Shared from Molly Watson, About.com :
Shopping at a farmer’s market is the easiest way to eat locally. You know where the food comes from: The grower is right there and you can ask them. A bit of planning can keep weekly shopping for produce at a farmers market fun and make cooking a snap all week long.
1. Know Your Seasons: If you know a bit of what to expect when you get to the farmers market, making decisions at each stall is much easier. Learn what grows in your area when and talk to the growers about what will be coming to market in upcoming weeks.
2. Go Early or Go Late: For the best selection, go to the farmers market early. The best goods go first. Popular-but-limited items may even sell out before the day is done. It’s as simple as that. For the best deals, go to the farmers market late. Farmers and other vendors usually prefer to discount products instead of loading them back up and schlepping them home.
- Bring Big Bags & Small Change: Some farmers market vendors offer bags, but they tend to be thin and flimsy plastic ones that groan under the pressure of any substantial produce purchase. Make sure everything gets home from the farmers market without crashing onto the sidewalk or spilling onto the floor of your car by bringing your own sturdy canvas or nylon bags. A backpack can make the hauling easier, especially for weighty or bulky items. Although vendors will make change, purchases will go easier and faster if you have exact (or close to exact) change. At some farmers markets “small change” means dimes and nickels. In larger urban areas many products at farmers markets are sold in dollar or fifty-cent increments.
- Sketch Meals Ahead of Time: Since you know what you’re likely to find at the farmers market, you can do a bit of meal planning and shop accordingly. For example, if local asparagus has just come into season and you can’t get enough, you know you’ll want to eat some Roasted Asparagus, some cooked into a Asparagus Chickpea Soup, and some sliced raw in an Asparagus Butter Lettuce Salad. So you’ll know both how many bunches of asparagus to buy and that you’ll also need some spring onions or herbs to add to the soup and some salad greens.
- Plan For Spontaneity: Yes, you’ll fair better if you plan your trip to the farmers market. However, you need to leave a little bit of wiggle room for those strawberries you didn’t know would be at market so early, or the zucchini blossoms you’ve never tried before. Trying new things is part of the fun of going to farmers markets.
6. Work In Volume: The best deals at the farmers market are had when you buy in bulk. You’ll enjoy the best flavors and the best prices when you buy lots of whatever is at its harvest peak. How to use it all up? Try new recipes with favorite vegetables or learn the lost art of preserving food. Freezing, canning, and drying are just some of the ways you can save seasonal tastes you find at the farmers market for later in the year.
7. Think “Whole Foods”: No, not that “Whole Foods” – think in terms of how food grows and comes to the farmers market without being processed first. Carrots come whole and unpeeled. Beets still have greens (and dirt) attached. Learning to handle just-harvested produce can take some getting used to, but the superior flavor is worth the adjustment.
8. Get Advice: If you find a vegetable that’s new to you at the farmers market and want to give it a try, ask the farmer how to prepare it. For the best tips specifically ask how they like to eat it.
- 9. Invest in Wheels: If you buy a lot every week, consider acquiring a wheeled cart or wagon (strollers make wonderful conveyances for fruits and vegetables) to get your haul from the farmers market home in one trip. (But please, oh please, pay extra attention to fellow shoppers and the stalls as you push or pull your wheels through the farmers market!)
10. Keep It Simple: You’re buying ultra-fresh produce when you shop at the farmers market, let its natural flavor show when you cook it. Keep preparations simple. You’ll make cooking easier and you’ll be likely to try (and eat) even more local foods from the farmers market next week.
I created this recipe last year from my shopping at The Farmer’s market; I hope you will enjoy this too!
Red Bell Pepper & Tomato Bisque II
2 pounds whole fresh tomatoes washed, stems removed
2 pounds whole fresh red bell peppers washed, stems & seeds removed
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons sea salt
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 quart water + 1 cup water
Wash the tomatoes thoroughly, leaving whole, removing stems, Wash the bell peppers thoroughly, cut in half removing stems & seeds. Place prepared peppers and clean tomatoes in a large pot over medium heat with the quart of water. Stir in the sugar, salt, bay leaf, basil and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes.
After simmering for 45 minutes, remove from heat, and puree in a blender, then return soup to pot.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Whisk in cornstarch all at once, cook 1 minute. Whisk in to pureed soup, a little at a time, cooking and stirring constantly until thickened. Stir in to heat through.
Serve with fresh croutons, grated cheese and julienned fresh basil leaves.
Best of Cooking, Denise