There’s no better way to snap up ultra-fresh fruit and vegies than by hitting your local farmers’ market. But, to some, these bustling food stalls can be an overwhelming place to visit, with a daunting number of options that feel a lot pricier than a greengrocer. But don’t fret. We’ve gathered up some great advice from farmers’ market insiders and nutritionists to help you make the best and most delicious choices.

Do your homework

Before heading out, do a little research online about what’s in season. That way you’ll arrive with realistic expectations about what you may find. And since all fruit and veg isn’t created equal, make sure you know what everything you want looks like at its peak (without always squeezing it!). Find out the ideal colour, size and texture of what you’d like to buy before you get there.

Come with a flexible shopping list 

Even with that planning, you’ll never know exactly what you’ll find once you turn up. That sense of discovery is all part of the fun, but also why you need to be a flexible shopper.

Find out where the food came from

It’s an unfortunate fact that, at some stalls, vendors may actually be resellers who buy the same food you can purchase yourself in the greengrocer or supermarket. If the produce is out of season, then chances are you’re dealing with a reseller. Thankfully, though, the vast majority of vendors obtain their produce direct from farmers.

Talk to the farmers

One of the pleasures of farmers’ markets is chatting with the sellers. So ask where the produce has been grown, and if eating organic is important to you, query if any chemical pesticides have been used. Don’t be shy about asking for specifics. Most farmers are proud of their products and don’t mind detailing how their crops are grown. If you see something intriguing but aren’t sure how to prepare it, ask the vendor for advice. You’ll likely get some great ideas about how to cook it.

Bring your own bags

To avoid an environmentally unfriendly collection of plastic bags, bring your own canvas and string bags with comfortable handles for easy transport, along with small reusable bags to protect more delicate items such as herbs, fruit or potted plants. Also, some vendors only accept cash, so come prepared with small bills.

Ask your storage

As you pay for your purchases, find out whether the food should be stored in the fridge and how long you can expect it to last. Also ask how often any vegetable plants you buy should be watered or left in the sun. Expert advice is so valuable. 

Don’t buy the first apple you see!

Most farmers’ markets have multiple booths selling the same items, and the price of, say, a head of lettuce can vary wildly from one stall to another. So, before you buy, take a lap around the market and scope out prices and quality. A simple tip to determine freshness is to see if you can smell the scent of tomatoes or basil. And take a peek behind the table, too, and see if the stock looks clean and well organised.

© Prevention Australia
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