How to Shop the Farmer's Market Like a Chef
Spring and summer are the perfect months for hitting up your local farmer's market for the freshest seasonal fare. Supporting local farms and cooking with impeccable ingredients make all the difference. We asked chef Pace Webb of Taste of Pace to weigh in on her favourite insider tips for acing your weekly or biweekly run! Keep scrolling to find out how to shop like a pro.
Know what you want, and look out for ingredients for a specific meal. “I find that consumers are strolling for the most part. When we are shopping, we are on a mission and are very focused,” says Webb.
Go ahead, sleep in. You may just get a better deal. “For chefs, arriving first thing is the way to go because some restaurants will buy out something scarce and delicious if there is limited supply,” says Webb. The average person won’t be needing fava beans at 6 a.m., however, so you can benefit from a fashionably late arrival. “Going toward the end is best for the general consumer. You can negotiate at the end of the day. Vendors just want to get rid of product so they don’t have to haul it back in the truck.”
Fresh, seasonal fruits and veggies will be the first to go. Rank your grocery list accordingly. “Specialty things that are new in season, like English peas and berries, will go faster. The staples, like leeks and potatoes, not so much.”
“Ask the farmer questions! Most of them love what they do and wake up at 4 a.m. to bring the goods!” Get to know your vendors, and place your order in advance. “For chefs, most of the farms have an availability list that you can preorder and pick up boxes at the market.” It makes the experience turnkey and ensures you get your full supply.
When it comes to selecting produce, it’s important to know when exactly you plan to consume it. Ask the vendor to help you select based on your forthcoming menu plans. “For example, if you want avocados, ask the vendor to help you select a few ‘for Thursday’ so they won’t sell you ripe ones for today.”
“In general, produce from the farms at the farmers market is superior to what is being offered at the grocery store. However, it’s not always practical to buy everything from the farmers market.” Seasonal items in abundance may be offered at bulk-discount rates at your neighbourhood grocer. “Look at what is on sale. That indicates what is fresh and in season.” You may just stumble upon a better price at Whole Foods.
America Farm to Table: Simple, Delicious Recipes Celebrating Local Farmers by Mario Batali and Jim Webster ($35)
Have a farmers market tip? Tell us in the comments below.
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