It’s hard to overstate how much we love our local farmers’ market. Celebrating its 37th birthday last week, the Healdsburg Farmers’ Market is both a community gathering space for our agricultural hamlet and source of dinner inspiration twice weekly though the summer. Thankfully, we aren’t the only lucky ones. The popularity of farmers’ markets has soared recently, and there are currently more than 8,000 farmers markets in the United States. So how can we all make the most of our local markets? We culled our favorite cookbooks to get some pearls of wisdom from chefs on how to best shop the market:
From Steven Satterfield, author of Root to Leaf, A Southern Chef Cooks Through the Seasons
Eat more vegetables, and eat with the season.
If you are able to show up with an open mind and some empty bags rather than a shopping list, you can respond to what is available. Allowing the fresh produce to guide you is true seasonal cooking.
From Kevin West, author of Saving the Season: A cook’s guide to home canning, pickling, and preserving
Save nature’s fleeting abundance with preserving.
When choosing fruit, be guided by fragrance and taste rather than appearance. Smaller fruit is often best, because it has a lower water content and more concentrated flavor.
From Alice Waters, author of Chez Panisse Vegetables
First shop, then cook.
Go to the market before you decide what to cook. Decide on your menu based on what you find there. Buy products that are fresh, local, and organic. Select produce that looks freshly harvested and at its peak. Look for vegetables that look right back at you!
and Chez Panisse Fruit
Let yourself be surprised.
Ask questions. Learn what varieties you like and when they come into season. Tell the vendors what you like best and why. When you’re driving in the country, stop at farm stands whether you think you need anything or not.
From Yotem Ottolenghi, author Plenty More
Become familiar with different varieties of vegetables available in markets and specialty shops. Explore the varied and exciting world of vegetable cooking!
From Deborah Madison, author of Vegetable Literacy
Know your farmer, know your soil.
One of the most important principles of organic gardening is growing soil first, food second. The plants we eat can’t be better than the soil they’re raised on, so it’s important to know a good farmer or two who is growing soil along with their beets. Know your farmer, know your food.
From Tamar Adler, author of An Everlasting Meal.
Buy the best and eat it all.
When you go hunting for vegetables for your boiling pot, don’t be deterred by those stems and leaves. Though it’s easy to forget, leaves and stalks are part of a vegetable, not obstacles to it.
The best vegetables to boil will be the ones in season. They will also be the ones with the most leaves, most stalks, and longest stems. Knowing that you can simply boil the expensive, leafier vegetables at the farmers’ market should help justify your buying them. All you have to do is cut them up and drop them in water, and you can drop all of them in water.
It’s been proclaimed! August 2-August 8 is National Farmers’ Market Week! Wherever you are, shop the market!