If you’ve read this column before, you know cooking with ingredients grown near to where we live is important to me. That's why I patronize local farmers markets.

These foods are fresher, most are indigenous to our area and they're grown by people it's easy to get to know — they're usually the ones manning the stalls at the farmers markets.

Eating foods that are in season is also important for our health.

I Eat La.: Recipes for Gazpacho, Peach Goat Cheese Salad

Food bought in its growing season from local farmers is often more nutritious. Plants get their nourishment from the sun and soil. Seasonally fresh produce is picked when it is ripe and fully developed. Because the plants have had more exposure to the sun, they will have higher levels of nutrients.

Foods that are grown outside of their season or in unnatural environments need a lot more human intervention in forms of pesticides, waxes, chemicals and preservatives to grow on demand and look appealing to shoppers.

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Fruits and vegetables travel an average of 1,500 miles before we buy it in grocery stores. While some foods may come from nearby, many have traveled a lot farther when they're not in season near where you shop.

It takes about 500 gallons of diesel fuel to haul produce that 1,500 miles. So, not only does buying in season mean more nutritious meals, it also means a healthier environment. 

In Louisiana, we have a year-round growing climate, which means we have access to a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, cheese and other dairy products, nuts and baked goods throughout the year.

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On my last trip to the local farmers market, I found just the right ingredients to make this cool gazpacho and a crisp peach salad. Both are healthy antidotes to the hot and humid weather.

Teresa B. Day is a local food writer and author of the “I Eat BR” blog. Contact her at ieatbrla@gmail.com.