When going food shopping, the grocery store would be your first stop. But did you know that when it comes to fresh produce, you do have more options when shopping at your local farmer’s market? Find out what the advantages are when buying food and other supplies at farmer’s markets, and which items you should buy from them for the upcoming autumn season.
Reasons to Visit Your Local Farmer’s Market
Perhaps the number one reason why you should visit your local farmer’s market is that you can buy in-season fruits, veggies, fresh produce, and other food products at a very low price. Supporting local farmers helps the community. It also saves the environment because you can buy food items which are in season and are not wrapped in non-biodegradable, fancy packaging that only ups the price.
More importantly, you would know exactly where the food comes from because you can ask the farmers themselves.
You can even plan your meals around the main ingredients that you bought, thereby saving you money and giving you utmost convenience in meal preparation. Not only that, but you can rest assured that your family is eating healthy as well. With all these benefit and more, there’s no reason why you should buy fresh food from any other source than your local farmer’s market.
20 Things to Buy at Your Local Farmer’s Market
Now, with the autumn season almost upon us, what are the top things that you can buy fresh, in-season, and cheap at your local farmer’s market? Take a look at the following list:
1. Artisan Bread
An excellent item to fill your pantry with during the fall season is artisan bread. Instead of getting them from a fancy bakery, buy what you need from stalls selling artisan bread at your local farmer’s markets. These hearty bread loaves are usually made from whole grains and seeds which are rich in fiber. Ask the seller how long the bread will keep and buy some extra loaves for you to freeze for future use.
Instead of wasting money on out-of-season fruits bought from the supermarket which do not necessarily taste their best, why not buy in-season apples instead? Celebrating the fall season will never be complete without an apple and pumpkin-picking trip with the entire family. Crisp apples can be chopped and incorporated into salads. They can also be made into pies, pancakes, sorbet, sangria, and a host of other food and drink recipes.
Blackberries and other berries are in season during autumn. Plump, juicy, sweet, and tart, they make for the perfect bite-sized snacks. However, they can also be included in your favorite baked goods, they can be sprinkled on top of your breakfast cereal or oatmeal for a healthy start of the day, and they can be turned into simple dessert by serving them with whipped cream.
Fiber-rich beans are available at your local farmer’s market year-round. Shop with a friend and scout the bulk bins where you can purchased dried beans at a steal. These will definitely save you money as compared to the canned variety available at the supermarket.
An easy way to serve broccoli is to season it with salt and roast it in olive oil – along with other fresh veggies. Broccoli is available at farmer’s markets during the fall season. When buying them, look for small, green, tightly-packed florets. Make sure to choose one with the least number of brown spots.
Cabbage belongs to the broccoli family. These green cruciferous veggies can be turned into slaw, roasted, sautéed, or included in other recipes. You can also use the individual leaves as base for vegetable or meat spring rolls, and there are plenty of varieties of slaw recipes that you can download online. When buying cabbage, choose the ones that feel heavy when held against your hand and make sure that the head is compact and green.
What’s good about buying food from farmer’s markets is that you can easily ask the vendor what the source is. If you’re buying cheese, they are most likely made using the milk from grass-fed animals. Most varieties are available year-round so you can easily stock up on them once you find blocks at a local farmer’s market sold at a good price.
Carrots can be julienned and incorporated in salads. They can also be turned into cakes, doughnuts, soups, they can be pickled, or even juiced. Well-roasted carrots which have developed a deep caramelization in the oven make for the perfect accompaniment to your meat dishes.
Buying them at a farmer’s market will also allow you to enjoy the more colorful varieties ranging from white to purple. As compared to the commercially available orange carrots, these unique carrot varieties have higher levels of antioxidants.
Cauliflower can be used as a healthier substitute for mashed potatoes. They can also be roasted, turned into pizza crust, or seasoned and steamed. Even if you’re no vegetarian, you can purchase cauliflower from your local farmer’s market and enjoy its crunch, nutrients and unique taste.
Corn can be turned into salads, grilled, roasted, sweetened or eaten raw. Sweet corn is yellow while the white corn variety is savory. They’re available at your local farmer’s market at a very low price during the fall season, so you can easily stock up on them and incorporate them in your favorite recipes.
Yet another vegetable staple that you can buy cheap at the farmer’s market is eggplant. These purple veggies can be cubed, roasted, baked, or stir-fried. They mix really well with lemon, basil, onions and bell peppers.
Think of fennel as the bigger cousin of onions. They taste like licorice with a very delicate flavor. You can buy these veggies at your local farmer’s market, wash and shred them then incorporate them in salads, slaws, and other vegetable recipes.
13. Free-Range Eggs
Free-range or pasture-raised eggs can be cheaply bought at the farmer’s market and they are available year-round. These egg varieties are rich in vitamin D, something which you will need plenty of during the sunless days of winter.
Fresh ginger has a spicy flavor and they can be bought fresh from your local farmer’s market. As the root crop ages, its skin develops a paper-like consistency, without discounting the flavor inside. You can incorporate ginger into drinks, or it can be used in sautéed vegetable recipes.
If you think that grapes can only be eaten raw, think again. These plump fruits can be covered in chocolate for a luscious dessert. They can be combined with avocado and arugula for a tasty salad, and they can even be roasted and mixed with goat cheese for a delectable treat.
16. Green Beans
Perfect in salads, green beans are a must-buy when you are shopping at your local farmer’s market. They go well with almonds, parsley, tomatoes, olive oil, and ingredients with similar flavors.
Surprisingly, there’s more to kale than just being a healthier alternative for potato chips. These green veggies can be chopped and included in stir-fried recipes. They can also be sautéed in oil and garlic, or juiced for a healthy smoothie.
18. Local Honey
There are plenty of uses for honey, and the local farmer’s market in your area is your best source for it. Although summer is when honey is plentiful, you should still see stalls selling local honey because they are sourced from apiaries growing trees and flowers abundant in your area.
Cantaloupe, watermelon, and honeydew are some melon varieties available in the summer season, but you can still buy a few varieties during autumn at your local farmer’s market. Throw a few slices in the grill if you don’t want to incorporate them in summery drinks, or dice them and incorporate them in salad recipes.
These may be a summer staple, but tomatoes can still be bought at local farmer’s market all year-long. When you are able to buy them ripe and red, all you need is a dash of salt and a drizzle of some olive oil for an easy side dish. If there are some overripe tomatoes which are available for a really cheap price, you can cook them into your favorite pasta sauce recipe and the jars are bound to keep for days. Cherry tomatoes are perfect for salads and omelettes.
Other must-buy at your local farmer’s market during the month of September are basil, beets, celery, chives, cilantro, cucumbers, currants, garlic, lettuce, leeks, onions, pears, peppers, plums, pumpkins, radishes, sage, rosemary, shallots, spinach, Swiss chard, thyme, winter squash and turnips.
To grab the freshest veggies, go to the farmer’s market early so that you can have a selection of the best produce. On the other hand, if you want to get something good for a very cheap price, you can visit the farmer’s market late so that you can get discounts while the vendors and farmers are loading up their goods to take back home.