I am becoming a bit Sheldon Cooperish (Big Bang Theory fans will know what I mean) about my food consumption and the way it has been grown and prepared. Eating seasonally freshly grown local fruit and veg is not as hard as you think with a resurgence in Farmer’s Markets popping up all over the place. However just because someone is selling their wares in a farmer’s market it does not make them the farmer.
Nothing annoys me more than those opportunist market stalls who just re-sell fruit and veg that they bought from the big markets during the week. You might as well shop at your local fruit shop! Which is the next best thing to a Farmers Market BTW. These stallholders have no knowledge of their product and really don’t seem to care.
I had to laugh one week when I was speaking to the strawberry guy about his fruit and he told me that his strawberries were picked the day before and one of the other market stalls (those big re-seller types) strawberries were picked 5 days ago – he knew because he sold them to the markets they were bought from. I know which I would prefer.
Here are my top tips for shopping at a farmers market
1. Look for the stalls that have only a small variety of produce available. This means that they are more likely to have some connection to the produce.
2. Talk to the stall vendors. Ask where the items are from and when they were picked. To my delight today I found out that the Meyer lemons that appeared again at our markets will be in season until mid June so I know that I can count on these super juicy little packets of sunshine for a bit yet and that blueberries have just begun for the year again.
I love having some connection to the food we eat. Because I talk to the farmers I know know which items don’t have many food miles in them and as they are freshly picked in the last week perfectly suitable for my body. I try to eat only seasonal food. I am a bit skeptical about eating supermarket food as it had probably traveled long distances, been gassed or in storage for a long while- you’ve seen the reports on the evening current affairs shows.
Ask about the sprays used on their farms. One of the stall holders explained that they only use garlic spray on their farm and therefore do not need to use the chemicals I am trying to avoid.
3. Don’t be afraid of less that perfect looking foods. I love to buy apples that are unwaxed, bananas that are ungassed, and veges that still have fresh dirt on them. Blemishes are a part of life and even though we all like to look at perfection, I have found that less than perfect tastes better.
4. Look at stalks stems and leaves. Look at the fresh green leaves on the capsicums and apples above. You can tell how fresh an item is by the cut marks, stalk ends and any leaves on the items. Just imagine how they should look it they are freshly picked and aim for as close to that as you can get.
5. Be prepared that this food may not last as long as supermarket food. Remember often these foods are unwaxed and ungassed so they don’t have the longevity that these processes are designed to create. Unnatural longevity I think. Food should spoil, it is the way things are. I am very wary of any foods that last forever. Also by being fresh and active food it has intelligence that our bodies can use.
6. Learn how to store the produce correctly. If you are not sure ask at the stall. I have been told this morning that the apples (picked last week) will not last for weeks- fine by me- and I should keep them in the crisper, the tomatoes should be stored on the bench. I know that I can buy unripe avocados and put them next to my ripening bananas and they will be good in a few days and that delicate greens will wilt with more air so keep them as airtight as possible.
7. Markets are usually cash only so take enough money. Some markets have those teller machines on trailers but if you want to save some dosh- go prepared. Confession: Although 52 years of age I am often unprepared and need to take out funds from the Bank of Dad. It is a great institution but quite exclusive.
8. Take something to carry your purchases in. I went to my first few markets quite unprepared and my arms nearly dropped off. My lovely dad was our bag man for a while wheeling one of those collapsible boxes around for us but now I have graduated to a true bag lady and have my own trolley-bag on wheels. Even still I usually don’t fit everything I buy and need to put some in dad’s box-on-wheels or hang bags from my trolley.
9. Take your time and enjoy the atmosphere. We always stop for organic coffee and one of our favourite breakfast meals- Vietnamese Salad, Pho, Rosti, Mushrooms and Avocado or omelette.
10. Find out where your local Farmers markets are and try them all. You will soon get your favourites. If you live on the Southside of Brisbane QLD you might like my favourite markets – Jan Powers New Farm (held every Saturday near the Powerhouse at New Farm Park, West End Markets (every Saturday in the park along the river), Kuraby Farmers Markets in the carpark at the Kuraby Train Station, and if you miss all of these Boggo Rd Farmers Markets on every Sundays outside the Old Boggo Road Jail walls.