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Mary Lahr Schier

Fresh and In Season

Summer's here! Now's the time to check out your local farmers market.

Baskets full of ripe tomatoes, bunches of broccoli, and dirt-dusted potatoes. You'll find them all — and more — at your local farmers market.

Buying fresh goods at the markets can help boost the quality of the food you eat. And you can turn the visits into enjoyable outings with friends, or maybe even run into neighbors when you go.

Here are five ways to make the most of your visits to the local farmers market.

  1. Find the right market for you
    A quick internet search for “farmers markets near me” will usually turn up several options. On top of fruits and vegetables, you can often find honey, bread, fresh flowers, sandwiches, pastries worthy of a Paris café, and more.
  2. Build your menus around the market
    This might have happened to you: The produce looks so good that you end up with more than you can eat. So consider a market visit before your weekly grocery trip. And build your menus around what's fresh and in season. Still too much food? You can steam and freeze many vegetables for later use.
  3. Learn what's in season
    In early summer, especially in northern climates, you'll find most farmers selling greens, onions, asparagus, and radishes. Later on, broccoli, strawberries, peas, and beets will start to come in. By late July, expect a bounty of tomatoes, corn, and more.
  4. Try new foods
    Farmers markets are great places to explore new cuisines and ingredients. You might find garlic scapes (the stems and stalks of garlic bulbs), tatsoi (a cross between broccoli and bok choy), or celeriac (celery plant bulbs).
  5. Look for the freshest produce
    Most farmers pick their produce the morning of the market, so it should look fresh, firm, and ripe. You may see some dirt here and there, but that can be washed off. If it looks wilted, check out another vendor.

Here's one last tip: If a farmer is selling something way out of season — such as tomatoes in May in the Midwest — the produce could have been shipped in from another part of the country.

Mary Lahr Schier is the author of The Northern Gardener, From Apples to Zinnias (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2017).