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8 Handy Tips for Your Next Trip to the Farmer's Market
1. Bring Your Own Bag or Basket
Unlike grocery stores, which may provide customers with disposable bags, most vendors at the farmer's market do not do so. Be a consumer who is not only conscious about his or her food, but also the environment. Take a reusable bag, or even better, a woven basket with you when you shop. Plus, it is so much more gratifying to fill a basket with red strawberries and banana peppers than to hide their beauty away in a opaque plastic bag!
2. Try Everything!Do not hesitate to approach a booth and try a new food, like tangelo (it's a hybrid between tangerines and pomelo by the way!) We've seen a woman who was never a fan of spicy food discover her love for a local Habanero Hot Sauce after sampling it at the farmer's market! Vendors are more than happy to have you taste their food and hear what you think about them. Offer them your description of the flavor and even share ways you would use them yourself! Go to the farmer's market with an open mind and it'll be more rewarding than you will expect.
3. Know Where Your Food Comes From
Most of the time (though not always), vendors at the farmer's market are experts at what they are selling. Take advantage of that! Ask them where their apricots are grown. Are they organic? Are they local? What are the prime seasons to harvest them? When you see non-perishable food like Pinot Noir Infused Salt or Peach Sriracha Jam, ask the vendors if they are the ones making the product. Ask the pickle couple why their pickles are labelled "handcrafted". Do they pack each jar in small batches? What inspired them to put ginger and red Thai chile in his brine? Don't go to the farmer's market just to buy and leave; that's what grocery stores are for. Make each encounter with a vendor an educational session about the food you eat!
4. Don't Judge Food by its AppearanceThat apple might not look as shiny as the waxed ones you find at the grocery store, but that does not mean it's any less fresh! Remember, a lot of the times these produce have been picked only a couple days ago and brought to you straight from the farm. The raw honey you see the farmer's market might be less glossy because the pollen it naturally comes with was not filtered out. Aesthetics do not determine the quality of a food and the best way to learn about your food is to ask!
5. Discover the People Behind Your Food
In addition to knowing where your food comes from, aren't you also curious about the people who make your food? You might meet a farmer or artisan who could be from your local neighborhood! Unlike the food you pick up off grocery store shelves, you can actually put a face behind many of them at the farmer's market. Strike up a conversation with the vendor about his or her story. Maybe the gal is making Lemon Sugar Cookies because it has been a family tradition for many generations. Maybe the guy is making Almond Nut Butter because he was frustrated by the quality of the commercial peanut butter. There's nothing more uplifting than hearing someone talk about what they are passionate about.