Last week I mentioned that I’m dabbling a bit in container gardening this summer, and hopefully I’ll get a few tomatillos and a handful of cherry tomatoes out of it. For the majority of my family’s summer vegetable intake, though, we’ll be heading to our local farmers market a couple of Saturday mornings a month.
It seems like more and more farmers markets are cropping up, even in smaller towns, which is great news for people who want to buy fresh and local products such as produce, meat, dairy, flowers, and baked goods (To find your nearest farmers market, click here).
To get the biggest bang for your buck and to ensure you’re truly getting local and garden-fresh produce, here are a few tips to remember:
- Know what fruits and vegetables are in season (click here for a chart). If a stand is selling tomatoes in early May, be wary, and ask the farmer how and where they were grown.
- Go early or go late. The freshest and best quality products will be available right when the market opens, but you may be able to get things at a discounted price as the market closes.
- Take your own canvas bags, or even a little shopping basket (here are a few examples).
- Make sure you have cash, preferably in small bills and change. Some vendors are accepting credit cards now, but it will be faster, especially in large crowds, if you can pay cash in the exact amount.
- Plan ahead so you generally know what items you are looking for and how you will later prepare your treasures. Check out these farmers market recipes from Southern Living, Eating Well, and the kitchn.
- On the other hand, be open to trying something new. If you aren’t sure what to do with an item, ask the farmer how they would recommend using it or preparing it.
- Enjoy yourself! Farmers markets usually have fun and lively atmospheres, and some even offer special activities such as music and cooking demonstrations.
These and other tips can be found at About.com’s Local Foods section and News and Observer.
Want to grow your own vegetables this summer? Click here for last week’s post, full of gardening tips and ideas.
First picture by Flickr user US Dept of Agriculture; second picture by Flickr user North Charleston, both via CC