Get the most from your farmers' market experience with tips from the Southern Living Farmers Market Cookbook.
The best produce is often found right when the market opens. Avoid choosing from picked-over produce by arriving at your local market as early as possible.
Buy only as much as you will use within a few days, and store produce (except tomatoes) in the refrigerator or in a cool, dark place. Flavor and nutrients diminish quickly.
When visiting your local farmers market, be prepared to keep an open mind. While you might be looking for something in particular, odds are there will be plenty of delectable produce on hand that will have you reconsidering your weekly menu plans. Flexibility is key not only to finding the best produce but in eating the best produce as well.
If you don’t plan to go straight home from the market, take a cooler so that fresh items won’t spoil in a warm car.
Most vendors appreciate it if you have small bills for purchasing. And while some larger markets will accept credit cards, most will not accept personal checks.
Scope out the entire market before making your selections. Prices and types of produce vary among the different vendors. You’ll want to shop just as wisely here as anywhere else.
While having access to the produce you enjoy regularly is important, so is sampling offerings that may be new to you. Educate yourself in the world of food by picking up something you’ve never tried before and then talking about the product with the local farmer selling it. You’ll learn and taste something new!
There’s no better way to introduce your children to new foods than letting them take part. Allow kids to talk to the vendors and pick out some produce.
Make connections with the local farmers in your area. You might glean some unique cooking tips or even recipe ideas.
Look for blemish-free, brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Any bruised or damaged produce will spoil quickly.
While farmers markets have traditionally been known for selling fruits and vegetables alone, these days many offer one-stop shopping. A variety of organically fed, free-range meats and eggs; fresh-from-the-farm dairy products; canned and preserved items; and home-baked goodies line the interior walls surrounding their field-fresh picks. You’ll even find fresh flowers and potted herbs.
You’re already a steward of the environment by shopping at your local farmers market, so remember to take it one step further and bring your own canvas bags, baskets, or boxes to carry away your purchases for the day.
If your schedule doesn’t allow for a trip to the market, consider joining Community Supported Agriculture. You’ll receive regular deliveries of locally grown produce in its prime. Find one nearby at www.localharvest.org.
Our Farmers Market Cookbook is filled with more fresh produce recipes, divided into four chapters—Spring Recipes, Summer's Bounty, Autumn Harvest, and
Winter Storehouse. The book also walks you through the farmers market experience and provides a Fresh Produce & Herb Primer
with all the tips you need for selecting the best produce.