Making the most of the farmers market

 

Great people-watching, lively conversation, the sights and sounds and—especially—flavors of the season. What’s not to love about a farmers market?

If you’re new to this scene, it can be a little intimidating. Or maybe you’re a regular, but you’ve fallen into a routine. Read on for some tips on making your farmers market outing the best it can be.

Plan and prioritize. Are you after the most picturesque produce? Then it’s best to beat the crowds and arrive early. That’s when you’ll find the freshest selections and the most variety.

If you want the lowest prices, go ahead and sleep in. You can find some great deals as the market winds down and vendors become eager to sell off their remaining wares.

Stock up on staples, but branch out too. Maybe you can’t get enough heirloom tomatoes. Or your kids eat berries and pears like candy. You can buy a week’s worth in one go.

But why stop at the familiar? While browsing the market, you may find foods you’ve never tried before. If a piece of produce is new to you, don’t be shy. Ask the farmer about the best ways to prepare it. You may even get a sample or a recipe!

Use a critical eye. As with any food shopping experience, it’s important to keep safety in mind. A couple of points to remember:

• Meats, eggs, dairy, fish, and precut fruits and vegetables should be displayed on ice. If they’re not, pass them by.

• Bring several totes to keep produce and raw meat separate. Bring an insulated bag or a cooler and ice for meat, eggs and dairy products.

• Steer clear of milk, ciders and juices that have not been pasteurized.

• Fruits and vegetables from the farmers market need to be washed just like produce from the grocery store. A rinse or scrub with plain water is best.

Ready to get fresh?

Find a list of farmers markets in your area at usda.gov. Just type “farmers market directory” in the search bar.

Sources: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; American Institute for Cancer Research; Coffey Communications