Hi guys! Here are some tips for shopping at farmers' markets from one of my idols, Lynne Rossetto Kasper of the Splendid Table:
The biggest challenge here is always how not to overbuy. Of course, the whole idea of shopping at your local farmers' market is to build what you'll eat for the week around what's in season and looks good. This turns the idea of having a list and sticking to it into not such a good thing. So hold back wherever possible.
Keeping Everything Fresh
• Keep an inexpensive cooler in the car, complete with bags of ice cubes or those frozen blocks.
• Have a big bucket half filled with water in the car to keep flowers fresh.
• Bring your own tote bags to the market. Recycle individual plastic bags by bringing them with you and asking dealers to use them instead of theirs.
Enjoying the Market
• Don't buy until you've walked the entire market to see what's there. This is the time to stroll leisurely, enjoy the light, the sights, and seeing friends. Talk to the farmers. Find out who they are and what exactly they grow. Build relationships; everyone benefits from them.
• Look for organic growers and support them if at all possible. Their work helps the environment, besides often giving us safer and better-tasting food. If you're curious about what it takes to raise organic foods, these are the people who are usually delighted to answer your questions.
• Try new foods. Every week buy one thing you've never had before. Ask the farmer the best way to enjoy it. This way you may find you love the burgers from the dairy woman, or the fresh kohlrabi in mustardy dressing.
Finding the Best
• Taste. Always ask for a taste and offer to pay for it. Buying one tomato may save you from putting up a bushel of tasteless ones. Don't assume that because the food is fresh and local, it's going to be wonderful.
• Know when it was picked. With foods such as corn and peas that can lose their appealing sugars quickly, always ask when they were picked and always taste them raw before purchasing. Store in the refrigerator.
• Look. Know that often the prettiest peach or apple may not be the tastiest, but if anything is bruised, wilted, or tired-looking, don't buy it.
• With peaches and apricots, once the area around the stem is no longer green, the fruit is ready for picking. A few days at room temperature will soften them slightly and bring them to good flavor. The darker the yellow portion of a peach, usually the sweeter it is.
• Size isn't everything. Often the smaller ear of corn, zucchini, or green bean is sweeter. Remember, pickling cucumbers can be delicious eaten raw. They often have a distinctive, especially appealing character.
• Compare prices. The best buy might be down the next row.
Once You Get Home
• Store everything green in plastic bags in the refrigerator.
• Always keep tomatoes, garlic, onions, peaches, nectarines, and apricots at room temperature.
• If you have completely lost your head and bought far more than you need, get on the phone with friends and invite them to a cook-it-yourself farmers' market party. Have everyone bring an apron and a knife, and make it an evening of cooking together. Just keep the dishes simple - with the gorgeous flavors of just-harvested foods, you don't need to do much. Make sure to have some good bread, iced tea, and maybe wine. These are usually the best parties.