I’ve got a gazillion ways to prepare the mountains of kale and rainbows of citrus that gets my family through winter, but by the time May rolls around I am bursting with anticipation for all the wonders the market will have to offer. I’m giddy with excitement when I spot the first spring asparagus and peas. I’ll comparison shop for mundane things like broccoli and onions, but I’ll gladly fork over any price asked by the lady selling Dewberries for just a few glorious weeks in May and June. It’s great to see the frenzy that happens when the heirloom tomatoes first arrive, even though I grow many tomatoes of my own I’ve learned that the farmer’s market will always have one I have not grown in my garden.
But, before you go, there are a few tricks that will make the most of your time and money. Many people stick to the same items at the market, but if that's your pattern, you could be missing out on something great. Try something new! Some farmers markets will feature vendors or have deals of the week. ‘Like' your local market on Facebook or check the website to know what's new since your last visit.
Farmer’s Markets are a wonderful place to find fresh greens. Greens are a huge part of seasonal eating, yet they still intimidate many people. Use greens instead of tortillas for wraps or add them to your favorite soup or casserole. Greens are usually available all season, so they're worth the time it takes to figure out what works for you. If you're looking to stretch your dollar, look for root vegetables because you can use the top and the bottom. For example, kohlrabi, beets, and radishes all have edible greens on top.
Get to know your farmers market vendors by name. This might be the single best thing you can do. Find a favorite stand, get to know the people who work there, and go back to them every week. There's no better way to know exactly where your food comes from. Pretty soon, they'll be giving you insider tips and sharing recipes. Also, don't be afraid to pick your own produce. Some stands will have it pre-measured and ready to go, but if you want to choose your own, just ask. Most vendors encourage it. (But remember not to squeeze too hard because it could bruise the fruit and veggies.)
Savvy farmers market shoppers keep an eye out for what's in season to get the best deals. Pay attention to this, it's an easy way to get the most bang for your buck. When you buy fruit and veggies during the height of their season, then you're going to save money and get the most delicious, most nutritious produce available. Make sure that the produce at a market stand was grown and harvested locally. If you see something out of season — melons or tomatoes weeks before they should be ready — then ask where they came from, when they were picked, and other simple questions that the farmers should know.
As a gardener it is hard not to love a farmer’s market, they nourish so much more than just our stomachs. Tonight, when I set down platters of grilled vegetables in front of my family, I’ll be giving thanks for every farmer who lovingly grew that food. Wholesome, delicious, nutritious, and beautiful, what more could anyone ask!