The farmers market is a special place.
These pics were taken for my book Meat On The Side. It was actually a cold, wet day, but the photos still came out great.
In fact, this picture of me at the farmers market was the original cover of the book (to make a long story short, it was changed for a variety of publishing reasons).
All of these were taken at the Union Square Farmers Market, which is New York City’s most famous—and happened to be a short walk from my apartment.
Though I loved to visit the market, I always had my own little farmers market happening on my terrace. Every year I planted 80 vegetables in containers and homemade planter boxers.
I think having this space and experience really made living in the middle of NYC feel more homey.
Ivy (she’s so little here!) and I would spend slow afternoons gardening, eating, and having impromptu swims in her blow-up kiddie pool, which sometimes became her bath for the day, too.
Hey, she was already all wet, so why not add some soap to the mix?
I love the connection to nature I feel when gardening and visiting the farmers market.
It feels simply amazing to see a seed turn into a plant and become something you can eat.
I think as a society we have lost a lot of that connection to our food, so it’s awe-inducing and special when we can find it.
But of course, I moved this year outside of the city to Long Island.
I have popped by the Union Square market when I’ve been in the city, but it was time to see what my new hometown had to offer…
The local farmers market is definitely smaller than the one I was used to in the city.
Union Square has 140 vendors every week (it runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday!).
And this one has ten.
But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have something to offer.
And the advice I want to give for visiting farmers markets is the same for markets both big and small.
Most importantly, talk to the vendors!
They are notoriously nice and informative. It’s so cool to hear about where the food or goods came from, and many times to talk directly to the person who grew or made an item.
And they love to chat! I have not met a single person who isn’t excited to share what they are doing and help guide you through what they are selling.
But don’t feel pressured to buy! After chatting, if you’re not interested, just say a sincere “thanks” and move on.
Compare prices and shop in season.
Shop in season!? Isn’t that the whole point?
Well, yes, but sometimes growers will grow greenhouse items like tomatoes so they can sell them before they are actually in season and overflowing in abundance at the market.
Though these can still be tasty tomatoes, they are going to run you double the price in comparison to the ones you’ll buy a month later at the peak of the season.
So buy the items that you are seeing a plethora of to ensure a good price.
And if it’s a bigger market, do one lap and note some items and some prices then go back and snag the best deals.
Don’t buy too much.
It can be tempting to get one of everything at the market, especially because, having cut out the middle man (the grocery store), you are going to get the best prices on the best produce.
However, if you end up throwing away half your haul because you didn’t eat it in time, it’s no longer a good deal.
This is something to think about especially with things like super-ripe berries that have been sitting in the hot sun; they’re not going to last very long on your counter top or even in your fridge.
So buy what you think you can eat in two to three days, and if you do end up with extra, freeze it! Frozen berries are great for smoothies, and there’s no need to remove the stems—they will blend right up!
Buy more than produce.
Produce is obviously awesome to buy at the farmers market. It’s high-quality and fresh as can be! But there are likely some other items worth buying at your local stop.
For instance, I love buying local honey. It tastes great and is said to help with allergies. Because the bees are local, they’re creating honey from the flowers and pollen in your area. So when you eat the honey, it helps you fight the allergies caused by that pollen.
Pickles are something else to think about. They seem to be great at most markets, and you can try all you like, so don’t be afraid to chat and sample until you find your favorites!
I even got the gorgeous handmade spoon rest below from my market. In addition to looking great, it feels special and personal, which I love.
And my last piece of advice is just go! Check it out!
Even if you buy nothing, it’s a nice opportunity to be outside, enjoy the warm weather, and see up-close-and-personal where your food is coming from.
See you there!