Farmer’s Markets are in full swing throughout the country. It is mid-summer and produce is bountiful. How do you make the most of your Farmer’s Market shopping?
There are a couple of ways to approach your shopping, depending on your cooking style. Do you like to have a plan for your week’s menus ready and shop for only specific items? Or, do you decide meal by meal what sounds good to you and your family?
If you are one of those who starts out the week with a full menu planned, it will be helpful if you know what is in season in your area. In season crops will be fresher and typically lower cost. You can always swap out an ingredient or two if you can’t find what you want or if something else is more economical.
Ask vendors what they expect to bring to market in the future. Most vendors will be able to give you an idea what is ripening in the near future.
Take a quick walk around the market and review what is available. Then go back and make your purchases. Think about how much produce your family can realistically eat.
Once you get home, take a few minutes to wash and store your produce properly so it will last through the week. While you do this is a good time to at least make a mental plan of what dishes you can prepare.
Consider preserving some of your finds. Early August has tomatoes and peaches plentiful in much of the mid-West. Make peach preserves. Can tomato juice. Peppers are also available and can be combined with those lovely tomatoes for fresh salsa.
Talk to the vendors. Ask about where their produce originates. Did they buy somewhere else and are re-selling? Did the vendor grow their own vegetables, herbs and fruits? Also ask about how items were grown? Vendors should be able to tell you if pesticides or herbicides are used if they are growing produce themselves? Vendors will also give suggestions about how to use different items.
As you are looking around the Farmer’s Market, be sure to take advantage of non-produce offerings. Most markets include craft vendors as well. Handmade soaps, jams, jellies and baked goods are available offering an alternative to the big box stores.
Shopping local Farmer’s Markets makes good nutrition and financial sense. Not only are you gaining a fresher product for your table, but your support of local farmers is a welcome boost to the economy.