It's my favorite time of year. Farmers' market season! If you've never headed out to a market in your area I highly recommend giving them a try. Even if you don't buy anything, the experience alone is worth it. I love checking out what local farms have to offer and talking to farmers about their growing practices. Farmers' markets can definitely feel intimidating at first, but with these 10 farmers' market tips you'll be navigating your way around like a pro in no time.
This post is sponsored by Frontier Co-op.
1) Know what's in season in your region so you know what you can expect to see.
Things are always in flux at the market and even within the summer season there are different times certain produce is available. Knowing what should be there before you go will allow you to plan your recipe shopping accordingly. And if you're curious when a certain fruit or vegetable might be available, don't be afraid to ask! I am always counting down the days until Colorado peaches are available and it's typically different each year depending on the transition from winter to spring.
2) Get to know a farmer!
This is one of my favorite parts about going to the market. The farmers love talking about their produce and this can make the shopping experience less overwhelming. The farmers I've come in contact with are always happy to answer any questions you have. It's fun to reconnect each week with the same people and see what new produce is at their stand. Oftentimes, the farmers will even invite you to their farm for a tour. Definitely something I've been meaning to do!
3) Do a full walk-through first.
If you're new to farmers' markets or are visiting one for the first time, it's extremely helpful to do a walk-through to see what everyone is offering. Then you can zero in on what you want to get and where your money is best spent. With produce being in such flux each week, this is something I still do every time! It's rare that I buy something on my first pass through the market.
4) If you see a new-to-you vegetable ask the farmer how he/she would prepare it and what spices would pair well with it.
Experimenting with new foods from the market is one of the things I look forward to the most each year! But don't feel like you have to buy or grow a million fresh herbs to pair with your summer produce. Dried herbs are super useful to use in cooking all year round and will also help save you money. You can use dried herbs just as much (or more) as fresh with your in season, summer produce. For instance, you can rub a BBQ spice mixture on potatoes before putting them on the grill, or use a garlic and herb mixture with a dried citrus blend to toss with vegetables before roasting or grilling. Dried herbs are especially helpful in recipes that have long cook times (like sauces, soups, etc.) and if they're being exposed to higher heats. Then I like to top things off with a sprinkle of fresh herbs for a little extra pop!
5) Bring reusable produce bags.
Pretty self explanatory, but I love using reusable mesh produce bags. They're great to use at the grocery store as well, to help cut down on waste.
6) Bring cash and set a budget for yourself.
I rarely have cash on hand except for the summer market season. And with so many farm stands and new local food products to try, it's hard not to spend a lot of money very quickly. Setting a budget and only bringing that amount of cash will help keep you in check.
7) Look and ask for "seconds" produce, especially fruit, and freeze or preserve the excess.
While there typically isn't any bargaining going on at farmers' markets, many vendors will have a selection of bruised produce that is significantly cheaper called, "seconds." I find this to be especially common with fruit. I've had amazing luck buying from this selection and usually buy in larger quantities for 50% off. The fruit is typically in almost perfect condition and incredibly ripe. As soon as I get home I attend to the fruit. Whatever pieces are bruised/damaged I clean up. Then, I figure out how much we'll eat or use in recipes and freeze whatever is left over (if it's a fruit that goes bad quickly like peaches). If it's something like apples, I try to find a friend to split a large box with, since they're not too freezer friendly.
I haven't dabbled in the world of canning, but I do like freezing certain fruits and vegetables.
8) Go early if you want "hot" items and the best selection in produce (or the "seconds").
One reason I try to get to the market early is for farm fresh eggs. They're some of the most incredible eggs you'll find and they're usually gone in a flash. You'll also have the best pick of "seconds" if you head out early! But, if you go at the end of the market you may find some deals from farmers who are trying to sell the last of their produce.
9) Ask questions.
Don't be shy about asking farmers what their growing practices are. Keep in mind many small farms are not certified organic because the cost of certification is so high. But if you ask questions you'll often find out they use 100% organic growing practices. Sure, you can't be 100% certain, but I like to give local farmers the benefit of the doubt.
10) To avoid feeling overwhelmed, head to the market with a recipe or two in mind and maybe even a list.
Sometimes the markets feel like a rat race but it's completely okay to take your time when you're there. It helps to go with a few certain ingredients and/or recipes in mind, to keep you from over-buying and then wondering how you're going to eat everything you bought when you get home.
This month, I'll be talking about how to use dried herbs and spices with summer produce over on Instagram. Follow me at @edibleASH so you catch my tips! You'll also want to follow @fontiercoop to see their #spiceupsummer cooking tips and for my farmers' market Instagram takeover coming in mid June!
Feel free to share your summer cooking tips, recipes, and adventures to the market using #spiceupsummer as well!
Have a great week + keep an eye out for National Donut Day coming this Friday!
This post is sponsored by Frontier Co-op. All opinions are my own. If I didn't love it, you wouldn't hear about it. Thanks for supporting the brands that support Edible Perspective!