For some of us, Farmers Markets are the closest we will come to harvesting our own food. But that doesn’t mean we are all equally experienced in navigating the fruit, meat and vegetable stands.
And while we don’t have to calculate rainfall and worry about soil composition, there is some skill to a successful farmers market outing. I mean, how many times have you come home with gorgeous looking gourds or fabulous eggplant with zero clue what to do with it?
Here are some great farmers market do’s and don’ts:
- Find the perfect in the imperfect. You can often get a discount of great-tasting but banged-up produce. And hey, who knew what it looked once it’s chopped up in a sauce or a puree!
- Ask questions. Farmers are often testing out new and amazing produce, meat cuts, farming practices etc. “They are craftspeople and love what they do! If you share that passion and love, they will usually introduce you to and share amazing things,” suggests Relish Catering Owner Laura Calderone.
- Get on the VIP list. John from Open Hand Pasta says, “Farmers will get to know what you like and set it aside for you.”
- Don’t stick to a list. In this case, your shopping list should be flexible. You might stumble upon ingredients that will totally change your dinner plans or find great substitutes for your recipe like spaghetti squash for pasta.
- Buy pre-made. We’re not talking TV dinner here. There is great pre-made, homemade foods at farmers markets. And no, that is not cheating.
- Discover hyper-local foods. Grab that local honey (theories have it helping prevent allergies), find varieties not sold in stores (have you ever had a black pearl trumpet mushroom?)
- Ditch the tote and grab your backpack! Let’s face it, when we shop, we usually buy more than we expect. A tote bag is floppy, and items can get crushed. Try a backpack so you have two hands to explore the stands and can distribute the weight of your buys on your back.
- Early bird gets the worm, the late one gets the discount. If you are hunting for the perfect porkchop or the pick of the berries by all means get to the market when it opens. If you wait to the final hour, you might find farmers willing to discount rather than pack up.
- Find your new favorite beverage. Craft beer and specialty liquors often get their start at local markets. Get ahead of the trendy new flavors and casually bring your find out at your next party to impress.
- Check who’s attending. Often times the local market will update a list of vendors so you can know if your favorite farmer is on site to save you time or to show off your market IQ to rival market goers.