Head to your favorite Northern Michigan farmers market, and while you’re shopping fresh produce, do a family scavenger hunt! Here’s how to create your own.
Imagine walking up to your favorite Northern Michigan farmers market and being given a handout challenging you to some additional fun during your visit. It’s a scavenger hunt! Filled with a list of both common and unusual produce items, the goal is traditional: find as many items as you can.
Well, that’s exactly what the Michigan State University Extension did as part of their Discover Michigan Fresh curriculum in conjunction with the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program. And thanks to their inspiration and tips, you can do it during your next farmers market visit, too.
“A scavenger hunt is a fun way for kids and adults to explore the farmers market and experience local fruits and vegetables,” says Jane Rapin and Michelle Smith, Community Nutrition Instructors with MSU Extension. At the farmers market scavenger hunt they hosted, a handout with suggested fruits and vegetable was given to families for them to discover and talk to local farmers at their booths about. “They then reported back to our table to share their adventure and their favorite scavenger find.”
While you won’t find the MSU Extension team at all Northern Michigan farmers markets to provide you with handouts, you can create the adventure yourself! They recommend The Michigan Fruit and Vegetable Availability Guide as a great resource to start off a hunt of your own. This downloadable document lists a variety of crops grown across Michigan, when they’re fresh in the field, their extended season and when it’s time for storage.
With such a large selection to choose from, how do you create your farmers market scavenger hunt list? Jane suggests looking for colorful produce.
“We promote eating a variety of fruits and vegetables in various colors to provide the most vitamins, minerals and fiber. Some suggestions would be a variety of greens, berries, kohlrabi, pea shoots, microgreens and tomatoes,” she says. “We are lucky to live an area where we have an abundance of all kinds of fruits and vegetables to choose from!”
Of course, if you’re doing a farmers market scavenger hunt with children, a prize at the end is always a bonus. Instead of celebrating with ice cream, you can continue with the fruits and vegetable trend, and create a new recipe together afterward at home using the produce you picked up at the market.
The Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program—which encourages healthy behavior changes in patients with chronic disease—has had many success stories with families trying new recipes.
“While at the Sara Hardy Farmers Market as part of the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program, a mom approached me,” Jane says. “She had completed the program earlier in the summer and wanted to let me know how much her family enjoyed being a part of it and the opportunity to come to the farmers market. She has three children. Each week she would give them a token to spend on whatever fruit or vegetable they wanted. The mom stated that each week her children were excited to buy a favorite fruit or vegetable and even became adventurous in trying some new ones, too! Programs such as this one benefit families and farmers both.”
Encouraging participants to prepare familiar produce in new way, the MSU Extension community nutrition team introduces a new recipe each week at Northern Michigan farmers markets, highlighting a seasonal local fruit or vegetable.
Here they share with us a spring recipe for asparagus and quinoa salad.
Asparagus & Quinoa Salad
2 cup cooked quinoa
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 pound (6–7 spears) asparagus, sliced
1/4 pound (about 3) radishes, sliced
1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 cup almonds
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Toss cooked quinoa with olive oil, lemon juice, asparagus, radishes, cilantro and almonds. Season with salt and pepper.