Lower prices and optimal freshness are seen as the primary benefits to shopping for produce at farmers' markets. But an American Heart Assn. program hopes to add the health advantage to the list of reasons people shop at these open-air produce stands.
The association has enlisted 10 local farmers' markets to participate in the American Heart's Food Festival through this Saturday. Now in its fourth year, this event is a national education campaign designed to improve public awareness of the relationship between diets high in cholesterol and saturated fat and coronary heart disease, according to the association.
During the festival, more than 12,000 supermarkets, restaurants, school and corporate cafeterias nationwide will offer programs that will teach consumers how to improve their eating habits.
Activities must adhere to the theme, "Trim the fat and cut cholesterol for life." Therefore, some programs teach shoppers how to read food labels, some concentrate on heart-healthy food preparation, while others instruct on how to plan nutritious meals without giving up good taste.
Advantages and Benefits
The farmers' markets will support this theme by providing information on the healthful advantages of purchasing fresh produce and the benefits of adding fresh fruits and vegetables to the daily menu.
In addition, tasty recipes for preparing fruits and vegetables will be available in two free brochures in English and Spanish that will be distributed at the 10 open-air markets. An AHA volunteer dietitian also will be present to provide free nutritional counseling to market-goers.
Some of the farmers' markets participating in the festival and their dates and times are:
Today: Redondo Beach, 400 Francisca Ave., west of Pacific Coast Highway, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Friday: Venice, Winward Avenue at Ocean Front Walk, 7 to 11 a.m.
Saturday: Gardena, 1300 Van Ness Ave., south of El Segundo Boulevard, 6:30 a.m. to noon; Pomona, Pearl Street at Garey Avenue, 8 a.m. to noon; San Fernando Valley (Arleta), 14400 Van Nuys Blvd., west of the Golden State Freeway, 7 to 10 a.m.
The following recipes call for fresh produce and are good choices for use in heart-healthy menus.
1 watermelon, about 6 pounds
3/4 cup slivered onion
1/2 cup minced mint leaves
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon chili powder
6 tablespoons olive oil
Slice watermelon into 1-inch thick rounds. Cut rind from flesh and discard. Cut flesh into 1-inch cubes and remove visible seeds. Place cubes in large bowl (should have about 3 quarts). Add onion and mint. Refrigerate, covered, up to 4 hours.
Meanwhile, whisk together vinegar, chili powder and oil. Pour dressing over salad and mix gently. Season to taste with salt. Makes 8 servings.
AVOCADO SEAFOOD SALAD
1 avocado, peeled and halved
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro or basil leaves
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can low sodium chicken broth
6 cups spinach leaves, torn into bite-size pieces
3/4 cup jicama, cut in thin strips
1 large grapefruit or 2 medium oranges, peeled and sectioned
2 cups flaked crab meat
Combine 1/2 avocado, garlic, lemon juice, cilantro and broth in blender container. Blend until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.
Thinly slice remaining avocado. On each of 4 serving plates, arrange layer of spinach, jicama, avocado, grapefruit and crab meat. Spoon dressing over salad and serve. Makes 4 servings.
SARDINE SALAD PROVENCAL
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon tarragon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 cup sliced cucumbers
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 sweet red, yellow or green pepper, cut into strips
1/2 cup pitted black olives
2 cups 1-inch French bread cubes, toasted
2 (3 3/4-ounce) cans sardines, drained
Combine oil, vinegar, garlic, thyme, tarragon, salt and pepper in large bowl. Whisk to blend, then remove garlic clove.
To dressing in bowl, add tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, pepper and olives. Toss well to coat. Line serving platter with toast cubes and top with vegetables and sardines. Pour any remaining dressing over salad. Makes 4 servings.
COOL CRISP CUCUMBER SOUP
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed low sodium cream of mushroom soup
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1/2 cup water
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon chopped dill weed
1/3 cup finely chopped sweet red pepper
Combine soup, cucumber, yogurt, water, garlic and dill in blender container or food processor. Blend until smooth. Stir in red pepper, cover and refrigerate until serving time, at least 2 hours. Serve in chilled bowls, garnished with thin cucumber slices, if desired. Makes 4 servings.