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Make the Most of Your Farmers Market

Sharon Palmer

There’s no doubt about it, a visit to your local farmers market is a great way to spend a summer morning. A kaleidoscope of vibrant colors and a mélange of earthy aromas awaits you. But sometimes that can be a problem. It’s tempting to consider your farmers’ market more of an open air art exhibit, rather than a shopping experience. And it can be a challenge to figure out what to do with so many unusual fruits and vegetables, from purple carrots to wild greens. This explains why you spy so many empty-handed “window shoppers” at farmers’ markets. What a shame! Your local farmers market can serve as an inspiration for delicious, healthy meals that focus on whole plant foods all year long. And farmers markets offer more benefits than meet the eye.

“The fundamental benefit of a farmers market is the one that is least visible and perhaps the most poignant in today’s current polarizing environment: farmers markets keep the tax base closest to home. Dollars spent locally with vendors who grow and operate in a local community, benefit a local community,” says Amanda Archibald, R.D., dietitian and founder of Field to Plate, a food education company that focuses on sustainable, fresh foods.

Archibald explains that farmers markets also allow you to take part in a conversation on foods. When you visit a booth at the farmers market, you can ask the farmer where and how he or she grew the food. That’s difficult to do in the supermarket produce aisle. Best of all? “Farmers markets deliver nutrient-rich, flavorful food harvested a few short hours before your purchase it. Most farmers markets get food to your plate without the need for a ‘sell by’ date,” says Archibald. If your refrigerator is stocked with nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, picked at their flavor and nutrient peak, you’re more likely to include more antioxidant-rich, disease-protective fruits and vegetables in your daily diet.

With so many reasons to shop at your local farmers market, it’s time to schedule your next trip with this handy guide. Wondering where to find your nearest farmers market? Visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s listing of farmers markets here.

Make the Most of Your Farmers Market with these Top 6 Tips 

Local foods expert, Amanda Archibald, R.D., offers these tips to turn your next farmers market shopping experience into a success.

1. Buy produce that appeals to you. Keep in mind how much your family will consume over the week.

2. If you’re not a cook who can master preparing any produce you bring home, learn what’s in season before you visit the farmers’ market. Have some basic ideas of ingredients you’d like to purchase for your favorite dishes.

3. Once you’re home with your produce bounty, keep it fresh with these tips:

  • Soak all leafy greens, then pat or spin dry before storing in refrigerator.
  • Refrigerate berries and wash just before serving.
  • If fruit is very ripe, eat immediately or slow down ripening by refrigerating it (note that refrigeration can make some fruits, like peaches, mealy.)
Grilled Peaches with Basil

4. Turn any seasonal fruit or vegetable purchase into a shining success with these culinary techniques:

  • Drizzle a simple vinaigrette dressing over beautiful salad greens.
  • Prepare greens by boiling, steaming, or sautéing with a small amount of olive oil, herbs and garlic.
  • Roast a variety of fresh summer vegetables (as well as root vegetables during the winter) in a shallow, oven-proof dish; drizzle with a simple dressing, and roast at 400 F until crisp-tender.
  • Preserve fresh berries by freezing them or making jams and jellies to extend the season.
  • Preserve stone fruit like plums, peaches or cherries by freezing or canning—to enjoy them all year long.

5. If you end up buying too much produce, preserve it, or share it with a friend or neighbor. If it ripens before you can use it, compost it and give it back to the earth it came from.

6. Include a few great cookbooks that focus on fruits and vegetables in your library, such as:

  • “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” by Deborah Madison
  • “From Asparagus to Zucchini” by the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition
  • “How to Cook Everything: Vegetarian Cooking” by Mark Bittman
  • “A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen” by Jack Bishop
  • “The Accidental Vegan” by Devra Gartenstein

For some of my favorites farmers market recipes, check out these:

Farmers Market Tomato Arugula Salad
Farmers Market Tempeh Hash
Farmers Market Pasta Salad
15 Plant-Based Farmers Market Inspired Recipes

Written by Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN on February 7, 2011; Updated on February 25, 2020

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