Summer is on its way, and my favorite local farmers market is full of delicious goodies, but I’ll be honest – as much as I love browsing stalls and sampling what’s new, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the whole thing, and often leave the market with either way too much or barely anything. So when our friend Steve Fortunato at the innovative RoomForty Catering offered to share some suggestions for making the most of a trip to the farmers market, I immediately took him up on it. Here, Steve’s tips for “making your farmer’s market experience (as Thomas Keller says) a little bit better every time.”
1. Ask a Chef Where to Go
The term “farmers market” has come to mean many different things. We’ve been to farmers markets that are mostly prepared food stalls, Rastafarian art and singer/songwriters pouring their hearts out. We’ve been to other farmers markets that are filled with… wait for it…farmers. The point is that all markets are not created equal. Ask a chef at your favorite local restaurant which farmers market they like and go to that one. Chefs are paid to have local knowledge – and the hospitality business is all about nurturing people in various ways, not just through food, so your favorite chef will most likely be happy to tell you. Why? Because it’s nurturing to tell people where to get good food!
2. Walk The Entire Market Before Purchasing
Seasonality means that several farmers are going to have the same product. Nothing is more frustrating than going to one stall, buying what you thought was
killer eggplant, then going two stalls down, and seeing eggplant that makes the
eggplant in your bag already look like eggplant marinara. Get a feel for what’s
available, and where it looks best throughout the whole market, then start to
3. Ask Questions of the Farmers
We firmly believe in always learning. Growing food can be one of the most rewarding, visceral, timeless practices, and farmers love to talk about their products. So ask them questions. Things like: What is a good way to prepare this? Can I try a sample of this? I see your farm is organic; what does that mean to you? What’s coming next week?
4. The Early Bird Avoids the Worm
Try to get to the market as close to when it opens as possible. Remember, everyone has free reign to pick through the bins and get the best of the goods, so the later you arrive, the less chance you have of finding the cream of the crop.
5. Try Something New
Every time you go to the market, we encourage you to try one thing you’ve never had before. Trust us – just one thing at a time.
6. Think Beyond Vegetables
We find a lot of people buy their fruit and vegetables at farmers markets, and get everything else, well, elsewhere. There are some awesome meat purveyors and dairies coming to markets (house made cheese anyone?), so be open to buying more than produce.
7. Gauge Ripeness According to Use
The market is inspiring, but as inspired as you are, you most likely will not use everything you buy in one day. So get some items that are ripe enough to be used immediately, and some that are under ripe but will be perfect in a few days.
Cash (rarely are credit cards accepted), your own big shoulder bag (you don’t want to be walking around the market with a handful of plastic bags), and that’s it. Have fun!
And now some delicious shots of the RoomForty team in action at a farm-to-table dinner they catered, ending with their signature Campfire S’mores with Hickory Smoke.
Yum! I’m definitely ready for a trip to the farmers market (and a seat at the table of the next RoomForty event).
What was your last farmers market purchase? Mine was a few months ago, but it was some tiny, delicious kiwis that I’m still dreaming about!