Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Eating Omily: How to be a Farmer's Market Aficionado

I'm back in New York just in time to watch Obama coast back into the white house, and hear that NYC collective sigh of relief.  You definitely don't want to know what I've been eating in Ohio, so instead of telling you, I've prepared a list of tips and tricks for making the most of your Farmer's Market visits, whether you're a savvy shopper, or a nervous newb.

Farmer's Market Tips and Tricks

1. Don't make a list.  Well, you can make a vague list like, '2 fruits, 2 veggies, and something sweet', but don't make a list like, 'brocoli, brussels sprouts, grapes, pears, and orange blossom honey'.  Especially when you first make your Farmer's market forrays, you won't know which vendors will be there when, and who will be offered what.  It's more than just seasonal.  You'll start to pick up on micro-seasons: perfect windows to grab your favourites while they're not only at their best, but also at their cheapest!  Scan the whole market, then go back for what really caught your eye.
2. Get there early.  If you're really jonesing for something special, set your alarm, and enjoy the morning air!  Unlike a grocery store, farmer's markets plan to sell out by the end of the day.  They don't want to bring amazing produce back home to get sad and whilty in the intervening days!  Those short-season fruits and veggies vanish early in the day.
3. Get there late.  What?  I know, I know, but hear me out.  If you're feeling flexible, and/or are shopping on a budget, make that 'sell-out' mindset work to your advantage.  Show up within the last hour of the day, and you'll find plenty of delicious produce at its prime with prices slashed.  If it's not advertized as discounted, haggle!  Especially if you can buy a few things from the same vendor, they're almost always willing to cut you a deal to move food out of their stall.
4. Cultivate Relationships.  Why?  Well, first and foremost, that's half the point, isn't it?  If you chat up your favorite vendors regularly, you won't hesitate to ask how they like to cook and eat a veggie you've never encountered before, or what their choice apple is for making sauce, or how one starts with a pumpkin and ends up with a pie.  You'll also have the opportunity to suggest crops or varieties you'd like to see at the market to the people who grow them.  And keep in mind, this aint your grocery store!  Vendors who see your face regularly might cut you a deal on heirloom tomatoes so they don't have to count out a bunch of change, or float you a pound of beef till next time if you've run out of cash.  They might also let you in on special deals the public isn't privvy to, like cases of tomatoes for a song!
5. Bring more cash than you think you need.  Trust me: whether it's heirloom popcorn, a cup of mulled cider, or an artisanol cheese you can't resist, you'll probably drop more than you planned, and assuming you don't go overboard, you'll never regret it!
6. Don't bring more cash than you want to spend.  The same is true in reverse if you're looking to save money off your conventional produce department grocery bill.  Know how much you have going in, and when it's gone, get out of there!  It's way too easy to fall in love with more tasty treats than your budget allows.

Apply these tips and tricks, you'll be shopping like a pro in no time, and you'll never want to go back to the land of flavorless, unfairly priced produce again!

P.S. All photos are of delicious foods I bought today for $10 total.  Yes, the last baby watermelons are still around!  Get them while they're sweet!  And barely bigger than my hand!

P.P.S. How do you like our new floors?

P.P.S.S. What are your secrets for making the most of the Farmer's Market??

~em

3 comments:

  1. I totally missed the Farmer's Market season in my town this year, and now I wish it wasn't over. You've reminded me how much I love going.

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  2. BUT I've looked online and found a couple close by that I've never checked out. So,...awesome. :-)

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  3. Sweet! I always start at the Farmer's Market when planning my Thanksgiving menu. I already put down a deposit on a free-range turkey! If you're lucky enough to be near a Farmer's Market that's around all year, get out there, and grab some fresh sage and rosemary...mmmmm...

    ~em

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