If you’re lucky enough to have a farmers market in your area I hope you’re taking full advantage of it. Not because it is the “trendy” thing to do…but because you can often find unique items not commonly found in the big chain stores, will find that the produce typically tastes better because it has been picked when ripe and ready, and what better resource is there than the person who grew/raised it?
The current push toward more sustainable consumption has definitely pushed the popularity of farmers markets. One slight pet peeve I have about this is how so many people act/think that it’s such a “new” and admirable concept. Definitely it is admirable to buy direct from your local growers but when I was growing up it just made sense. It wasn’t to be trendy, eco-conscious, or any other thing that might make people feel better about themselves….it just made good economic sense to get things at the peak of the harvest and thus save money. It still does and ultimately will help encourage and support small growers, as well as reconnect each of us with source of our food.
The older I get the more and more I think how lucky I was to grow up in a family who gardened and cooked. Both of my grandmas had gardens and were amazing cooks. Grandma and Grandpa Schuster always had the most amazing garden. As a kid I marveled at the height of their tomatoes that towered overhead. Grandma was famous for her pickles which she was still canning into her 80’s. Unfortunately so many people have been growing up away from the reality of how/where/when food is produced that they don’t even realize that all foods have seasons. I was recently shocked when someone told me they had been looking forward to getting peaches while they were here visiting Savannah and were disappointed they couldn’t find them anywhere. I was actually a bit dumb-founded when I realized that I had to explain that it was March and that peaches were a summer fruit and thus weren’t in the markets yet.
Enjoying a midweek day-off, I took the opportunity to go visit the farmer’s market in Bluffton, SC. Just about a 30 minute drive from downtown Savannah I hadn’t yet been to their Thursday market which has been going on for several years. A nice surprise is the fact that it runs from 2-7pm and will run this year until November 18th, 2010. The challenge with some markets is that they can have such limited hours that it becomes a challenge to take advantage of them. Bluffton Farmer’s market is the largest I have found in the area. Each Saturday the Forsyth Farmer’s market is held in Forsyth Park in Savannah’s historic district but Bluffton’s is probably about 3 times the size and featured plenty of vendors including those selling produce, pastured beef, free-range poultry and eggs, seafood, herbs, and baked goods. I picked up several items including some squash and Vidalia onions that I thought I’d try pickling and some nice young beets which I plan to turn into a salad and the greens which will make a nice healthy seasonal side item unto themselves.
Fresh from Market Cooking Class
Saturday July 17th will be my next “Fresh from the Market” cooking class. We start of getting acquainted over coffee and pastries before hopping aboard a mini-bus to visit a couple different area markets to make seasonal purchases. Once the shopping is done we return to the cooking school to prepare a menu from our market bounty. It runs on Saturdays throughout the summer and fall, typically once to twice a month. Reservations can be made by calling (912) 721-5006. If you’re looking for later in the summer then keep an eye on the class calendar.
Don’t be bashful about talking to the vendors/growers. Everyone enjoys talking about their passions and if you show interest in what they do and have to offer you’ll likely get not only great produce, but also an education!
Try new things…don’t stay limited to what you currently eat. The worst case scenario if that you don’t like something but even there, chances are that another method of preparation might change your mind. The more you experiment the broader array of foods you might enjoy!
Arriving at markets earlier in the shopping time will provide for maximum variety and availability but shopping during the last hour has its own rewards. The last thing that vendors want to do is haul the same product back home. Often they will start to discount or give you more for your money during the last hour. Sure, selection may be limited but you’ll probably get more for your money!
This article on common mistakes made at farmer’s markets is a great resource for making the most of your local market.
If you have a favorite farmer’s market or helpful tips and insight I’d love to hear them! Please share your thoughts and comments below…