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How to Shop a Farmer’s Market

POSTED July 10, 2018

Summer has finally arrived, which means that it’s time for al fresco dining. But summer is not just about burgers & pasta salads. The best produce is available during the warmer months, so for a simple dinner or side dish, grab a Veggie Marinade & get roasting!

To assist you in picking the best product, our good friend Alexa Peduzzi, author of the plant-based food blog Fooduzzi, shares her farmers market shopping expert advice with us. Happy summer!

It’s the best time of the year!!

Farmers market season is just the best, isn’t it? The best local produce, ready to make your meals so much more delicious, fresh, and seasonal.

But going to a farmers market can be a tad bit overwhelming. Vendors everywhere, a million different kinds of fruits and vegetables, signs like organically grown…where do you even start?

That’s a great question. And I’m here to help!

Farmers markets are one of my favorite things about summer, and if you’ve never experienced one for yourself (or maybe you’ve gone and were totally confused), I hope that these tips will help you scope out your new favorite market and snag some garden-fresh yum.

Go with a plan.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed at a farmers market, especially one that’s on the larger side. Vegetables you’ve never heard of, baked goods everywhere, awesome deals at every stand.

Take it from someone who knows: it’s easy to go overboard.

That’s why I now go to the farmers market with a plan. What recipes will I be making in the next week? What fruits are in season? How many “splurge” items can I get?

A plan will reduce my produce waste and help me save some moolah.

Shop the samples.

I’m not typically “that girl,” but when it comes to farmers markets, I love taste-testing before I buy! I want to see if that melon is as juicy as it looks or if those peppers are nice and crispy.

Taste-testing is the best way to do that! Don’t be afraid to ask your farmers for a taste; most will gladly whip out a knife and slice you a piece of whatever you’re interested in.

I asked for a sample of a watermelon radish a few weeks ago . It ended up being delightfully spicy and crisp; I never would have bought it without the taste test!

Look for produce that’s uniformly and naturally colored.

Kind of a given, but you probably don’t want a strawberry that’s yellow, right? Make sure to scope out produce that’s free from yellow, brown, or soft spots.

If you’re shopping at an organic farmers market, vegetables and fruits might look a little different because they’re not treated with chemicals. That said, you still want to be on the lookout for healthy-looking produce. Think: non-anemic, brightly colored, and without too many blemishes.

Don’t be lured into good deals.

Zucchini are $1 each, so I’m obviously going to get the biggest zucchini they have, right? Nada!

Bigger isn’t always better. I find that the bigger the vegetable or fruit gets, the less flavor they have. While you always want to choose ripe produce, err on the smaller side of the produce game.

If you’re really craving some zucchini, splurge for the extra $1 and get two.

“Grown with organic practices” doesn’t always mean “Certified Organic.”

We know that organic foods are good for us; “certified organic” produce is grown without pesticides, herbicides, and preservatives.

But sometimes you’ll see a sign at the farmers market with the words “grown with organic practices.” While they might not certified organic, they may follow organic practices. Some farmers will say this about their farms when they’re in the process of getting certified (which can take months and cost a pretty penny).

Be sure to ask your farmer for clarification before purchasing if certified organic produce is important to you!

Bring cash.

I know. I totally fall into that group of people who never carries cash. But when I go to a farmers market, I make sure to have at least a few bucks on me.

While a lot of farmers will take credit cards, some haven’t transitioned off the cash-only model.

I saw some beautiful garlic scapes at the farmers market a few weeks ago. Knowing that they’re only in season for a short amount of time, I was eager to pick some up! The only farmer who had them only took cash, and I was fresh out. I left empty-handed and pretty dang sad.

Don’t be like me; always bring cash!

Experiment to find the right market for you.

There are so many farmers markets in my area, but I definitely have my favorites.

And I only have my favorites by trying a few and seeing which have the right vibe, growing standards, and selection.

Everyone is different, and everyone likes different produce. Chat with your friends, search online, or randomly show up to a farmers market and see what you think!

The more local, the better.

I’m lucky enough to have a farmers market right down the street from my house. It’s awesome.

I love supporting local farmers markets because it supports local farmers. Aka. my neighbors who are following their passions and doing what they love!

I always get a fuzzy feeling when I get to know my local farmers; their kids went to my high school, the farm is right down the street, they’ve lived in my hometown for years.

It’s just the best feeling. Trust me. 🙂

I have so much produce from the farmers market; what do I do with it?

I’ve been there many many times. Here are some of our favorite recipes to use up that farmers market produce:

Zucchini
I love serving fresh zucchini raw. Here’s a great Zucchini Salad with Walnuts & Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto that looks impressive, but takes minutes to whip up!  

Eggplant
Eggplant is fairly bland on its own, so it really needs to be elevated with some crumbled feta and a lemon-garlic dressing. This Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Orzo Pasta dish is a quick dinner for those busy summer nights.

Peppers
Bell peppers are always in my kitchen, so I’m constantly looking for simple recipe ideas to use them up. I love coating them in the garlic & herb marinade, roasting them and then tossing them with gnocchi for an easy dinner.  

Broccoli
My favorite veggie! Broccoli and pasta were meant to go together. Add in some baby spinach and some parmesan cheese, you’re on your way to quick dinner bliss. 

Corn
It isn’t summer without copious amounts of corn. Try this recipe for your next summer pizza night! 

Melon
Oh, how I love watermelon! It’s so refreshing as a snack, and it’s equally as delightful in salad form.

Tomatoes
The ultimate summer fruit! How fabulous would this No-Cook Fresh Tomato Pasta Sauce be on your dinner table tonight? 

And that’s that! I hope these tips got you excited to try out your local farmers market! A quick Google search will reveal a ton of farmers markets near you, so pick one and give it a try!

I bet they’ll become your newest summer obsession. Happy farmers market-ing!

Need some more inspiration? Check our gallery of recipes!