Playing the Market

It’s peak season or endless varieties of fruit and veg, and when the produce is this good, we say let the ingredients shine. Here are 6 simple ways to make the most of a farmers’ market haul.

Shopping at farmers markets is the easiest way to eat locally. You know where the food comes from: After all, the grower is right there, and you can ask them. More than one shopper, however, has come home with bags of produce that went uneaten. And many others have left after a morning’s tour around the stalls only to go home with a bunch of carrots and a dazed expression., A bit of planning can keep weekly shopping for produce at a farmer marker fun and make cooking a snap all week long.

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1) Know your seasons

If you know a bit of what to expect when you get to the farmers market, making decisions at each stall is much easier. Learn what grows in your area when and talk to the growers about what will be coming to market in upcoming weeks. 

2) Go Early (or stay late)

Markets tend to be less crowded right when they open or just before they close. There are many, many exceptions to this, so try going to your market at difference times to figure out the best time for you.

For the best selection, go to the farmers market early. The best goods go first. Popular-but-limited items may even sell out before the day is done. It’s as simple as that.

For the best deals, go to the farmers market late. Farmers and other vendors sometimes discount products instead of loading them back up and schlepping them home. But keep in mind farmers raise this food for a living, so don’t expect or ask for deep discounts. Importantly, some markets have rules against end-of-the-day discounts.


3) Bring Big Bags & Small Change

Some farmers market vendors offer bags, but they tend to be thin and flimsy plastic ones that groan under the pressure of any substantial produce purchase. Make sure everything gets home safely by bringing your own sturdy canvas or nylon bags. A backpack k can make the hauling easier, especially for weightily or bulky items. RuMe bags are great for farmers markets because they fold small and carry tons.

Although vendors will make change, purchases will go easier and faster if you have exact (or close to exact) change. At some farmers markets, “small change” means dimes and nickels. In larger urban areas many products at farmers markets are sold in dollar or fifty-cent increments.

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4) Plan Meals Ahead of Time

Since you know what you’re likely to find at the farmers market, you can do a bit of meal planning and shop accordingly. For example, if local asparagus has just come into season and you can’t get enough, you know you’ll want to eat some Roasted Asparagus, some cooked into an Asparagus Chickpea Soup, and some sliced raw in an Asparagus Butter Lettuce Salad. This is so you’ll know both how many bunches of asparagus to buy and that you’ll also need some spring onions or herbs to add to the soup and some salad greens.
Gather inspiration and recipes below:

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5) Work in Volume

The best deals at the farmers market are had when you buy in bulk. You’ll enjoy the best flavors and the best prices when you buy lots of whatever is at its harvest peak. How to use it all up? Try new recipes with favorite vegetables or learn the lost art of preserving food. Freezing, canning, and drying are just some of the ways you can save seasonal tastes you find at the farmers market for later in the year.

6) Keep it Simple

You’re buying ultra-fresh produce when you shop at a farmers market, so let its natural flavor show when you cook it. Keep preparations simple. You’ll make cooking easier and you’ll be likely to try (and eat) even more local foods from the farmers market next week.