How many of us take the time out to thoroughly enjoy the farmers markets we have around us and all the options they offer? If you visit one, you can find fresh produce, organic drinks, homemade goods, and cultured food options that cannot be found in a supermarket. Take a stroll on a Sunday morning to do some food shopping for the week and take in the sights, smells, and tastes that make farmers markets a great change from regular super markets. Not only are farmers markets the easiest way to support local growers, but they’re also the best place to find ultra-fresh and flavorful produce.
Being new to the farmers market scene can certainly be overwhelming. First, take a trip to the market to familiarize yourself with what it has to offer. Buy a cup of organic, fresh coffee and walk around to the different vendors that spark interest. This will help prepare for the next trip taken to the farmers market to start food shopping.
Arriving early is the best way to avoid crowds and have the pick of the best selection of produce. The middle hours, however, are generally the most lively and best for people watching. Pickings will be slim near closing time, but that’s also when the best deals are to be found. Most farmers would rather sell their stock at a discounted price than have to haul it back home.
Buying produce which is in season is tastier and cheaper. Epicurious has a handy interactive map for finding out what’s in season where you live. The interactive map is easily accessible and simple to use. Unfortunately right now Pennsylvania’s growing season is dormant. We have to wait until April for asparagus season!
To get the best prices, be a bargain hunter. Not all stalls are created equal. Do a quick survey of the entire market before making purchases. This is the best way to ensure getting the prettiest produce at the best price.
In addition to tender greens, juicy peaches, and berries bursting with flavor, most farmers markets have stalls selling coffee, cheese, farm fresh eggs, freshly baked bread, flowers, and even local honey. If planned right, a trip to the grocery store could be avoided altogether.
This is the time and place to experiment with new foods. Never tried kohlrabi, squash blossoms, or fresh passion fruit before? Exotic fruits and vegetables are commonplace at farmers markets, so go prepared with an appetite (literally!) for adventure.
Do not be afraid to ask questions. The growers are right there, so take advantage of it. Ask them where their food comes from and how it was grown. They might even have some tips on how to prepare it or some samples to hand out.
Senior Miriam Cintron is a Lancaster native and said she does not take advantage of the market like she should. “I never know what to look for since there is so much to do, but I want to start taking advantage of what it has to offer.”
If you head to Lancaster City, use these tips to successfully navigate Central Market and to experience Amish made jams, bread, and sweets; local farmers’ home grown produce, or even the PA Fudge Company’s stand with an organic yogurt bar! Every farmers market has specified availability so be sure to check the hours they are open before making that first trip.