Spring has more than sprung, and summer is rapidly approaching. Which means it’s time to grab your cloth bag and market basket and head to the farmer’s market. Don’t know where one is? Head over to Local Harvest to find markets and CSAs in your area.
Shopping a farmer’s market is a completely unique experience that gets even better if you think seasonally. Early markets will be full of tender greens and asparagus, followed by strawberries and then all the other berries. Tomatoes and peaches will be hot on their heels when the weather turns sultry, and then come the late greens. As summer winds down, it will be time for gourds and pumpkins and… Read on for some great tips to make the most of your trip to the market!
Buying fresh produce at the peak of its season means it’s tastier, and usually less expensive. Sticking to in-season produce also gives you a more varied menu. There is nothing more amazing than summer tomatoes with fresh basil and balsamic vinegar.
Know what you need and how much you will eat before the fresh produce you buy turns into waste. And be realistic about your ability to can or freeze your overstock as well. If you score a terrific deal on an entire flat of perfect strawberries, make sure you have a plan to preserve them before they go bad.
Every stall is different and if you’re looking for sauce tomatoes, you don’t need to worry about picture perfect specimens that might cost more. Make one complete pass through the market before purchasing anything so you know who is offering what.
Most farmers will be happy to chat about their product. Sure, we all want organic, but certification may not be possible for a small farmer. They may not be able to say, “Yes, it’s organic” but they may be able to say their produce is pesticide free. And if you see something you’re curious about, or don’t know how to prepare, ask. It’s a good bet they can help you there as well.
Timing is everything
The early bird gets the best, freshest selections. If you’re there to be sociable as well, it might be better to go later in the day. And if you want major savings, show up just before closing and be ready to dicker a little. Every market will have its own pace, so be sure to check yours out at different times to find what works for you.
While some vendors will be able to process credit cards, cash in hand is best and often saves you money in the long run. It’s also a great way to budget yourself – only bring enough cash to cover what you want to purchase so you’re not tempted to buy too much.
Now grab those reusable bags and head to the market!