6 Ways to Maximize Your Trip to the Farmers Market
We recently toured the open, garden-powered kitchen of Batya Stepelman and were inspired by her city garden and how she finds ways to bring healthier meals and more vegetables to her family’s table. Before visiting her home, Batya and I took a trip to the Cherry Creek Farmers Market, where we sketched out meals for the week, selected from seasonally ripe produce, and even gained some helpful gardening advice.
Batya shares her best time-saving tips on how she makes the most out of a trip to the farmers market and how local, seasonal eating influences her cooking style.
Why Batya Makes Time for the Farmers Market
Batya strives to source locally and seasonally, as much as possible. While her culinary home garden provides her family with organic herbs and vegetables, she still needs to fill in some gaps. Visits to the farmers market provide her with both kitchen staples and fruit, which she doesn’t currently grow at home.
Taking the extra time to plan a trip to the farmers market is beneficial to both the farmer and the home cook. Purchasing produce from a farmer directly benefits his or her business. Plus, those farmers often grow vegetables and fruits that are more challenging to find (like heirloom varieties of tomatoes, carrots, and greens). A lot of what Batya finds at the farmers market is not readily found in commercial supermarkets.
Shopping locally is also beneficial to the environment, which directly correlates to better flavor and higher nutrient availability in fruits and vegetables. Locally sourced food doesn’t have to travel far, so the environmental footprint is smaller, and the amount of time from farm-to-table is shorter.
And let’s admit it. We all care about flavor.
Many farmers sell high quality, locally fresh produce at farmers markets. Batya mentions that many of her simple dishes have only a handful of ingredients, so each one counts. You really notice the difference in taste and quality, when you create simple recipes, like an heirloom tomato caprese salad.
6 Tips on Getting the Most from Your Farmers Market
1. Know what is in season and plan your recipes beforehand. Research when local vegetables and fruits are in season. Many times your local nursery is a great resource. Knowing what is available at the farmers market will assist you in finding recipes and planning your meals for the week.
2. Keep an open mind. Planning recipes before your trip to the farmers market can be very helpful, but letting go and grabbing whatever catches your eye is another method. Batya and I were armed with a list, but we were very happy to sidestep over to the Hatch chili tent and brainstorm how to incorporate those beauties into a recipe.
3. Bring reusable bags and don’t forget your cash. I made these two mistakes recently. Always bring more bags than you think you might need and make a stop to the ATM or bank, so that you have small bills to make purchases. Cash is always appreciated and is many times mandatory. I also benefited from bringing a chilled freezer tote along with me, just in case I needed to make more stops before heading home.
4. Ask a farmer for advice. What’s that? What do you make with this? How do I know when to eat these? Those are all very pertinent questions to ask a farmer. For example, we found out how to select the perfect peach for our grilled peach salad on this particular trip. Always look at the “shoulders” of the peach, at the very top, near the stem. If you want to eat it that day or make a jam, choose a softer shoulder. If you want to eat it in a few days or have better success grilling the peach, select a firmer shoulder.
5. Purchase in bulk and learn to preserve. A lot of times the deals are found in bulk purchases. Now is the best time to buy in bulk, when produce is at its prime, and cost is low. This is a great opportunity to save money, plan ahead, and learn how to dehydrate, freeze, or can.
6. Be smart about your timing. Arriving early at the farmers market can prove advantageous. Nothing is picked over, and the crowds are smaller. However, arriving later, especially on a slower day or a rainy day, can also be a bonus. Farmers have excess produce that hasn’t sold throughout the day, and they want to make their sale. This doesn’t necessarily apply to all markets, so check any late-day purchase rules, before you set your expectations high. And always avoid bartering.
→ How do I locate my local farmers market or sign up for a Community Supported Agriculture share? Check out the website, Local Harvest, and find local farmers, markets, and ways to volunteer your time toward a cause you support.
Thank you so much, Batya, for sharing your tips!