By Peyton Roberts
Looking back, it seems really silly to me that it took going all the way to Thailand to get my first taste of produce local to Guam. In hindsight, I suppose I had a lot of questions but didn’t know who to ask. Today I want to share with you the basics of what I’ve learned about the process of buying local produce on our island. Below are some of the questions I’ve been asked by friends, which were many of the same questions I had when I started buying local.
Where do you buy local produce? I buy local produce wherever it’s available, preferably from local growers directly, but secondly from supermarkets that I know have a great selection. For starters, Chamorro Village, Dededo market, and the Tuesday night Agat market are probably the most frequented, but produce stands pop up all over the place (literally on the side of the road) when certain items are in season. As for supermarkets, Pay-Less Supermarkets, Agat Kimchee Market, and the base commissaries have a healthy selection as well.
How do you know when the markets are open? It’s true, one of the frustrating things about shopping local is that you can’t always get the exact item you’re looking for when you’re looking for it. Learning the schedules of the farmers you buy from is key for consumer happiness, and the easiest way to learn the schedule (assuming there is one!) is to ask the grower. The little produce stand on the east side of Rt. 1 in Piti pictured above was hit and miss for a while. Finally I asked when they’re open, and just like that, I had a schedule to work with! The farmer’s market at Chamorro Village is my go-to on Wednesdays when they have their biggest selection of items and growers. They also usually have a good showing on Mondays and Fridays. The Tuesday night (after 3p) market in Agat is a great place too. I have learned to plan and adjust my produce shopping based on when and where I know my favorite growers will be. I make my trip to the regular supermarkets last, giving produce stands a chance to fill my grocery list first.
I don’t recognize a lot of the produce they sell here. How do you know what to buy? This was perhaps the biggest initial obstacle standing between me and Guam freshness. Looking at the array of produce wondering, why are those tomatoes green? Why is that eggplant so skinny? Or more likely, what the heck is that and what would I do with it once I got it in my kitchen? My best piece of advice is, well, just ask! While I hope to cover more here about the specifics of cooking with banana hearts, opo squash, and yes, even bitter melon, the best way to find out about things you aren’t familiar with is to ask those who are. You won’t offend the growers by asking, “What’s that?” And if you take the plunge and take something spiny, rooty, or fruity home you’re still not sure about, Google is a great place to turn to as well. Chances are someone out there has blogged about it and posted fabulous recipes and even photo tutorials to remove a lot of the guesswork.
Why should I go to the trouble to buy local produce? Well that’s easy. Locally grown produce tastes so much better and is so much better for you and our island! Many of Guam’s growers use organic fertilizers, natural pesticide methods, and zero preservatives, resulting in coveted organic produce that’s hands down more nutrient packed. It’s also a heck of a lot better for our global environment that we haven’t expounded thousands of gallons of fuel to get a banana from its tree across an ocean somewhere to your kitchen counter here. Plus, those same couple of bucks you’re dishing out stays right here on Guam and gets invested back in the farming industry, which only means great things for the future of local produce.
So if you haven’t already, give it a go! Ask a lot of questions and have fun with it. Play around with some recipes and, hey, if you get inspired, share the wealth (here, people, in the comments!). Local recipes will always have a home at the Fresh Factor.
Peyton Roberts is a military spouse who moved to Guam from the States in July 2010. She started her blog, Peyt’s Island, as a way to keep friends and family informed about what island life is like. Over time, that space transformed into a forum for writing about her experiences discovering Guam’s beauty, and more recently its flavors. Peyton loves all Guam adventures, whether land or sea, and has a passion for sharing ideas about incorporating local produce into regular family cooking. At the Fresh Factor, Peyton shares recipes, interviews, and information about all things fresh on Guam.