September and October are perfect times to enjoy the late Summer harvest and there is no better place to do so than at your local Farmers’ Market. But shopping at the market can be a little intimidating if you’ve never done it before.
You may have tons of questions: What’s in season? Are Farmer Jones’s tomatoes better than Farmer Smith’s? What the heck are rutabagas and how do I cook them? Bison? What does Bison taste like? Do I need to bring a bag? Do they take credit cards?
Let the following serve as your primer on how to shop the market. Look at it as The Farmers’ Market 101:
- Take time to enjoy the market. Slow down. Don’t rush through. Farmers’ Markets are meant to be savored. To be enjoyed. Take a look at all the colors. All the variety. Many markets have music. Most have food trucks. Get a sandwich. Sit down to people watch. ‘s Smell the fresh food cooking. It’s so much more than a trip to buy food.
- Have an idea of what’s in season. The Ohio Farm Bureau has a great on-line tool called the What’s in Season Calendar that allows you to put in the month and discover what’s growing at that time of year. It can stop you from being disappointed that there aren’t any fresh blueberries in April.
- If you see an unfamiliar vegetable or fruit, ask the grower. Typically, the person on the other side of the table from you is the person who grew the produce. If you see something you don’t recognize, ask them about it. Farmers love to talk about what they’ve grown. They have a love for the food they are producing and want you to love it too. They are also the best source for recipes or new ways to cook those veggies.
- Bring a bag. A reusable cloth bag or a basket is a must. Some farmers don’t supply bags so its best to be prepared with your own. And if its hot out and you’re purchasing meat, bring a cooler.
- Sample. Try new things. You aren’t expected to buy just because you’ve sampled. You usually can’t do this in a typical grocery store. Who knows, you may find the next food love of your life.
- Bring Cash. Sure, thanks to mobile credit card apps for smart phones, most stands now accept credit cards, but cash is still preferred. And the smaller the bills the better. If you have singles, you will be universally worshiped and adored by every single farmer out there. Singles are the holy grail of currency.
- Be Prepared for the Unusual. There are unexpected finds at the market. Maybe a bag of homemade dog biscuits, a fresh cut bouquet of flowers, or fiery hot jars of salsa. Be open to taking those home! It might not be what you came for, but that’s the fun of it.
- Winter is Market Season Too. Many markets move indoors for the Winter. Find out if yours does. There is plenty to be had off season. Maple syrup, honey, fresh bread, canned goods, eggs, cheese, chicken, beef, grains, root vegetables, apples, soaps, baked goods.
We are at three Farmers’ Markets each week: Gordon Square Market from 4 -7 p.m. on Wednesdays through September; BAYarts Farm+Art Market on Thursdays from 5 – 8 p.m. through mid-October; and the Countryside Conservancy Farmers’ Market on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon through the end of October and then indoors on select Saturdays through the Winter.
You can always find a list of Farmers’ Markets in your area at Ohio Proud.