Summer is the prime time for shopping at farmers markets, yet, if you aren’t used to farmers markets, it can it can be difficult to make sure you’re reaping all the amazing benefits from buying local.
If you love eating FRESH foods, having locally-sourced food, and supporting local businesses, it’s very likely that you’ll be visiting farmers markets this summer for your favorite seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Summer is the busiest season for farmers markets, especially due to the delicious array of fruits and vegetables that are in season this time of year. Did you know that summer has the highest volume of in-season produce?
When you visit your local farmers market this time of year, vibrant and FRESH pieces of produce will meet your eye at every turn. There’s no doubt you will pick up as much as you can and love every bit of it.
Are you maximizing the money you spend there as well as what you’re picking up and how you’re taking care of it?
Whether you’re an avid visitor of your local farmers market or are deciding on when to go for your first time, these helpful tips will set you up for the best farmers market experience.
Six Farmers Market Shopping Tips:
- Get there early (the earlier the better). If you can beat the crowds, you will have first pick of all the produce and will be able to see all of the options available without being overwhelmed by other shoppers. While getting up early on a Saturday morning might not be exactly what you want to do, getting the best FRESH produce for your week probably is and getting there early will help that.
- If you’re looking to save money on produce or don’t particularly care about the “perfectness” of a certain fruit or veggie, ask the vendor if they have any “seconds” to sell. A farmers’ market seconds are the pieces of produce that have marks, scratches or small gashes. Seconds are great because aside from their appearance, they’re perfectly good to eat and taste just as delicious as the full priced produce.
- More often than not, the markets will not have bags for your to use to carry your purchased produce in, therefore bringing your own is a good idea. You can find great reusable produce bags at most grocery stores or any eco-friendly store. Store them in the back of your car so you have them whenever you need them.
Here are a couple of post-market tips:
- Head home right after the market. If you have other errands to run do them before or make a pit-stop back home in-between. Trust us, it’s worth the extra time and drive. If you leave your produce in the car while you run errands, not only will they bake in the car if it’s hot outside but they’ll lose some of their freshness — which is the best part of buying produce from farmers markets!
- Once you’re home, don’t let the produce sit on the counter in the sunlight, that will also dry them out and decrease the length of their freshness.
- As you’re putting your produce in the fridge, keep fruit and veggies away from each other. The high amounts of ethylene gas that fruits naturally give off can quickly spoil surrounding vegetables.
Depending on the size, your local farmers market can be a maze of colorful bins, baskets, and crowded tables — all looking ripe for the picking.
It can be difficult to know where to look first, or even what you should be looking for, but with a solid plan of action, you will be able to navigate your local farmers market with ease and fully enjoy the process of shopping locally.
During the summertime, most fruits and veggies will be delicious. So, what are the special ones — the ones that truly stand out this season and you absolutely need to get in your kitchen?
Let’s talk fruits first!
For a fruit you might not often buy on a normal grocery store run — peaches — are incredible during the summer, and even more so from the farmers market. Usually located next to the other stone fruit, the ones that have big seeds in the middle such as apricots, plums, and avocados. When you reach your hand into the barrel of peaches, feel for the ones that are on the firmer side. This will give you a few days to enjoy your tasty peaches before they lose their freshness.
After the stone fruits, pop over to the melons section and grab whichever is your fave — cantaloupe, honeydew, or watermelon! Compared to other fruits, it’s a difficult task to identify ripe melons. Color is key with melons. For cantaloupe, look for ones that are more golden in color rather than green. For honeydew, a light yellow color is the most ideal and for watermelon, we’ve got a little special trick for you! When you’re trying to pick a ripe watermelon, look for a yellow spot on the bottom, the larger the better. On other fruits, spots are usually a bad sign, but on watermelons that means perfect ripeness!
Lastly, take a trip over to the berries and grab a few. It’s all about your preference here, but if you just can’t decide which to get, we recommend a pick of strawberries. Strawberries are the ultimate summer fruit. You can very clearly see how juicy and ripe they are simply by their vibrant red color and there’s no doubt you’ll enjoy every single one!
Now let’s talk veggies!
With so many types of vegetables, picking the ones to bring home can be a challenging task at a farmers market due to so many great options, here are a few tips, to choose the FRESHest veggies for your meals and snacks.
Summer squash is exciting, being that it’s only in-season specific times of the year. This means that now is the perfect time for picking up summer squash. Another great pick is the well-known zucchini and yellow squash but there’s also the less known yellow zucchini, green tiger zucchini, and pattypan squash. Rather than trying to distinguish each at the market, have a little fun and grab what catches your eye. They all mix together beautifully and add a little something different yet tasty to so many dishes. Enjoy!
While the argument goes on for whether a tomato is a fruit or veggie, we’re putting it in this category because they are usually located near the veggies at the market. At the farmers market, you will see a much wider variety of colors of tomatoes than at your average grocery store! Do not be deterred by a non-red tomato! They’re all delicious and fun to use in your kitchen. The best way to tell if a tomato is ripe is smell. If it smells strange or a little off, then it is a sign that the tomato is going bad.
Finally, head over to something that is not a fruit or veggie — herbs! Farmers market herbs are inexpensive and delicious, not to mention summertime is herb season. You can pick your favorites, while also taking the opportunity to try out new flavors and spices for your recipes! For a couple of dollars you might discover a new favorite flavoring.
Once you’ve done your shopping and put your farmers market produce in the fridge, putting it next to a FRIDGEFRESH® device will help to keep the farmers market produce you just purchased FRESH longer than without a unit in your fridge. Another way to extend freshness of produce is to follow the normal produce storage practices such as storing them in low-moisture containers, not washing them until you’re ready, and keeping them separated.
And for our last piece of advice for maximizing your farmers market produce… enjoy! Over the next couple of days after you purchase your produce, reach for those items as often as possible and enjoy the pure freshness of locally grown produce.