8 tips for shopping at the farmers market

the farmers market is unofficially open in portland, maine (and maybe where you are too). here are some ideas to get you started off on the right foot:

  1. bring a bag! preferably a reusable shopping bag vs those plastic ones (although these are available from the farmers if you do forget your bag. which I typically do).
  2. don’t be afraid to ask, “what the heck is it?” if you don’t recognize it.
  3. don’t be afraid to ask, “how the heck do you cook that thing?” . they’ll tell you. (most likely it will involve frying it in butter, but hey, doesn’t butter improve most things?).
  4. bring small bills and a handful of change. nothing will make you feel more uncomfortable than handing over a $20 to pay for $1 worth of parsnips (reference #3 above) and  nothing takes longer than a farmer counting out your change in those precious one dollar bills that he will desperately need to make change for other ill-prepared shoppers a few hours later.
  5. if you see a pile of something on the ground behind the vendor’s stand, ask for it! they are often happy to give you those carrot tops (or whatever) that their other customers didn’t want but that your chickens will swoon over for just the price of taking it off their hands.
  6. show some restraint! don’t buy up all of those “early girl” tomato seedlings when they first appear. by the time the heirloom varieties (purple brandywine; amish paste, hawaiian pineapple, stupice, thesoliniki) are presented, your garden will be overfull (and your significant other will be saying, “I told you so!” with that smug look as you sob that “there is no more room in the garden! Why didn’t I wait?!”).
  7. shop around; nothing is more annoying than to fork over $4 for that small bunch of cut daffodils and then find the much larger bunch for $3.50 two stalls down.
  8. plan to visit the market as close to when it opens as you can; it is definitely an “early bird catches the worm” kind of shopping experience. they have what they have until it’s gone.

and remember: they hauled all that stuff over here, the least you can do is to go buy a parsnip or something (reference #4 above).

anyone else have any tips for farmers market shopping? …or any good parsnip recipes? 🙂

find a local farmer’s market: http://www.localharvest.org/

learn what to do with what you bought: http://www.farmfresh.org/learn/recipes.php



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