This time of year, there is no better place to do your grocery shopping than your local farmers’ market. You’ll find stalls piled high with peaches, cherries, melons, tomatoes, squashes, corn, eggplant, and other luscious fruits and veggies. Not only will you get a great selection of fresh, locally grown, in-season produce, but you’ll also get to talk to the very people who grow it and find out how to tell when it is perfectly ripe, how to store it for best flavor and longevity, and how to prepare it.
Here are our top 5 tips for getting the most from your farmers’ market trip:
- Come prepared with large shopping bags.
Some vendors don’t provide bags and those who do often offer only flimsy plastic bags. Keep your treasured produce picks in perfect shape by bringing your own sturdy cloth bags.
2. Bring small bills.
Some stalls can get super busy. Make things easy on the vendors and yourself by bringing small bills so that you can give exact change. And don’t rely on plastic since many vendors are cash only.
3. Do your research.
Before you go, check out our <link to the “What’s in Season” article> to find out what fruits and veggies are at their peak now. Have a general idea of what you’re looking for. Planning to make roasted summer squash gratin? A fresh tomato sauce with the best San Marzano’s you can find? Or maybe you’re thinking a spicy eggplant stir-fry with lots of garlic, fresh herbs, and chilies. You’ll find all of these ingredients in the market this time of year, and having a plan in mind will help you remember everything you need for your meal.
4. Be flexible.
Its great to have a general plan of what you want to cook with your farmer’s market haul, but keep an open mind and allow yourself to nab a pile of cherries just because they look perfectly succulent, or to load up on fiddleheads after hearing the vendor talk about how delicious they are sautéed in butter with a bit of sliced garlic.
5. Ask lots of questions.
The people who grow/produce the food you are buying are the ultimate experts. You can bet they’ve tried cooking or preparing it every way imaginable and they know the best way to store it, how to select the perfect ripeness, and more. Try to hit the market either early or late in the day when it’s not too busy and vendors will be able to give you more individual attention, and then don’t be shy!