4. Go late and save. You may miss some coveted items, but this is the way to find bargains. As the end of market day approaches, farmers will make their own bargain packs, putting peppers or peaches into one, two, or three-dollar bags. If they don’t, you can ask (nicely) for a closing-time deal. They don’t want to haul perishable extra product back home.
5. Purchase at the crop’s peak. Want to make a blueberry pie? Don’t buy the fruit the first day you see blueberries for sale. Find out when they’ll be at their prime. Height-of-the-season produce may taste better, but it is always more abundant — and that means lower prices.
6. Ask the experts. Few people know the produce as well as the farmers who grow the greens or sprouts or squash from day one — and serve it at many of their own meals. As you shop, don’t be shy to tap into this know-how. Some questions you might ask: How do I choose a good one? When will it be ripe? How should it be stored? How long should it last? What is the best way to cook it?
7. Get how it’s grown. A local market is an opportunity to understand the impact your eating has on the earth. Pay attention to signs that say something other than “Organic,” the USDA legal language for farms that officially don’t use synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Some farmers choose not to pay for the paperwork of certification. Some go beyond (such as “Biodynamic”) and some are on their way (“Transitional”). “No spray” or “pesticide-free” can be confusing, misleading, or both. Ask the farmer for clarification.
Time takes on a new meaning when you shop in season. Treasure each bountiful week by eating the best food you can. And celebrate each bite. Here are recipes (see link to recipes above, left) from two of America’s top women chefs who have made their mark by focusing their cooking on local seasonal farmers’ market finds.