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Eating healthy as a college student is notoriously difficult. Because Rutgers is a college campus home to a plethora of fast food spots and fat sandwiches, the legend of the freshman 15 often becomes a reality for many students. However, to the rescue is the Rutgers Gardens Farmers Market on Cook Campus, a hidden gem by any standard.
Sugary and greasy foods are not only extremely attainable on campus, but they’re also appealing for their cheap prices and convenience for so many students on the go with no time to cook healthy and sometimes expensive meals. But the Farmer's Market has a possible solution.
The market, which is open every Friday throughout the fall and spring seasons, hosts a variety of vendors and farmers that offer fresh, locally grown produce and gourmet items.
Unlike food at a typical supermarket, all of the food products sold at the market are natural, organic or homemade and homegrown.
While it’s no surprise that plenty of delicious, organic produce can be found at the market, several of the regular vendors also sell homemade goods ranging from gourmet pickles and artisanal cheeses to sweet fruit spreads, savory dips and hearty vegan soups.
This foodie heaven is not only a healthy and unique alternative to your local Stop Rite, it also is a convenient way to support local businesses.
“Because you’re buying from small businesses, the good thing about farmers markets is that you can buy only one or two of something, and that could be a better deal,” Sarah Beech, of Spoon Me Soups, said.
Spoon Me Soups is a regular Rutgers Farmer’s Market vendor that specializes in vegan soups.
“For a college student, it’s not really practical to do all of your grocery shopping here, but it is important if anything to try to buy your produce, cheese, eggs and meat here,” she said.
The market sells meat and dairy products from the Cook campus farm.
Emma Pizzolo, an Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy senior and pre-vet major who works on the farm, emphasized the importance of knowing where your food comes from.
“Cook Campus Farm is not organic, but the animals are out on pasture all day, and we don’t use growth hormones or antibiotics,” Pizzolo said. “The animals have a very unique life, because they are with people every day getting so much extra attention than most farms would give them.”
Since the market hosts more than 20 vendors, the first experience at the Rutgers Farmer’s Market might be overwhelming for some.
For inspiration, this easy, filling and wallet-friendly recipe featuring items from the market is a college-student staple.
Pesto Pasta with Spinach and Tomatoes
Pasta of your choice
2 handfuls of baby spinach, courtesy of Rutgers Farmers Market
Small heirloom tomatoes, courtesy of Rutgers Farmers Market
1 container of Silver Birch Kitchens nut-free basil pesto made fresh in Hackettstown, N.J.
Grated parmesan cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Slice tomatoes into halves. Place tomatoes in small greased skillet, pot or pan — whatever’s available and safe in the oven. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper.
Roast tomatoes for about 10 minutes or until tomatoes are soft, juicy and on the verge of bursting.
Boil your pasta of choice until pasta cooks al dente. When the pasta is almost ready, throw in the spinach. Drain and throw back into the pot, and reduce heat to a simmer.
Once the tomatoes are finished roasting, throw them into the cooked pasta. Add pesto and toss until the pasta is fully coated.
Serve immediately, perhaps with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.