Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Farmers’ Market Follow-Up

Farmers' Market Haul

If there’s one thing I retained from 3 years as a Brownie it’s “Be Prepared.” In fact, I might be a smidgen compulsive on the research front, wanting to know as much as possible about a situation before heading into it. So it was that I asked for helpful hints in advance of my first trip to the local farmers’ market this past weekend.

Armed with my new-found knowledge I approached Saturday’s blustery market with my own shopping bag, plenty of 5s and 1s and a fresh dose of optimism. I started with a circuit around the pavilion to get an idea what all was available then went back to where I started and began to buy. Unlike the accidental reconnaissance of last month most tables featured well-identified price lists or tags, sparing me having to ask about more than a couple of prices.

Cash-wise I erred on the side of caution and brought double what I ended up spending (just as well–now I won’t) have to go back to the bank in 2 weeks when it’s my turn to make the menu again. If farmers’ markets gave receipts, here’s what mine would have looked like:

$9 for 4 petite acorn squash (1.50 each) and 2# of red potatoes ($3)
$2.50 for a basket of 6 sweet potatoes
$3 for Vidalia onions ($1 each)
$1.20 for a small rhizome of fresh turmeric
$10 for butter crunch lettuce, Swiss chard and arugula
$1.25 for a small rosemary plant

Since local shops take up most of the slots in the shopping center that hosts the farmers’ market, I also stopped into the seafood shop for some tilapia fillets and shucked oysters and into the patisserie for a round loaf of fresh-baked bread and a couple of pain au chocolats for Todd and I. (Future trips may start in Au Peche Mignon rather than than end there, especially if it stays this chilly–they serve coffee, too!)

Now, what to do with this bounty?

The oysters will be made into oyster stew served with the hearty bread from the bakery for a nice, light but warming supper. The acorn squash are the perfect size to steam, hollow, fill and bake with chicken,zucchini and hominy–a deconstructed take on my favorite Spanish Fork Chicken Stew). An onion tart seems very likely with the Vidalias and Swiss chard with a salad of butter crunch and arugula on the side and the tilapia will be simply pan-fried and served with the roasted red potatoes. That just leaves the sweet potatoes to be scalloped alongside some chicken-fried steak.

To be honest, I’ve got no idea (yet) what I’ll do with the turmeric, I was just so stoked to see it in it’s natural state (to hear that it grows so well down here and actually likes partial shade was a bonus–I may try planting a part of mine just to see what happens!) that I had to buy some just to play with. The same stand sold ginger and baby lettuces and was one of the few seen using a scale as opposed to pricing per piece or bunch.

My knitted bag (made before every grocery store and it’s cousin started selling their own reusable shopping bags and based on the Itsybitsy bag at Knitty.com) was soon stretched to it’s limits and I felt positively giddy at buying fresh and local ingredients so near my home for, in many cases, less than I was used to seeing in the store. With that and the purchases from the other locally owned shops, my list for the supermarket is fairly short.

I can hardly wait until spring when the rest of the market is full and the new produce starts appearing!

Jennifer Walker
Jennifer Walker

  1. I was curious if you did a price comparison with your local grocery store to see how much more you ended up spending? My experience has been that it usually is more at the farmer’s market. But you know what? You have to consider this a lifestyle choice and the experience of going is so wonderful.

    1. Not an itemized comparison but I know some things were better (the little red potatoes–those usually go for twice what I paid if and when I can find them that small) and others seemed higher ($1 an onion is steep, but Vidalias are kinda special and these are pretty big ones). The lettuces were on par with the usual but I’ve seldom seen Swiss Chard in the stores, much less arugula outside a salad mix, and the butter crunch was a HUGE head, much bigger than the hydroponic ones that go for $4 or more a head.

      Just before Christmas I went to the new Earth Fare and spent $40+ on produce for 2 meals. This trip to the farmers’ market was under $30 and I’ll use the goods in several ways over the next week. Overall, I think I did get a better value (perceived if nothing else) even if I spent more on produce than if I’d gone to Wal-Mart or Publix, simply because the selection and quality offered were superior.

  2. I love fresh.
    It’s well worth the experience of supporting the local farmer and the produce is almost always more ripe and flavorful.

    I have been putting greens — chard, kale, spinach, and mustard greens in soups and pasta sauce. And then wilting with onion + garlic and tossing with pasta. Very good.

    So glad you shared your experience.

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