How to Navigate the Farmers Market Like a Seasoned Veteran

The easiest way to eat local is to shop at the farmers’ market . In doing so, you support local farmers and participate in your community. It is also often the best deal if you buy it .

But just like you have to learn supermarket tricks , it is important to know how to shop at the farmers’ market. I love some of my nearby markets and have been shopping at them for years, so I’ve amassed a few tips to keep in mind the next time you hit the road.

Get ready

Get ready to go to market: Most sellers only accept cash, and often only in small bills. (Some are also starting to accept food stamps.) Many do not offer bags, so be sure to bring your own reusable bags (my favorites are from Baggu ). Also, leave your dog at home: most markets do not allow them.

Most of all, however, you need to know your seasons in order to have the correct expectations of what will be in stock ahead of time. I receive a weekly email from my local market that clearly states what is plentiful and what is in peak, what is available in limited quantities, what items are running out this season, and what special, time-limited items cannot be missed. Even if your market does not offer this, it is helpful to look at the seasonal nutrition chart to get an idea of ​​what will be available.

If there is an information booth in your market, register there first; you may find they offer chef-led cooking demonstrations, vegetarian valet parking, and evening lessons, many of which are free.

Either go early or be late

To ensure you have a selection of the freshest and most varied products, plan to go to market when it first opens. (This is also the best time to buy fresh seafood and meat before they sit in the tent for hours.) If you don’t get up early, try to get in the back of the market, which is often the case when farmers and stalls try not to take produce home with you. start offering discounts on whatever is left. Stay away from shopping during the busy market hours.

Make a loop before buying

If you don’t know your market well, never buy the first product you come across. Jeffrey Zakarian warns against buying anything within the first 30 minutes in the market. It’s a bit extreme, but you should do a quick cycle before buying so you can familiarize yourself with the area, sample what’s on offer and compare prices. People often skip this important part and are content to spend on the first, say, tomatoes they see, only those that find tastier at a lower price an hour later, on the other side of the market. This leads to over-buying, overspending, and potentially wasted food — which no one wants.

Talk to your farmer

This is not a farmers’ market without farmers who are the best part of it. Their presence gives you the opportunity to ask questions about harvesting methods. They can tell you why their products are certified or not, explain the difference between raspberries and tayberries, or offer their best advice on choosing the best peaches.

If you visit the market regularly, you should definitely introduce yourself. Talking to the farmer can even get you a better deal , and if you need to do bulk purchases, you might decide something ahead of time. I spoke to the farmers about the recipes and showed them what I had made of my purchases the week before. Developing this relationship is the fastest way to get VIP service.

Be aware of etiquette when rummaging through heaps of fruits and vegetables. For example, it is considered rude to squeeze stone fruits or tomatoes (they tend to bruise) and open corn husks before purchasing them (this causes the corn sugar to turn into starch more quickly).

Branching

What do cherimoya, garlic stem, fern, green garlic, and bitter melon have in common? This is all I bought out of curiosity at the farmers’ markets. I usually buy one spontaneous ingredient after receiving advice from the farmer on how to cook with it. For example, green onions are in season right now, and you can use them in almost any recipe that calls for regular onions.

Take a friend with you

Running errands at the grocery store can be a tedious undertaking, but browsing the farmers’ market is not at all the same. In fact, I like to take my friends with me to chat while browsing the groceries. It is also useful if you know you will be tempted to buy a lot of things; This way, you can eat fruits and vegetables together and separate them at the end.

Don’t lose sight of the product

It’s easy to want to jot down complicated menus ahead of time, but be prepared to be flexible in case the tomatoes you wanted don’t actually look so good, but summer squash turns out to be inexpensive.

In general, when I prepare food from the farmers’ market, I prefer simple preparations. Mixing fruit or vegetable flavors with too many other ingredients will defeat the target. Sure, you can make strawberry jam from ripe strawberries, but why do that when you can instead feel their peak freshness better in a simple cabbage salad with pine nuts?

Look for foods that are as unspoiled as possible, such as carrots and beets with adjacent greens. They’ll stay fresher longer, and green boots also make delicious pesto and saute as a bonus.

And one more thing: while baked goods, desserts, soft drinks, and those ubiquitous corn bags may seem tempting, keep in mind that not all is better at the farmers’ market.

Find the market that’s right for you

Limiting your visit to one farmer’s market is like shopping at just one supermarket, so visit multiple markets to see which one best suits your needs. The large, well-known farmers’ markets offer a lot of variety and lots of lively energy, and are often great for not only shopping but also an incredible dining experience. But small farmers’ markets have their own advantages: while they may offer fewer choices, they often have better deals. Use this search page to find a farmers’ market near you.

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