Farmers markets are truly a little slice of heaven.
You’ll find just-picked peaches, honey from a hive down the road, fresh-baked apple pie, gluten-free homemade bread, sweet summer corn and bunches of basil just asking to be made into pesto.
It’s easy to get carried away in a place like that. Before you know it, you’ve got more produce than you could eat in three weeks and—unless you’re planning on doing some serious canning—will end up wasting food and money.
Bigger farmer markets often have a slew of other vendors there as well, including crafters and food trucks.
If you want to go home with a new navy-blue gingham apron after eating fresh-cut French fries for lunch, you certainly won’t find any judgement here.
But, just like at the grocery store, it’s generally a good idea to know what you need and have a plan. Deviate only when it’s really and truly worth it (we’re talking to you, homemade fudge.)
What should you not buy from a farmers market? Anything that does not grow in your area!
Bananas in Chicago? That’s a dead give-away that this is not a real farmers market and you should hightail it out of there. Apples in the spring? That is not nature’s way in North America.
Use your judgment. Just because something comes from a farmers market doesn’t mean it’s going to be good. Does it look too ripe or not ripe enough? If so, move on.
This question has been endlessly debated.
But there might finally be an answer, thanks to information collected by the Nevada County Public Health Department. It turns out there are some things that are generally cheaper in the grocery store, including kale, lettuce, cabbage and berries. But produce like squash, zucchini, cucumbers and cabbage were cheaper at the farmers market. Then there were those items—including tomatoes—that were about the same.
But price, of course, isn’t the bottom line. We’ve all seen raspberries at the grocery store that look mushy and sad after their long journey on a truck. Meanwhile, the berries at the local farmers market were just picked and taste like sunshine.
Do you like having farms near where you live? How about beekeepers? Don’t you enjoy driving by those grape vines? Buying locally is one way to help ensure that these places thrive.
What’s more, the food you buy from a farmers market is much more likely to be local and organic, which means it’s better for you and probably tastes better, too.
And then there’s the experience itself. The pleasure of selecting the avocados you’ll put on your toast the next morning. The look on your children’s faces when you (the sugar Nazi) bring home chocolate-chip banana bread. The satisfaction of husking corn that grew just down the road.
And let’s say you do get carried away and buy too many cucumbers. Just make some pickles and get ready for your next trip back to your favorite farmers market.
It’s all good.
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