Farmer's Markets

I think I have mentioned farmer's markets in the past. I love them. The colors, the smells, the organized choas. Every once in a while my aunt would take us to one in Boston around the corner from Fanuiel Hall.

I came across these tips in an AOL article, and I think they can be helpful, especially if you've not been to one before. I have sliced and diced, and streamlined the article down for you below.

There are advantages to buying food at the grocery store. It's one stop shopping, and even if something isn't in season where you are, chances are it is still being grown and harvest somewhere else.

Having said this, there are also disadvantages. Supermarket produce travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to your neighborhood grocery. A trip can take up to two weeks leaving the produce not especially fresh -- and no longer very nutritious. Then there are the resources wasted to get the fruits and vegetables there and the impact that waste has on the environment.

Your best bet is your local farmers' market, where you can buy locally grown, seasonal produce. If it's local, you know it's fresher than what's lining the produce aisle at your local grocer. And if food is in season, it's at its peak and will be as delicious and nutritious as its going to get.

1. Buy Ugly. If you're not familiar with
heirloom tomatoes, you might think you're looking at inedible mutants, but that couldn't be further from the truth. While most commercial fruits and vegetables are harvested for uniformity and aesthetics, heirlooms are prized for their individuality. They often have a unique and sometimes superior taste, especially as compared to their flavorless supermarket cousins.

2. The Right Stuff. Having the right gear makes all the difference between a smooth shopping experience and a disastrous one. Consider this your market shopper toolkit: Cash: Many vendors don't take credit, Bags: Bring a few large, reusable bags or reuse bags from your home collection, A Cooler: If you have a few stops to make first, it might be a good idea to bring one -- especially for fragile items like delicate berries or if you plan to buy meat or fish.

3. When to Go. First thing in the morning is the best time to go for the best selection. If you're more interested in a good deal, go close to closing time; many vendors offer end-of-the-day specials so they don't have to schlep their unsold wares back to the farm.

4. Before You Buy. Take a lap around the whole market before you break out your wallet. Those ears of corn may look great, but there might be some a few rows down that look even better or come with a smaller price tag. Also, knowing everything the market has to offer before you start purchasing will make planning a complete meal that much easier.

5. What to Look For. Browsing for fruits and vegetables, follow the same rules you would at the supermarket. Don't buy anything bruised or wilted and look for good color and smooth, firm skins. When it comes to meat, "the pinker the better", and stay away from fish that smells too "fishy".

6. Ask Questions. The greatest thing about the farmers' market is that the people who grow it are the same people who sell it. Get to know your farmer! Find out how the food is grown and when it was picked. The vendors are happy to tell you what it is, what it tastes like, give you some ideas on how to prepare it and in some cases, even let you have a taste. Building a relationship with your farmer may also mean some good deals down the road.

7. Don't Overlook Conventional Growers. You might be tempted to head straight to the organic stands, but it's worth a trip to the conventional growers' stands as well. For small farmers, the organic certification process can be lengthy and cost-prohibitive. If you have a chat with some of the conventional growers, you may find that their growing practices are both organic and sustainable -- they just don't have the piece of paper giving them license to use the word "organic."

8. Know Before You Go. Don't go with a rigid shopping list. You never know what new and exciting things you might find there. If you get there and find yourself tempted by some fennel or fava beans, go right ahead and buy it and figure out how to serve it when you get home.

9. Don't Over Buy. Buying at a farmers' market means getting a superior product. The longer you leave that product unused, the more its quality declines. As a general rule, don't buy more than you can use within three to five days.

10. Keep it Simple. Farm fresh foods taste better than their grocery store counterparts, so they don't need overly fussy preparations. Some good quality olive oil, salt and pepper is often enough to enhance the flavor of fresh food at its peak.

If you want to learn more about farmer's markets, or to locate a farmer's market in your area, click

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