We are so lucky to live in a town with the most wonderful farmer’s market. It is hosted each Saturday inside one of our fairground buildings, so it is open rain or shine! Not to mention, we are in the middle of some of our country’s best farmland, so we have access to some excellent produce and goods. While our market is naturally my favorite, wherever we travel, one of my favorite things to do is to visit the local markets since they are so much a cultural reflection of the area, as much as a great way to plan the day’s dinner. Another thing I love about market season is that my trips to the grocery store are few and far between; I’d much rather stock my fridge with local, organic spring greens and mâche than buy the same, tired romaine from the supermarket each week. Here are my tips for visiting a farmer’s market.
The last thing you want to do is to overbuy and waste food. What do you have plenty of already that should not be repurchased this week? What grains or pastas do you have on hand that could be turned into a great meal with some fresh produce?
Before you even head out the door, make sure you have had a little snack or a meal before you start shopping so your eyes are not bigger than your stomach.
While most vendors provide bags, why not bring a pretty market basket to fill with produce? I like to bring at least one for my veggies, and also a canvas tote for eggs and baked goods. As soon as I unload at home, I put the bags right back into my car for next week.
Chefs shop at sunrise because the best things sell out fast. I like to arrive within the first hour of market opening and make sure that I can get the prime seasonal offerings of that week.
More and more, vendors have card payment systems available on their phones or tablets, but just in case, bring cash. Small bills and exact change are the easiest on the vendor.
Check out what each vendor has to offer that week taking note of what looks good. The first stall you see may have roasting potatoes, but the third vendor down the line has even better, organic fingerlings. Doing a lap first will prevent shopper’s remorse and give you a game plan for what to buy from whom.
Kohlrabi? Garlic scapes? Squash blossoms? How will you know you like something unless you try it? Just ask the farmer how to prepare something you’ve never seen before, they usually have the best ideas for how to enjoy unique produce.
I never leave the market without a fresh bouquet for the week. Even though market season coincides with my garden also being in bloom, I can always find something unique that I don’t grow myself, and love a pretty, fresh bouquet in the kitchen.