Navigating a Farmer’s MarketsMay 24, 2012
There are many things I love about Chicago in the spring and summer and, to be honest, if I say some of them out loud, I will look like a huge dork! However, one that I feel extremely comfortable talking about is my love for farmers markets. The sad thing is, I will walk around them just because… even if I don’t necessarily need anything. I love the people watching too because farmers markets bring EVERYONE out on a sunny weekend day!
But anyways…. as I know first hand, farmers markets can get a bit overwhelming at times so here are a few tips to help you on your next weekend trip to one of Chicago’s finest summer activities!
– Start off your trip by walking through the market at least once. Take a look at everything first to get an idea of what is available before purchasing things.
– Make a plan of what you want to make for the week- have an idea of a few recipes. If it helps, bring the recipes with you to get exactly what you need.
– However, be flexible in your recipes. If something is less expensive or looks fresher get that and tweak your recipe a bit! If a recipe calls for summer squash but you want eggplant- chances are it will taste just as good!
– Bring your own reusable bags to make carrying your products way easier!
– The farmers are there for a reason! Talk to them and ask them questions about what they are selling. They may have a great recipe to go with their produce that you never thought of trying!
– Only buy what you need- if you buy too much it will just go to waste!
– Arrive to the farmers market early to get the best and freshest selection of products.
– Ask to see the imperfect produce. These may be less expensive and good for use in pies, sauces or jams.
– As soon as you get home from the market, wash and cut up as much of what you purchased as you can. This will make it easier in the week to use and eat because the hardest part is already done!
– Make sure you know what type of payment the vendors will take – some will only take cash so make sure you are prepared. Bring small bills too- this will make both you and the vendor much happier!
– If you are buying meat or dairy, ask the vendor to hold it for you until you are ready to go so it can stay cool for as long as possible.
– Try to explore a new area of produce to see which varieties/farms you like best. Put together a sampling of produce or products and then come back for your favorite.
– Ask for samples too! They may let you try something before you buy it and what is better than free samples??
– Lastly, have fun and enjoy the beautiful Chicago weather! Before we know it, it will be below zero out there!