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Sunday, September 5, 2010

DO THIS: Love a Farmer(s Market)

The picture above is what I love very most about summer.
This beautiful caprese salad is made with heirloom tomatoes (purple Cherokee, great white, and red pear) purchased from the local farmers market. There is this guy there that now knows me as a 'regular' (I know him as tomato guy) and every week I show up and talk to him about tomatoes. I have never in my life met someone so passionate about tomatoes... so I thoroughly enjoy our conversations. I bring home my spoils and make ridiculously indulgent dishes from the yummy fresh foods I bring home.
As well as the spoils I have collected from my tomato guy... I have brought home from my local market this year: Peaches, sweet corn, black berries, blue berries, raw honey, homemade jams, home made specialty pastas, zucchini, watermelon. Also at our farmers market they have people selling everything from plums to peppers, cucumbers to home made bread, roasted coffee, flowers, and barbecue!

Here are some tips I have learned about making the most of your trip to the farmer's market:
1) Carry Cash: This is the only form of payment most vendors will accept. Don't show up with your credit card... you will have no luck.
2) When to arrive: Come early (when they open) if you want the best selection, and late (before closing) if you want the best deals. A lot of times vendors will cut prices in the last hour to get rid of the stuff they have.
3) Case the joint: Take a lap around to look at everything available before you blow your whole budget on the beautiful berries at the first stand... only to find tomatoes you can't live without, but now have no money for at the next stand. On this first trip make a mental shopping list for your next run through.
4) Ask questions and make friends! Just like my tomato guy-- the farmers whole sell their products are passionate about what they do, and what they sell. Ask questions about the produce you are  purchasing ripeness, uses, varieties, or even the farmer's preference.(What is this? How is it different from that one? What's the best way to prepare this? What do you recommend for this dish? Which is the best one here?) You can learn a lot about varieties of produce-- I previously assumed a tomato was a tomato... but oh have I ever been corrected!
Also, if you don't see something you want... ask about it! Often I have discovered that farmers may keep extras, specialties, or seconds set aside, just for people who ask about it. Oooorrr... if you make good friends sometimes they will set it aside for you the next week. YES! That's amazing, makes you feel totally VIP.
5) Take seconds! Often times vendors will have 'seconds' that you can purchase for half or less... They taste just as good, just aren't as pretty. But if you are making tomato sauce or jam or the like... What does it matter? Cheap and wonderful. perfect!

Most farmers markets run through the end of September, so you still have a few weeks to seek out the local ones this season... and I highly encourage you to do so! Besides the *YUMMY* benefits, it's good for your wallet, good for the economy, and the environment to buy fresh local stuff... plus, I think it's pretty fun! So enjoy! (I hope you find a Tomato Guy!)

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