Farmer's Market 2011-3A trip to your local farmers’ market is a great way to eat healthy and support the local economy.  Farmers markets provide consumers access to locally grown, farm fresh produce, and enables farmers the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with their customers, and cultivate consumer loyalty with the farmers who grows the produce.

It’s harder to go wrong at a farmers market than a grocery store, but we wouldn’t want anyone to make any shopping mistakes that could detract from the experience. Here are a few tips to get the most from your market.

Embrace Whole Vegetables

Root vegetables like carrots, beets, and radishes are sometimes sold both whole, with greens attached, and trimmed, as merely a bunch of roots. Always opt for the whole version. They’ll last longer than the trimmed roots, for one thing, but more importantly, the greens are both edible and delicious. Washed carefully, they all make a great, earthy pesto, and radish and beet greens can be prepared the same way as chard or kale. Free bonus food!

Go Early

Treat the farmers market like brunch: get there early, or pay the price. Vendors will often sell out of their best products by early morning.

Know Your Produce

The produce at a farmers market is usually going to be different than at a grocery store. Learn how to pick out the tastiest heirloom tomato, even though they all look equally deformed. Learn to scour the bins of Brussels sprouts for the tightest, smallest ones. Learn to snap a green bean between your fingers to see if it’s ripe. Learn to smell a melon. This is a pain, sure! But the farmers themselves will usually be happy to pick out good produce for you.

Survey Like a Hawk

At most reasonably sized markets, there’ll be more than one vendor selling certain items, whether that’s peaches or grapes or zucchini. Before you buy, take a lap around the market, trying samples, using your new produce-hunting skills to figure out the quality and ripeness of the produce, and, just as importantly, scoping out prices. You don’t want to buy the first pint of blueberries you see, only to find a cheaper, tastier pint at the opposite end of the market.

Try Weird Stuff

Your market is likely home to products you can’t find at the grocery store. So why not try them out? Instead of a standard deep purple eggplant, why not a tiny globular Thai or a long pure white eggplant? Instead of red radishes, why not watermelon or French breakfast radishes. There’s nothing wrong with just getting good, fresh versions of what you usually eat, but the market is also an opportunity to step outside your habits and eat what’s growing nearby.

But the most important tip… Enjoy yourself!

Farmer's Market 2011-2

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