My favourite time on the calendar is when the local farmers’ market opens at my neighbourhood civic centre.
It’s a leap out of bed on that first Tuesday of the third week in May, come hell or high water. I arrive sans make-up with my trusty reusable bags or bundle buggy and sprint across the lawn to discover the week’s treasures.
I am there rain or shine with my change purse, shopping, chatting, learning what’s coming into season and getting ideas on how to cook some unusual fruit or vegetable. It’s like going to Foodie Disneyworld – no rides, but thrills nonetheless.
Sometimes I play Plan Your Dinner Party around what’s available, other times I just let the smells and sights dictate the entire week’s menus.
One of the best parts about buying local just-picked produce is that because it is so incredibly fresh, it is more nutrient dense and it lasts longer in your fridge.
If you are a newbie to shopping at a farmers’ market here are some tips to help you navigate the Playland.
Before you leave home:
- Pack a cooler and a cold source – those just picked blackberries will become smoosh if you don’t take care of them on the way home.
- Bring small change and small bills – don’t expect a farmer to be thrilled as he’s giving you change for a twenty when you only spent fifty cents on some radishes.
- Pack your own bags – embracing a farmers’ market isn’t just about the freshness and flavours of homegrown, it’s also about keeping our environment green, put your money where your mouth is and bring your own bags.
- A buggy, wagon, or a teenager, are all great to bring with you, for the heavy stuff. Sure the teen may grumble, but after the first whiff of a cinnamon bun from the bake shop vendor, they’ll be putty in your hands.
- Arrive early to avoid disappointment. I missed the first crop of asparagus the one morning I slept in.
When you arrive:
- Take a walk-about before you get caught up in farmers’ market flurry. Circle the market to see what’s available, what looks fantastic, and who has the best price.
- Buy the heavy stuff first – that way you won’t squash the tomatoes when you put your Hubbard squash on top.
- Experiment with fruits and veggies you have never tried; the farmers are only too happy to share a recipe or cooking tip.
- Become a regular and get to know your farmers. I love chatting with my garlic lady at the East York Farmers Market. She knows her garlic.
It was always a sad day when the farmers packed up their treasures and headed home for the winter, until I discovered local all-season markets. In Toronto we have St Lawrence Market and my new favourite community Market – the Wychwood Barns. If you live in Vancouver or ever visit make sure you make the treak to see Granville Market which is open all year long.