(Photo Credit: Erik Scheel)
Going to the farmers’ market can be fun and exciting, but it can also be overwhelming.
Where should I go first? What should I buy? Is it organic or not?
Before I get started I want to tell you why I love farmers’ markets so much: most times they are the best of both worlds–local and organic.
Eating local and organic is the best option for our health.
Food doesn’t travel miles and miles to get to us and although they’re not always certified (it’s expensive to get certified!), many small, local farmers do not use pesticides on their produce. You have to ask though because just because it’s local, doesn’t mean they don’t use them.
This is also the cheapest way to get good-quality produce and you’re supporting a farmer in your general vicinity instead of BIG AG (AG = Agriculture) in Mexico or California.
Local and organic is the bomb (do people still say that??).
Ok. I’ve compiled some tips to help make your trip to the farmers’ market fun and successful:
1. Pack Bags and Cash.
This one might seem a bit obvious, but you want to make sure you pack cash! I don’t carry cash very often anymore so I have to make a special trip on the way. If you can, get some smaller bills and change because the vendors might not always have change for bigger bills.
Don’t forget your bags! Vendors will always have bags, but I find they use a lot of plastic so bring your own.
2. Walk Around First.
Before you start buying produce at the first stall you see, walk around the whole market first. Assess all of the vendors, what they’re offering, how many people they have working there, where they’re from and if they offer organic or pesticide-free produce.
Walking around will also give you a chance to compare various price points and figure out where you want to spend your money. It will also give you a lay-of-the-land so that the next time you walk around you will be more comfortable about approaching your vendors of choice.
3. Farmers’ Market = Seasonal Produce.
Every year when I go to the market on the first weekend, I’ll admit, I’m a bit disappointed. Why? Because I have it in my head that the market will be bursting with all sorts of produce and things to buy, but it’s never the case.
Think of a farmers’ market in the same way as you do seasonal produce: There is a time for everything.
The first weekend will likely have lots of light, leafy greens like spring mixes and mustard greens and potentially some greenhouse options, but that’s about it. The earlier the season, the fewer the options.
This a good time to give you a bit of a warning: early on you might see a vendor with a big table with loads of produce that might not be in season. Some of these stall vendors buy direct from the Food Terminal and might not always be local or in season.
The food terminal is our friend of course, but it’s important to ask lots of questions and try to support the smaller farmers at the market first.
4. Buy First; Search For A Recipe Later.
Farmers’ Market season is the best time to try something new. If you see a weird looking veggie get it! You can be guaranteed that Google or Pinterest will help you find a recipe for it.
This week I got wild leeks (otherwise known as ramps) in my veggie box. When I first started getting them I had no idea what they were or how to eat them. But a little search told me they’re delicious in a pesto so this week I made pesto using spinach, wild leeks and parsley and served it over fish (pesto is a great way to amp up fish by the way!).
Step out of the box and try something new. In fact I challenge you to do this every week.
5. Meat, Cheese and Flowers, Oh My!
One of my favourite vendors at my local market is a woman who sells beautiful flower arrangements from La Primavera Farms in Dundas, Ontario. I try to get something from her every week or two because I love having fresh flowers in the house.
Also don’t be afraid to try the fish, meats and cheeses. Again, you’ll be getting the freshest options and items you won’t find in a boring old grocery store. I love trying these goat cheeses from Cross Wind Farm and getting some fish for the weekend. There’s also a woman in my neighbourhood who sells jarred pantry items (the chilli sauce is delicious!).
That’s about it! What are your favourite things to get at the market?
** P.S.: I have a new Farmers’ Market Recipe Booklet with great ideas on how to use that produce! Get it here. **