Chinese Food Therapy at the Farmers Market

I love going to the farmers market! I’ve been to some fabulous farmers markets all over the world including Melbourne, Australia; Florence, Italy; and one in an ancient city center outside of Rouen, France. Here in the United States, I’ve managed to hit some outstanding markets, from Pike’s Place Market in Seattle, to Boulder’s upscale market, and Santa Fe’s market for lovers of all things chili.

Minneapolis Acupuncture ClincWhile I enjoy checking out farmers markets when I travel, I have to admit that the Twin Cities has its share of great markets. Whether you hit the big one in Minneapolis, the Mill City farmers market, or a small market in your community, the bounty found at these gatherings offer some of the best produce grown in the area.

Why write about farmers markets in a blog about Chinese medicine? The answer is simple: Farmers markets promote good health in ways that align with Chinese medicine. Here are some examples:

-When you shop at a farmers market, you are eating produce that’s in season. That’s a good thing according to Chinese food therapy, because each season’s foods impact your health in different ways. For example, the early shoots and greens of spring are good for the health of your liver—almost like a spring tonic. During the summer, the produce in season is cooling and moistening to help you hydrate and deal with the heat. And in the fall, the heavier squashes, root vegetables, and legumes are important nutritionally as you prepare to hunker down for the winter months.

-Produce at the farmers market is local. That means it’s more flavorful because there is a shorter time between harvest and your table.

-Your produce is cleaner in general. In Chinese medicine, one cause of illness is eating food that is “wrecked”. In ancient times that meant food that has spoiled due to a lack of refrigeration. Today, wrecked food is that which has been contaminated through the many steps from harvesting, washing, shipping, and distributing. Wrecked food is also that which has been laced with chemicals. Shopping at the farmers market means that you can keep the chemicals off your plate; much of the produce is grown organically, and frequently you can ask the farmer in person how it was grown.

-In Chinese food therapy, one recommendation is to eat a wide variety of foods. While we live in a mono-crop culture in which huge swaths of land are committed to a single crop (usually corn); at the farmers market, you can find a huge variety of different kinds of produce.

-Finally, much of Chinese medicine is based on metaphors from nature. Our health is tied to the health of the planet and even that of our local farmers’ fields. When we get sick, our symptoms in Chinese medicine are described as bad weather—we can have heat, wind, cold, damp, dryness, and even summer heat. By shopping at the farmers market, you are placing yourself in touch with the goodness of nature, and by patronizing local farmers; you are helping to maintain farmland and green space in your community.

Ready to hit the farmers market, but not sure where to go? Start with here for a list farmers markets in the Twin Cities area and a rundown of what’s open today.

Bought a bunch of green things and don’t know exactly what to do with them? Try a cookbook geared toward fresh produce. I just bought the Gardeners Community Cookbook, but also like Moosewood New Classics. Either one will give you lots of ideas for delicious meals!

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