The Farmer’s Basket Tips for Shopping Wisely at the Market

The open forum of a marketplace is a burst of seasonal colors and a steady buzz of chatter. The curious shopper discovers she has direct access to fresh and locally grown fruits and vegetables, herbs, dairy-based products, and proteins. The woman or man behind the table provides a small sampling of popular items; yet, shoppers can experience a more comprehensive array of goods by visiting the farm.  It’s vital to introduce yourself and inquire if there is a “farm store?”  Most likely, it’s on a familiar road, not too far from home! “Support local” is more than just an expression. It’s an opportunity to support growers and farmers in communities near you!  

By July, you may be a regular at the Farmer’s Market, nodding at familiar faces and greeting farmers and growers by name.  While you love the outdoor shopping experience, a few tips can perhaps create better results! 

Essential Supplies 

Navigating a market can, at times, feel overwhelming if you are not prepared; therefore, consider having the following items: 

  1. A Sturdy, Reusable Bag:  Say “No, thank you” to a plastic bag; instead, 

contain purchased produce in a bag worn on the shoulder to free up both hands. 

  1. A Cooler with Frozen Ice Packs:  In those moments when buying a dairy product, such as cheese, or meats, it’s ideal to have a cooler available.  Consider a vase, too!  You never know when you’ll pick up fresh flowers or herbs that will wilt in the summer heat! 

Walk Around First 

Understanding who will attend the market is an excellent way to start preparing.  Check the website days in advance to see which vendors will be available to purchase meats, cheeses, and produce. Think about the weekly meal menu and make a list of essential ingredients, meat, potatoes, vegetables, and fruits! 

Before you approach the first vendor, take a walk through the entire market to see what is available and compare prices.  Having a notebook in hand will help you quickly identify the vendor with the lowest prices or best selections.  

Herbs Go the Distance 

If you love using herbs, start practicing the three-plant theory—one for use, one for recovery, and the third for planting.  Did you know most herbs will grow roots if set in water?  Although they are hydrophytes, which implies the plants can remain in water, it’s best to allow roots to thrive in soil.   

Tip:  For extended use, herbs need to be in water and refrigerated—lay Saran-Wrap on the top leaves. 

Identifying the Best Produce 

Famers and growers will always sell their fruits and vegetables at the peak when produce is bursting with color and nutrition; however, you need to recognize high quality! 

Tip:  Never choose a bruised, discolored, or tender fruit or vegetable.  It’s true—one bad apple ruins the bunch! 

  • Blueberries: Look for plump berries, with rich, blue coloring. 
  • Cantaloupe or Honeydew Melon: Pale-yellow rind without dark green spots.  It should feel heavy! 
  • Cucumber: Dark green and firm with no yellow spots or wrinkles.  
  • Corn: Leaves are bright green and wrapped tightly against the cob.  The silky top, the tassel, should be golden or slightly brown and sticky to the touch. 
  • Yellow and Zucchini Squash:  Skin is bright and shiny and firm at the stem.  For the best flavor, choose small to medium sizes. 
  • Okra:  Pods have a fresh, green stem, firm. 
  • Onions: Firm yet hard. 
  • Salad Greens:  Leaves should have a fresh smell and appear strong. 
  • Tomatoes: Skin is bright and shiny with firm flesh.  They should feel heavy! 
  • Watermelon: Only one yellow spot, the belly!  Thump it to hear a hollow sound! If it has shiny skin, pass!  

Trust the Pricing

It takes a fair amount of time, money, and preparation to prepare homegrown or homemade products for a weekly market.  Farmers and growers often have few helpers, or complete tasks by themselves. Rather than haggle, ask questions to learn more about their farming practices and values.  If purchasing an unknown root crop, such as turnips or parsnips, ask the grower about its taste and a favorite recipe.    

End of Day Benefits 

Have you ever attended the market one hour before closing?  As the market winds down, farmers and growers have more time to chat. It will give you the ideal opportunity to make a connection.  Vendors seeking to clear out their supply of fresh eggs, fruits, and vegetables will offer a great deal.  One that you cannot pass up! 

Next Month: Alchemy Farms


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