A Field Guide to the Farmers Market

updated May 4, 2019
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(Image credit: Baloncici)

Hitting the local farmers market in your town has plenty of advantages over your local grocery store. By buying direct, you are getting the freshest possible produce at the best prices, plus you can better understand where your food is actually coming from. That being said, they can be a little overwhelming to navigate. Here is our field guide to get you started.

1. Come prepared. Bring bags, small bills, sunscreen, comfortable shoes and a list. I have a bad habit of not writing out what I need to get and leaving with popcorn, pastries, candied nuts and oh-so-conveniently leaving out the veggies. Preparing a plan helps keep you on track.

2. Be flexible. Farmers markets carry only what is locally in season and, depending on harvest, this can change from week to week. Being flexible and willing to make substitutions ensures that you will always have produce at its prime.

3. Walk a lap. Before you start shopping walk the length of the market to asses who has the freshest produce and the best prices, then work your way backwards through the vendors. This insures that you get the most bang for your buck.

4. Ask about deals. Some vendors offer discounts if you buy certain quantities of things or discount overripe fruit and unsold items at the end of the day.

5. Realize it’s not a one-stop shop. While you can often find a range of products (eggs, cheese, olives ,etc.), assessing what you’ll need to pick up elsewhere to supplement your market finds can help you fit your fresh produce into some delicious recipes, instead of letting it languish in the fridge.

6. Research new ingredients. Websites like our own Kitchn and apps like Epicurious are great for figuring out how to utilize new-to-you ingredients like dandelion greens and squash blossoms. You might just discover a new favorite dish.

What are your tips for navigating the farmer’s market?