I don’t know about you, but in a couple of weeks, farmers markets across the Midwest are going to be opening and I could not be more thrilled. Nothing feels more European to me than riding my bike up to my local farmers market and browsing fresh, local produce as I decide what I am going to make for the week. I love eating seasonally. I let nature guide me and my menu and the difference in taste and freshness is the reason everyone should experience this. Today I want to share with you some of my tips on how to navigate your farmers market so you are able to really reap the benefits of what one has to offer. There are SO MANY!
Eat what is in season: This is a biggie. Why? To start, the food is fresh. And it tastes better. That is because the produce has been picked one or two days before it is loaded on the truck. Of course you can always hop over to you local grocery store and eat anything from any season, but the fact is, it’s not sustainable and everything tastes like a potato. To me anyway. When produce is traveling from all over the world, quality and flavor are compromised. Not to mention the cost for shipping. Eating seasonally supports business in your neck of the woods. This one is a no brainer.
Know when to shop: Speaking from experience, I find hitting up the farmers markets first thing is best. You will have your pick of everything because when things run out, you have to wait until next week. I like to buy farm fresh eggs at the market and if I don’t get there early, they are all scooped up. If you happen to have access to fresh eggs, take advantage of them. They are the bomb.
You can shop for the best price: Whenever I arrive at my FM, I always do a quick circle around to see what people are selling, what looks good and who has the best price. You don’t get to do that at your local grocery store. Here is a tip: If you happen to find yourself at the farmers market right before they start closing up shop, farmers don’t want to bring back and unload all kinds of produce, so if you ask, they will most likely let you fill a bag for a couple of bucks. Your welcome.
Talk to your farmer: How cool is that? Actually talking shop with the person that yanked your very food out of the ground. These guys are a wealth of information. They will be able to provide you with tips on how to store and or prepare something. Many farmers can even clue you in on when perhaps asparagus is looking like its season is coming to an end or when the first tomatoes will be ripe for the picking.I’m a talker, so you better believe my farmer and I are pals.
Try something you have never seen before: Farmers markets are loaded with familiar and also unfamiliar items. Whether it is some sort of produce or an artisanal delight, go out on a limb and give it a whirl. A don’t worry, if you are unsure how to prepare your newest adventure, ASK YOUR FARMER or the person selling homemade “basil pepper jelly”. These folks are proud of their product and happy to talk about it and share tips and ideas.
Enjoy artisan and home made products. This is a real favorite of mine. Farmers Market’s are filled with honey, homemade breads, jams, spreads and other hand made goodies. All I have to say is YUM and they’re preservative free. I absolutely love this aspect of the markets.
Don’t forget your shopping totes and cash. This is an opportunity to bust out all of the 900 adorable shopping totes you have accumulated over the years. Yes, they have bags, but if there was ever a reason to use those cute little totes, this is one. As far as the cash is concerned, farmers markets can get busy. Having cash makes for a quick exchange and plus, there are some farmers that are still not accepting credit cards.
I included this awesome seasonal ingredient map. You can reference it to determine what is in season based on where you live.
Another resource I love and have been referencing for years now is called Local Harvest. This is an incredible site that revolves around, well, all things that are “locally harvested”.
I think you are are set now with some great tips on how to navigate your local farmers market. Stay tuned for seasonal produce blogs and some awesome recipes to boot.
Be a locavore. Everybody wins.