Making the Most of Your Farmers Market Trip

0312131353aFew things are more fulfilling than an early morning trip to the farmers market. With the sun still in rising and shining brightly in your eyes, a pair of sunglasses and hot cup of Joe are the perfect things to bring along. It isn’t hard to get a little over zealous when shopping outdoors, smelling the freshness and seeing the vibrancy of all the wonderful locally grown and made products, but here are some tips to keep in mind to prevent over indulgence and any unwanted wastefulness:

  • Bring cash and have a set amount that you want to spend. Many farmers and local vendors will accept checks or sometimes even credit, but the easiest way to shop around is cash. Most often, your purchases will be a few dollars here and there, so it’s always best to keep singles and even a handful of change on you to keep things moving faster. When I have loose change and dollars, I feel more in control of my purchases and more comfortable with purchasing single item produce instead of large quantities.
  • Set limits. We all want to go home with loads of fresh produce, but our well intentions may lead to wastefulness.  Have an idea of what you are looking to buy before you get there. If you are a lunch packer, perhaps a few choices of fruit to bring along during your work day or for your kids lunch. Unique vegetables and herbs to try with dinner are always fun purchases too. There is always next week’s trip to the market to replenish your stash so go easy on what you think you will really utilize.
  • Have fun and keep an open mind. Make it a point to try one new item each week. When considering vegetables and how to incorporate them into recipes, you usually can’t go wrong with a little olive oil and garlic saute or adding to a cold soup, salad or eating raw.  Grilling vegetables are always a fun addition to any meal as well.

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  • Be creative and turn your farmers market experience into an educational playground. When in doubt, ask the farmer or vendor  how they would best use that product. More often than not, they will give you a ton of ideas or lead you to sites that can help.
  • Keep the communication rolling. It’s not everyday that you can shake hands with the growers of your food and hear the daily obstacles they face in their profession. You can learn a lot from a farmer and personally this is one of my favorite things about farmers markets; especially small scale, street corner markets. The direct communication and wisdom you get from the growers will never be found at the grocery store so take advantage of their presence.
  • Think color. If you are going home with variety, make it a colorful one. This will benefit you in several ways. Firstly, it will provide you with all the different plant properties that each different color withholds such as unique vitamins, minerals, phyto-chemicals and free radical fighting antioxidants. Secondly, when you consider leaving with a rainbow variety, you will more often than not be motivated to try new products which will broaden your food knowledge and culinary experience in your kitchen.

If the markets are open in your area, set a goal to get there at last once or twice per month to support your local farmers and get locally grown and harvested food from your own community. Bring your kids and elders along to enjoy all of the experiences and education a farmers market has to offer.

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