THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
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One of our favorite weekly recreations is strolling through our local farmers market. We love looking at the farm-fresh, locally-grown produce, baked goods, cheeses and seafood pulled fresh from the ocean. We love finding things we’d never find in a retail store. Purslane, anyone?
You meet nice people, too. Aside from the farmers themselves, the customers can be helpful, sharing “finds” and cooking tips. Last week, one gentlemen pulled out his wallet to help us when he thought we didn’t have enough cash to pay for our heirloom tomatoes!
Don’t expect bargains at a farmers market: You’re getting top quality, fresh-picked produce grown by small family farmers. We could pay less for peaches at Trader Joe’s, shipped in from who knows where. We save where we can, but we’re glad that we can afford to help keep family farms in business.
Birds & Blooms magazine consulted farmers nationwide to create a comprehensive guide to the proper etiquette and best tips for shopping at farmers markets. Here are our top ten (the full list of 33 tips can be found here):
Go early. When we tarry and arrive after noon, the fresh corn is almost always gone. It’s also fun to watch the stands set up, and to enjoy the early morning air on a nice day.
A walk through a farmers market is a food
lover’s joy. Photo courtesy Hollywood Farmers
Market. Wish we were there right now!
Bring cash. Most markets are a strictly cash business. Credit and debit cards not only erode profits by taking a fee with each purchase, but renting the electronic scanners also erodes the already-low profit margins.
Don’t haggle! Traditions from the flea market do not port over to the farmers market. Farmers are almost always giving you the best price they can while still making a profit. Be happy to pay in full—you’re not only getting better, fresher produce, you’ll also be supporting a local farm.
Bring your own tote bags. Having a reusable bag is eco-friendly and also cuts out the number of plastic bags farmers have to pay for.
Handle gently! Photo courtesy Birds and
Look around before buying. We are guilty of shopping at the first stand we encounter, only to find that the same item costs 50¢ a pound less, just five stands away. Walk the market first to compare prices and products; then decide where to spend your money.
Respect the produce. While you typically inspect the fruit and veggies and help yourself, remember that many of these items are fragile. Do your best to handle everything with great care, and not to tear up a display in search of the perfect bunch of basil.
Don’t spurn imperfections. Some heirloom varieties may not look as perfect as supermarket varieties (that’s why they’re heirlooms, not mainstream). But even though that tomato looks strangely lumpy, you can bet that it will taste a lot better than the perfect-looking one from the store. And once it’s sliced, you won’t notice.
Ask questions. Farmers love to talk about what they raise, as long as they aren’t super busy. They often take great pride in educating customers about their farms and their wares. Ask questions, and soak it all in.
Be adventurous. First, try something you haven’t tried before. The farmer can suggest how to prepare it, or you can look online.
Get tips from the farmer. Ask how long the eggs, dairy products, produce or baked goods should last, and what can be kept on the counter versus the fridge.
TO FIND A FARMERS MARKET NEAR YOU, VISIT LOCALHARVEST.ORG.
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