Eating fresh and local is a great way to get the nutrients your body needs, and the abundant farmers markets that are popping up around the world make it easy source food that is both seasonal and delicious. But those long aisles of booths — with their friendly clerks and their piles of produce — are unfamiliar territory for many, and making the switch from grocery cart to canvas bag can feel daunting. But don’t despair, Foodist author and CreativeLive instructor Darya Rose put together a primer, which can help take some of the nervousness out of shopping at your local farmers’ market.
1. Bring cash. While some farmers slide cards and others are equipped to accept EBT, the majority of farmers market stalls transact in cash only. If you want a seamless shopping experience, hit up the ATM before you head to the market.
2. Bring a large bag or two. Farmers often have individual bags you can use to collect a few pounds of produce in, but they generally aren’t equipped to set you up with a shopping bag — be sure to bring your own. An over-the-shoulder bag frees up your hands to pick up a peach at the next stand you scope out.
3. Go early. The early bird gets the worm and, in this case, the best selection. If you get to the market on the early side you are likely to have the best product to choose from and you get the added benefit of getting to it before everyone else, literally, gets their hands on it.
4. Sample the goods. A common feature of many farmers market are free produce samples. Many farmers set out bite-sized samples of their latest crop and give you the opportunity to try them out. Don’t let them down.
5. Buy your faves. Shopping at the farmers market can introduce you to new favorites and varieties you had never even heard of, but make sure you reward yourself by buying some staples you know and love. If everytime you come home from the farmers market you feel overwhelmed by the prospect of working with all new recipes you are likely to get discouraged. Guard against that sense of overwhelm by always sticking a couple of long-time favorites into your shopping bag.
6. Shop with your eyes and nose. Produce from the farmers market is among the freshest you’ll find anywhere, as a result you get a complete sensory experience that is a world apart from the shelf-stable options you’ll find in a grocery store. Enjoy it. It will also help you detect the best pick of the day.
7. Try something new. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to find your new favorite food. By making it your mission to try one thing new each time you go to the market you expand your palate and keep things interesting, without getting overwhelmed.
8. Go beyond fruit. Try the olive oil. Check out the jam. Invest in the honey. At the farmers market you’ll find local growers who are producing value-added goods the exceed the standard fare you’ll find in the grocery store aisle.
9. Get other staples, too. Many farmers market have meat, eggs and dairy products available for purchase. Sometimes these vendors are a little harder to spot because they have to keep their products chilled – don’t hesitate to hunt them down. Eggs produced on a small scale and cheeses made locally pack a punch when it comes to flavor and nutrients.
If you want even more tips on bringing fresh and delicious food to your dinner table, check out the rest of Darya’s course – she’ll have juicing, chopping, and sauteing in no time.