Living in the city has its advantages. For example, there’s always something going on and you can always find something to do. One downfall of city life, though, is getting fresh fruits and vegetables or being confident in where they’re sourced. Even if you do have a nearby grocery store the produce may have been imported from far away and not the best quality. If you want to be more conscious of the food you put in your body, where it comes from and how it was grown, check out a local farmers market! Most urban areas have at least one regular farmers market, and many even have locations for winter produce. A quick internet search will let you know times and locations of markets in your area, then follow these tips to get the most out of your time.
Especially if it’s your first time at the farmers market it’s important to do a little research and preparation before making your trek to the market. In addition to finding the location and hours of operation, you can usually find other useful information online. For example, will there be an ATM available or will there be vouchers available to pay with a credit or debit card? If you’re unsure it’s a good idea to bring plenty of cash, and smaller bills if possible to make it easier to make exact change.
You’ll also want to bring your cloth grocery bags and possibly a cooler to keep in your car if you want to stick around the market after you’re done shopping. That way your produce won’t wilt while you stay to listen to the local bands or whatever else is going on. Another good idea to check into beforehand is to make sure you know what’s in season in your area. That way you’re prepared to what produce will and won’t be available. If you like to meal plan you can go in with a rough list, but make sure to leave room for spontaneity because you never know what surprise fruits and vegetables may be available.
Unless you’re in a rush you should take a lap around the market once you get there. That way you know exactly what’s available and which items you want to purchase. Ask the farmers questions, especially if you find a food you’ve never encountered before. Ask what it is, its flavor profile, and how to use it in a recipe. If you’re a little adventurous you may find your new favorite food!
If you have the storage space and time to prepare the produce for storage, consider buying in bulk. It will take a bit of time once you get home, but if you purchase entire crates instead of just a pint or two you’ll save money and be able to enjoy the best produce during the offseason. Freezing and drying produce are two ways to preserve it, or try your hand at canning to get even more mileage out of the farm-fresh ingredients.
Once you get home make sure you take the time to properly clean and store your produce. Even if the farmers are certified organic it’s important to wash off any dirt, pesticides, or insects that may still be on the fruits and vegetables. A quick bath in some cold water and a splash of white vinegar will usually do the trick, but some produce may need a little more effort to get it clean. For storage purposes it depends on the produce. Check out this handy guide to see which fruits and vegetables do best in the fridge versus the counter, and other tips to keep it fresher longer.
Farmers markets are a great way to bring the country into the city and make sure you’re getting the best ingredients for your favorite recipes. With these tips you can ensure you’re getting the best bang for your buck and making the most out of your neighborhood resources.