How to Get the Most Out of any Local Farmer’s Market
Oct 13, 2015
Opening a stand at the San Francisco Farmer’s Market was the result of my passion and business acumen for the pastry industry. Often, we’ll interact with other vendors on the weekends to obtain a sense of what’s current and what’s happening.
I’ve been heavily inspired by the Featured Farmer’s desserts that we sell at the Farmer’s Market and at Tout Sweet Patisserie. Now that it’s summer, the stands are pouring over with fruit. Be it blueberries or stone fruit, it’s absolute heaven. Our stand at the market gives us a chance to interact with our local San Francisco customers. I love knowing that people who buy our desserts also support our farmers, as well as local, seasonal produce.
For me, the farmer’s market is like Christmas, 365 days of the year. I feel delightedly overwhelmed every time I go walking through the various stands. As a seasoned vendor and vendee, I want to provide you with a few tips on navigating the farmer’s market for sweet deals.
- Talk to the vendors and farmers. The beauty of farmer’s markets is that the people behind the stands are usually the farmers or at least the people that have worked at the farm. They know what kind of growing season it’s been, what’s available today, and what to expect next week. They have an active relationship with the food they’re selling. After all, it’s their product, and farmers take great pride in their bounty! Chat them up. You might even be able to get a good deal. For example, some of Tout Sweet’s best selling products are jams and preserves. I’ll converse with various farmers about my plans for preserves and let them know what I’m looking for. If they’ve had a bad season or some over-abundance, they’re usually happy to part with an entire flat of berries for a low price. I like to call the outcome a win-win-win. The farmer wins by receiving money for the berries, I win by getting a great deal, and Mother Nature wins because less is wasted.
- Plan Ahead. I usually start thinking about desserts, preserves and jams 3 to 6 months before I make them. When inspiration hits, I make a note of it and look to see when I can expect the produce to be available. Growth charts – available online and often at farmer’s markets – can give you a good idea of what to expect and when. If you anticipate the change of the seasons, you’ll be able to take full advantage of the short 3 to 6 weeks that really fresh, seasonal produce is available.
- Sniff it out and taste, taste, taste. As I said, the farmer’s market is an entertainment park for the senses. When you’re at a stand, use all of your senses – especially scent – to get an idea of what’s best. The fruit should smell sweet and acidic, but most importantly, it should drown you in its aroma. Always trust your sense of smell when it comes to picking produce. You can tell what’s fresh, but you can also smell your way to the sweetest fruit. If it’s starting to turn rotten, there will be a musty smell – almost like getting dust in your nostrils. Put it down and walk away. Ask the farmer or vendor for a sample. This is the best way to know if you like what they’re selling. Put it in your mouth! Most farmer’s markets have more than one vendor who sells fruit or vegetables. Know your market and know who brings their best.
The farmer’s market can be a magical experience. It’s a chance to interact with the people who grow our food. It’s also a chance to learn about new fruits and vegetables and new ways to use them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Some of my best Saturday mornings have been at the farmer’s market. It’s a great way to end the week, and a great way to wake up on Monday morning with a spectrum of fresh fruits and vegetables in my kitchen.