve it topped with poached eggs, also available at the farmers market, which give it protein, making this a well-rounded meal.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 shallots, peeled and rough chopped
- 2 parsnips, small diced (about ¼-inch)
- 1 bunch radishes, small diced (about ¼-inch)
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
- 3-4 cups chopped fresh spinach
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 cup dry rice, prepared
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- salt and pepper, to taste
- In a large skillet or wok, heat the olive oil. Add the shallots, parsnips and radishes. Cook, stirring frequently, until golden and softened, about 8-10 minutes.
- Add the garlic to the skillet and stir to combine. Add the spinach and toss well. Cook until just wilted, about 4-5 minutes.
- Push the veggies to one side of the skillet, leaving half of the skillet exposed. Add the sesame oil to the exposed part of the skillet and top with the rice. Stir continuously until the sesame oil is evenly distributed through the rice. Then, stir together with the vegetable mixture. Continue cooking for 2-3 minutes.
- Remove the skillet from the burner and pour in the soy sauce. Toss well to combine. Taste, and season with salt, pepper and additional soy sauce to desired flavor.
- If desired, this can be served with a poached or fried egg on top.