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Farmers Market Meals

Here are 7 tips on organizing your shopping, plus recipes from Alice Waters and Deborah Madison.

Customers shop for produce at the Food Project's Farmer's Market in the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester

Customers shop for produce at the Food Project's Farmer's Market in the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester. — Brian Snyder/Reuters/Corbis

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Whether your eating plan hails from the Mediterranean or Miami, whether your goal is to up your brainpower and youthful glow, or reduce your blood pressure or weight, greens will definitely be at center stage. But supermarket veggies aren’t always that inspiring: stacked like bricks in drab pyramids, misted at intervals in their air-chilled compartments to look lively after wilting voyages from far-away mega-farms.

See also: Best farmers markets and how to find one near you.

For fresh inspiration, try frequenting your local farmers market, where the changes of season are marked by an ever-unfolding array of new tastes and treats. Spring arrives with a few weeks of rhubarb and asparagus. Berries remind you that summer has come. As late autumn approaches, the last tomatoes hang on, no longer to be found next to stacks of fresh corn, but side-by-side with piles of pumpkins. Just the sheer variety — herbs like lemon thyme and opal basil, wild onions, half-wild strawberries and heirloom tomatoes wildly named “Green Zebras,” “Cherokee Purple,” and “Mortgagelifter” — will whet your appetite.

Local farmers market food can't help but be fresher. I would argue, too, that it tastes better, and some would say it’s healthier (for your spirit, at least, if not your cells). Shopping at the farmers market at the height of summer can be a treat for the senses, but it also can have its challenges: balancing bags and cash, agonizing over which farmer has the juiciest peaches, and trying to understand the signs that tell you how “green” your greens really are. Here are seven secrets to successful farmers market shopping:

1. Plan your route. Walk around the market at least twice: The first time is to scout the produce, taste samples, and decide what you want to cook; the second to do your actual shopping. Wait to buy weighty items, such as melons and potatoes, and perishables like dairy, fish, and meat, until just before you leave. Worried that something will sell out? Ask the purveyor to hold on to your purchase for last-minute pick-up.

2. Have cash in pocket. For speedy transactions carry small bills and change — and keep them in a pocket. There’s rarely room on farmers tables to perch your purse.

3. Double bag it. Bring a large shoulder bag for sturdy vegetables and firm fruits. Use a separate bag to carry by the handle for fragile berries, ripe fruits, and delicate greens. Have a cooler waiting in your car, if that's how you travel and you have a long trip home or other errands to run.

Next: 4 more tips on shopping farmers markets. >>

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