Shopping at your local farmers market can be a great way to find fresh and affordable organic produce, support sustainable farming practices, and champion artisanal producers. But shopping at the farmers market can also be overwhelming, especially if you’re unfamiliar with basic farming techniques, heirloom varieties, and the seasonality of produce.
Most people know they want foods that are both wholesome and good for the environment, but aren’t sure how to determine if a specific item meets those criteria. This raises questions about things like the difference between organic and certified organic, or the exact importance of eating local.
The issue is further complicated by the unfamiliarity of specific fruit and vegetable varieties. Farmers markets often sell prized heirloom varieties and specialty items, making some fruits and vegetables difficult to recognize. You may wonder what a certain variety tastes like, how to store it, or what the best preparation technique is.
Fortunately, you don’t need to be a food professional to make the most of the farmers market; you just need to learn what to ask the farmer (or seller) at the market. Taking the time to have a conversation about the food, asking questions like “who grew this food?”, “what’s your favorite way to prepare this item?”, or “how do I best store this food?” can yield tremendous benefits. Ask a few basic questions and you’ll be navigating the farmers market and enjoying local, sustainable, and seasonal produce in no time.
Who Grew This Food?
Finding out who grew your food can help you determine how far the food traveled and what types of growth or production methods were used.
Is Your Farm Certified Organic?
Finances can hinder a farm’s ability to register for organic certifications, so if a farm isn’t certified, don’t assume they’re not organic; ask about their farming practices.
Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.