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What are some tricks to picking out fruits and veggies at your local farmers market?

Jun 4, 2013

Sean Ryback
FT Mission Hills

"When I stroll through my local farmers market on a sunny Saturday morning, I always try to search for the cleanest-grown and freshest produce to bring home. The trick to finding these gems in a long line of vendors and options is to simply ask some basic questions to the merchant.

"My items I always like to inquire about: Where do your seeds come from? Do you use any pesticides or additives in your fruits or vegetable?” When was the produce picked or harvested? What separates your fruits and vegetables from the rest?

"Knowing how your food is produced and where it comes from can help you come home from the market with the cleanest and freshest produce for your family."

Erin Jackson
FT Virginia Beach

"Your best bet to leave happy is to do some research. Hop online and see what fruits and vegetables are in season and when they are at the height of season. When in doubt, ask your local farmers market associate; they can help you pick your produce based on your needs."

Juliana Burton
FT South End

"Bring your own reusable bags as many vendors do not provide plastic disposable ones.

"Bring cash -- more than you think in case you see berries or flowers that catch your eye and you shop off your list. Many vendors only accept cash.

"Know what's in season and what's coming up so you can choose good pairings for meals.

"Look for the whole food. Tomatoes continue to ripen on the vine, meaning they will be at their peak nutritional value when you eat them so look for tomatoes still on the vine and other veggies in their original state when they were first harvested.

"Look for berries full of color as they do not ripen more once they are picked; they only rot.  So get them at their peak color and wash them thoroughly right before eating. Freeze what you think you will not eat before it rots and use frozen fruits in smoothies.

"Go early.  You'll get your best pick of produce and have time to talk to the vendors if you have questions.  They'll give you tips on how to best prepare or preserve your produce.  Or go late to get discounts

"Buy in bulk and freeze for later when that particular veggie or fruit is not in season."

Dr. Janet Brill
FT Nutritionist

"Buy vine-ripened tomatoes and store them with the stem up. Green at the top is perfectly fine as tomatoes continue to ripen.  Just be sure to avoid storing in the refrigerator which will surely rob the tomatoes of their flavor.

"Peaches, apricots and nectarines also continue to ripen so buy them according to when  you think you will eat them. A sweet, fully ripened spectacularly delicious farm-fresh peach should be eaten immediately!

"Let your nose do the picking with cantaloupe. A ripe cantaloupe should have a sweet melon smell at the stem end.

"Unlike tomatoes, berries do not ripen after picking.  So buy the ones that look full and plump and ready to pop in your mouth at the market. A strawberry, for example, should be red and ripe all the way to the top. Just be sure not to wash the berries until right before you are ready to eat them.

"Look for green and firm cucumbers -- never yellow, which is an indication of aging.

"Look for shiny, smooth, deeply colored eggplants -- never wrinkled, which indicates aging.

"With lettuce, look at the stem.  If it's brown it’s a sure indication the head is not fresh. Also, look for heads of lettuce that still contain much of the outer leaves. Sellers remove outer leaves to mask signs of aging. If buying bin lettuce, look for fresh-looking leaves that are not brown in color or wilted.

"With corn, again check the stem of the corn stalk.  Brown stems indicate aging. Also, break off part of the stalk to inspect the kernels. Look for wrinkled or wilted-looking kernels which again indicate the cob is not fresh.

Jordan Grahm
FT Santa Monica

"Go early so you can beat the crowds and get better selection.  Buy what is in season.  Look for color, i.e. yellow carrots, black tomatoes and purple sweet potatoes.

"Ask to sample. Make sure you like the product.

"Explore all of your options before purchasing to make sure you get the most for your money."

Sue Teoli
FT New Canaan

"Go early, but not too early. The early bird catches the worm. When it comes to farmers markets, this saying holds especially true. Get to the market early before the rush. Also, before making any purchases, do a loop around the market first to see what sorts of fruits and vegetables each vendor is selling and the price to make sure you are getting the best deal.

"The best stuff goes fast. A farmer may only have a single flat of ripe, juicy blackberries or a couple of pounds of fresh green peas.  So arrive early to make sure you get the best pick of the market’s high-demand, seasonal fruits and vegetables."


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