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Get Fresh Fruit & Veggies at a Farmers' Market

As we start getting back into the swing of things, our lives are once again becoming increasingly busy. This means in between returning to the office, keeping up with our kids’ practice schedules, and getting back out there to enjoy our favorite summer activities to the fullest…we have to once again worry about what’s for dinner!

Life during the pandemic shifted our eating habits to include more scheduled pick-ups, subscription meal services, and the convenience of contactless delivery from all of our favorite spots with just the touch of a button. All of these options offer great benefits, but let's talk about a fresher choice.

As the world starts to open back up, don’t forget about an essential shopping option that supports our local economy and guarantees some of the freshest produce you can get your hands on (literally!) Going to your local farmer’s market this summer will ensure your next cookout includes only the tastiest and freshest ingredients on the block! Here’s some tips to keep in mind when picking the stars of your next dinner party!

Just in case you aren’t yet entirely sold on the idea, let’s quickly run down some of the key benefits of getting hands-on with your produce this summer when buying directly from the source! The most important reason to browse the farmer’s market on your next grocery run is to support local growers. The pandemic took a toll on every level of the economy but probably none more so than merchants that rely heavily on in-person sales. Besides the invaluable job of keeping us fed, farmers provide customers with exclusive access to some of their best crops at roadside stands.

Once it’s plucked from the vine, the clock starts ticking on a fruit or vegetable’s overall freshness during its transport and residency at the supermarket. Which leads perfectly into the next key benefit of frequenting farmer’s markets: freshness! The term “fresh” has become somewhat of a buzzword in product marketing, but nothing advertised on a label even comes close to the experience of biting into something that’s quite literally “fresh” out of the garden. The produce at famer’s markets is always at peak freshness because chances are, it’s usually been picked that day!

Now that you’re salivating at the idea of a divinely ripe batch of strawberries or a truly organic bushel of kale to meal prep for your daily garden salads, it’s time to prepare for a shopping spree you can feel good about! While there’s no telling what scrumptious surprises you’ll run across from that day’s market, it’s probably still a good idea to head out with a loosely formed list of ideal finds. Depending on your location, staples like melons, tomatoes, and other high yield crops are almost a sure bet but don’t count out the possibility of stumbling across regional delicacies like ramps, persimmons, or wild rhubarb!

Running low on kitchen essentials? Put it on the list! The farmer’s market can be a great place to acquire locally sourced eggs, honey, or maple syrup! Next, you’ll need to plan for your organic haul’s drive home. Consider bringing along freezer bags, coolers, cardboard boxes, or reusable totes to make sure everything makes it to the dinner table unbruised with a locked in freshness!

The best time to go to the farmer’s market is just after the rooster’s crow and way before the cows come home. Making it to the stands earlier in the day (or even better, as soon as they open) gives you the best shot at claiming the blue-ribbon selections of the batch, beating the heat, and nabbing your off-the-vine finds at peak freshness!

Knowing what to look out for when choosing your produce will help make your trip to the farmer’s market that much more fruitful! Carefully inspecting a fruit’s ripeness or firmness and having a general knowledge of what signs to look for a crop’s appearance will aid your judgement in picking out things like watermelons or cantaloupes where looks can be quite deceiving. When in doubt, a quick online search for tell tale signs when determining a tricky fruit’s ripeness, such as tapping on watermelons until you hear a hollow sound, are essential tricks to walking away with the best basket.

Maybe one of the best pieces of advice when going to a farmer’s market is to look for things out of the ordinary. Despite what you might be used to seeing on display at the supermarket, veggies come in all shapes and sizes. A funky looking squash or an odd-shaped misfit of a sweet potato can spice up your pantry and be a great conversation starter. Adding a pop of color from some purple chard or gold heirloom tomatoes can be the perfect missing piece to liven up your favorite recipes and add a little variety to your dishes.

Be sure to find out what’s in season before you arrive. Things like collard greens, peas, and herbs are best buys in the Spring. Summer is the prime time for buying okra, bell peppers, and beets. Fall brings a harvest of pumpkins, potatoes, yams, and green beans.

Some things we can’t pass up include berries, cantaloupes, tomatoes, and sweet corn. Sound off in the comments below with your own fresh finds from the farmer’s market and let us know which delectable foods made it into your cart!

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