Healthy Veggie Bio – Okra

How can you tell what is in season right now?  The best and the most convenient way is to stop by the farmer’s market near you.  Recently, the Go Folic! Team went to the Heart of the City Farmer’s Market to find what is in season.  We saw okra in some of the stands.  We went back to the office and decided to do some research on this vegetable.

Okra was first discovered around Ethiopia during the 12th century and was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians.  It was believed okra seeds came to North America in the 1600s during the Atlantic slave trade.  During World War II, due to the shortage of coffee beans, okra seeds were used as a coffee substitute.  Okra is mostly grown in the southern United States after it was first introduced.  Okra is commonly found in African, Middle Eastern, Greek, Turkish, Indian, Caribbean, and Southern American cuisines. 

Okra is a good source of nutrients including folate, fiber, Vitamin A, C, calcium, and iron.  The high fiber content of okra can stabilize blood sugar and cholesterol.  Because of Vitamin A and folate content, okra can also promote macular and skin health. 

If you always wonder how to cook okra and not make it slimy, check back for tomorrow’s Foodie Tuesday.


Folate at the Farmer’s Market – Heart of the City

When I first moved to this beautiful city, I set two goals for myself:  1) Get to know all of San Francisco’s unique and diverse neighborhoods; 2) Eat more healthy foods grown closer to home.  I quickly realized that Farmer’s Markets were the key to both.

What are Farmer’s Markets?

  • Farmer’s Markets are open-air markets where you can buy food directly from local farmers.
  • They’re usually open for a few hours at the same time and place every week.
  • You can usually find a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables on sale.
  • At some markets you can find things like nuts, eggs, herbs, jams, bread, honey, and fresh flowers
  • Many markets also have food stands where you can buy a tasty lunch or snack.
  • Farmer’s Markets are a great starting point for learning about your food and where it comes from.  Unlike at the supermarket or the cornerstore, at farmer’s markets you can often meet the farmer themselves, or talk to a worker who knows about how the food is grown.
  • At Farmer’s Markets you can ask sellers questions like whether the produce is organic, how it is harvested, and how to choose for ripeness.
  • Markets are a great way to get to know San Francisco.  San Francisco has nearly 20 Farmer’s Markets from the Embarcadero to the Sunset.  Click here for a helpful list.
  • Finally, Farmer’s Markets are a wonderful place to Go Folic! by choosing folate-rich fruits and vegetables, like oranges, collard greens, and strawberries!

Every few weeks on this blog we’ll visit a different Farmer’s Market in a different part of the city.  We’ll also let you know which folate-rich foods are in season!

This week I visited the oldest market in San Francisco – The Heart of the City Farmer’s Market.  It happens every Wednesday and Sunday from 7:30am-5pm. This market has been bringing fresh produce to the city for over 28 years!  The HOC Market offers everything from fresh vegetables and fruits, to mushrooms and eggs, to honey and flowers.  There’s even a fresh fish-seller who will kindly wrap up the catch of the day for your dinner!  The market is located in the UN/Civic Center Plaza on Market Street between 7th and 8th. It’s easy to get to by BART and MUNI, and attracts a great mix of people who come for the good eats and the low prices.

Last Wednesday the HOC Farmer’s Market was packed with foods rich in folate – the form of folic acid found in foods.  I found broccoli, asparagus, avocados, and oranges at some great prices.  I also found delicious collard greens for only $1 a bunch.  One farmer recommended sautéing the greens with garlic, onions, and a little olive oil.  Can’t wait to try it!

Before leaving I grabbed some sweet oranges and sampled some wasabi flavored almonds.  I also talked with a farmer who has been coming to the HOC market since 1982!  As I made my way back to work I saw customers gathered around the stalls bargaining for the lowest prices.  Businessmen and women lined up to grab lunch at one of the food stands.  People looked over the produce to pick up veggies for dinner, and farmers traded stories from years past and present.  All the while, City Hall stood majestically in the background, making this market a place where history, culture, and cuisine combine to offer that unmistakable San Francisco flavor.

Till next time!