There are so many things to love about summer, it is my favorite season after all. There is endless joy to be found in going outside barefaced in a sundress, longer days, vacations, picnics…the list goes on and on with everyone’s favorite things about the season. The number one thing I look forward to season after season (besides not freezing in the NYC winters) is hands down the summer farmer’s markets! I love summer produce and have such fond memories surrounding it- from stopping on the side of the road during a road trip to buy fresh peaches in Georgia to stringing green beans with my grandparent’s in the garden on their front porch. These days I live in NYC far from that garden but luckily in most big cities farmers’ markets aren’t too hard to find and there are many near where I live now.
Just strolling around a good market to get some fresh mint tea or maybe a pastry from one of the bread vendors can be a great way to spend a Saturday morning. The market is a great place to just visit but you should consider getting a good chunk of your weekly groceries there too. Eating fresh local produce and supporting local farms is both great for your health, your community and the planet. But I know– how many of us have come back from the market with $25 worth of produce that we have no idea what to do with and ends up sitting in the back of your fridge for two weeks? We’ve all been there-seduced by the dream of a throwing together the perfect summer meal that we actually never really planned for. The secret to making the most of your farmers markets is the same strategy you would use for a successful grocery store run- plan ahead for your meals and make a list! Here are a few item readily available at summer markets around the US and some easy recipes to use them in to inspire your next farmers market visit this summer.
Heirloom Tomatoes- These work great in a simple sandwich like a BLT or the southern classic Duke’s mayo and tomato sandwich. These are so striking in color though that it’s worthwhile to showcase them a bruschetta or tart recipe.
Zucchini- There is so much you can do with this veggie- get a spiralizer and substitute them for noodles in your favorite pasta dish, sauté them, or shred them and make one of my favorite summer treats- chocolate zucchini bread!
Green Beans- These make a great raw snack and are a fantastic, easy side dish when roasted in the oven alongside some cherry tomatoes (also in season).
Blueberries- I love snacking on these anytime of the day-they’re one of the lowest sugar fruits and packed with antioxidants. You could also toss them in your oatmeal or yogurt in the morning or make an awesome smoothie. Of course classic blueberry muffins are never a bad idea too!
Peaches- These are great on their own but I personally love sautéing them in some butter and cinnamon and topping with vanilla ice cream. You also can never go wrong with a classic southern peach cobbler.
Once you’ve selected some recipes to try and made a list here are some tips to make the most of your visits to the market this summer.
Know what’s in season: There usually isn’t a site you can visit ahead of time to see what each vendor will have in stock during the market, but you can be pretty sure that they will have most of what is in season and local to the area (ex: you’ll find plenty of avocados in CA markets but not in NYC). Have a look at sustainable table’s site to see what is in season where you live. A few items that are almost always available are eggs, cheese, flowers, bread, baked goods, meat, jams & jellies.
Pick the freshest produce: Look for blemish free, brightly colored fruits and veggies (anything bruised or damaged will spoil quickly). For a more detail for picking certain fruits and veggies check out this handy guide from the wisest in these matters, Martha Stewart.
Bring Cash: Most vendors don’t accept cards, you should bring cash and don’t forget the singles- have the exact amount is always quicker and easier on the vendors.
Bring your own bag: It saves the farmer a bag and saves you from struggling to carry home a watermelon in a plastic bag. And there are some very chic farmers market totes out these days. I love this one from FEED (looks great & your purchase provides 25 meals for children in need).
Go early: Best to arrive early for the best selection of produce. Going early is also a fantastic excuse to indulge in a fresh made pastry for breakfast from one of the baked goods vendors (hint- there are often vegan bakeries as well).
Shop around: Most of the farmers will have a similar spread of goods so shop around at all the vendors to check out prices before purchasing.
I hope that these recipe links and tips will be helpful to you in your farmer’s market adventures this summer!