Long before man stumbled into his local co-op and blearily pushed a cart around brightly lit aisles deliberating over whether Crunchy Crackle Sparkle Nuts were better than Crunchy Crackle Sparkle Nuts with Added Glitter, there were farmers’ markets.
Wholesome places where people got together to celebrate the timeless art of growing your own food.
It’d been a while since hubby and I toddled down to our local market so we rectified that last weekend and it was kinda cool.
At one of the stalls I stopped and asked a woman if she had any guava. She shook her head and explained that it wasn’t the season for them.
This irked me until I realised how stupid that reaction was.
We’re all so used to getting what we want, when we want it, from supermarkets that we lose touch of the seasonality of food.
Guava lady reminded me of that valuable lesson so I bought a freakin’ tonne of sweet potatoes off her.
No idea what we’ll do with them all. Please leave any good sweet potato recipe suggestions in the comments section and help a blogger out (I’ve already got my eye on these Sweet Potato Gnocchi courtesy of the Scrumptious Pumpkin)
Below is a woman selling her homemade
potions drinks, jams and sauces. As I perused the selection, she pointed out the Ginger, Mint and Lemongrass juices saying: “they make you belch plenty”.
I bought one of each and have been drinking them like a thirsty trooper at a roadside bar but no burping as yet. Stay tuned for further gas updates.
As we neared the outer limits of the market I spotted some fuzzy brown shapes in the distance. I turned to hubby, shrieked: “A petting zoo! A PETTING ZOO!” and galloped towards it.
Naturally it was not a petting zoo (though that didn’t stop me trying to pet) but an enclosure for livestock farmers to display their ‘products’.
The products turned out to be teeny, tiny lambs, baby goats, donkeys and pigs…but the pigs were doing unmentionable things to each other so I refrained from taking any photos of them.
Since I’m now clearly an expert at farmers’ markets, here are my top five tips for making the most of the experience:
- Make friends. This is a rare opportunity to interact with the actual producers of your food face to face. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – where do they grow the food? What pesticides do they use? Do they have any tips for cooking or preparing it?
- Get out of your comfort zone. Everyone gets stuck in a food rut, it’s only natural when you’ve a billion other things to do with your day than meal plan. Farmers’ markets are the perfect place to challenge yourself. Pick up something weird-looking (I went for a knobbly pear once that looked like some sort of torture device, it turned out to be sweet and delicious), if you’re unsure just ask the farmer what it is and how you’d prepare it. From such acts of daring come very creative chefs.
- BYOB. No, not bring your own bottle, bring your own bag. The people who sell at markets generally have a stash of plastic bags but this supply is finite and they will appreciate it if you bring your own. Plus who really wants all those things cluttering up your cupboards and ultimately your local landfill?
- Be a savvy shopper. If something has been sitting out a while and is looking generally old and past its best don’t buy it. Ask and you might find there’s a stash of fresher looking produce under the table or tucked away elsewhere. If not, move onto another stall and they might be able to provide what you need. Supporting local farmers is brilliant but you shouldn’t have to sacrifice quality to do so.
- Plan ahead. Food is seasonal so farmers won’t be able to display everything they produce each market day. It’s worth asking people what else they grow, when it’s available and if they are at that market year-round. This way you will know where to buy and when. Also it’s very useful if you want access to things like milk and cheese on a regular basis. Many farmers won’t bring their dairy products to market but that doesn’t mean they’re not willing to sell to you privately.
What about you: do you regularly shop at markets? What tips would you add to the above? Do you love petting zoos? Does ginger make you burp?