After living in New York for over six years now, going to the farmers market is something I do on almost a weekly basis. It's become such an important part of my food routine and I love it because not only are the fruits and vegetables so much fresher than what's usually in the grocery store, there's SO much more variety and I feel good about buying produce from farmers local to the New York, Long Island, and New Jersey area. I think that it's so important to try to shop local as much as possible! Lastly, I get so much inspiration from the farmers market, especially when I feel like I'm in a creative rut with my cooking and baking, which I'll talk about more in a bit.
If you're in the New York City area and looking for a good farmers market, the biggest one is definitely the Union Square Greenmarket, but I also love the markets at Grand Army Plaza and the Fort Greene Park (both in Brooklyn). But you can also find little farmers markets scattered throughout all the boroughs! I'm lucky that there's one super close to my apartment each Saturday at Borough Hall so I often go there if I don't feel like making a trek. I put together my guide to shopping a farmers market below! I'd also love to hear how YOU shop a farmers market/why you love them in the comments.
My Guide to Shopping the Farmers Market
- Make a list.
Before I even go to a farmers market, I often make a mental list of what I'm looking for or what I need, and set a budget for myself. Like any trip to the grocery store, it's easy to get carried away and either spend a ton of money, or buy so much stuff (because it all looks so good!) that you don't know what to do with it. I try to go with ideas in mind just to help me stay on track.
- Bring reusable bags!
If you're going to a farmers market, there is no reason to have to use plastic bags. This year I've been trying to make a concerted effort to cut down on food waste by taking a reusable bag whenever I go grocery shopping, using metal straws, doing a better job at making/eating leftovers, and storing food in glass containers. When going to the farmers market, bringing a reusable tote is a must in my book. I love using canvas tote bags because they're pretty, eco-friendly, and look sooo nice when filled up with fruit and veggies. :-) The tote I have pictured here is actually one I designed myself, using my own photos, with Snapfish! As you can imagine, I take tons of photos in the kitchen, traveling, around the neighborhood - you name it - and I'm always looking for something fun to do with them. I love Snapfish's Everyday Canvas Tote because you can design it however you want and the quality is so nice.
- Look at the whole market.
Before I make any decisions or purchases, I like to walk around the whole farmers market and make a mental note of what I see, prices, variety, etc. Some vendors specialize in certain things like berries, micro-greens, breads, flowers, etc. and looking at everything helps me get a sense of what's available and how much I should be willing to spend on something.
- Get there early and be patient!
I'm not going to lie, going to a farmers market can be totally overwhelming. They can be busy, crowded with people jostling each other out of the way, lines for purchasing can be long and more. Especially markets like the Union Square Greenmarket in the middle of the day. I suggest arriving on the early side because it will be less crowded and there will be more variety. If you're really hoping for that perfect bunch of peonies when they are in peak season, you might miss out if you get there too late in the day. Also, during busy times I make an effort to be as pleasant as possible. It can be hard (especially in New York) when people are bumping into you or not walking in straight lines, but I promise you, maintaining a positive attitude is so important!
- BUT you can also save money by going later...
On the flip side, going late in the day can be beneficial if you're keeping an open mind about what you're looking for. Vendors tend to discount late in the day because they want to bring home as little with them as possible. If you're flexible and on a budget, I highly suggest this.
- Try samples and ask the farmers!
Although earlier in my post, I touted how I like to make a mental list before I go shopping, I'm the first person to say that if I feel like I'm in a creative rut, uninspired, or just not quite sure what I want to make, a farmers market is a perfect way to expand horizons and always sparks a new idea in my brain. Sometimes I like to go to the Union Square Greenmarket and just wander aimlessly until something interesting catches my eye. It's important to remember that farmers markets sell seasonal food, so shopping at them really puts me in tune with cooking seasonally as well and it's given me so much appreciation for fruits and veggies like rhubarb, ramps, fiddleheads, peas, heirloom tomatoes and other things that are available for just a fleeting moment.
Often, vendors put out samples of what they're selling so I try to taste as much as possible. I've tasted varieties of tomatoes, peaches, and apples I never knew existed, and also bought local cheese because they were so amazing. Also, if you see something intriguing but aren't quite sure what to do with it, ask the vendor! They're the person who knows it best and they often have amazing tips. It was a farmer who explained to me a couple years ago what sour gherkins were, and that they could be used in salsa but he actually just preferred them pickled. These people are abundant with resources and ideas!
And that's it! I'd love to hear more about how YOU love shopping the farmers market. What are your favorite seasonal fruit and veggies to buy at farmers markets?