One of my favorite things about living in Los Angeles is the abundance of farmers markets throughout the city. On any given day of the week, you’re almost guaranteed to find one close to your neighborhood. I love the Sunday Brentwood market between San Vicente and Montana for its reasonable size and and leisurely closing hour of 2pm.
With the pervasive push to eat seasonally and locally, the popularity of local farmer’s markets is on the rise in nearly every city. Whether you’ve been shopping at the market for years or are just giving it a try this season, here are a few tips to help make your next trip stress-free and successful.
1) Go prepared. Always bring cash – I take $60 each time I go, which is more than enough to cover produce, dried fruit, and the occasional specialty items for our household of two. Most vendors only accept cash, and money in hand makes it simple to keep track of what you’re spending as it’s coming directly out of your pocket.
Also, don’t forget to bring your reusable bags! I bring two to keep delicate items like strawberries and avocados separate.
2) Think seasonally. I usually peek at this map to get a general idea of what to expect at the market. It’s usually pretty obvious once you get there because there will be a lot of certain types of produce. (Think mounds of strawberries at nearly every stand in May and endless rows of winter squash in November).
3) Have a plan (but don’t be too attached). I like to make shopping lists because I tend to forget things. I will typically jot down a short list of items that I know I need, and if I don’t find them at the farmer’s market, then I will save them for my weekly Trader Joe’s trip.
Also, do a once-over before you buy anything. It takes only a few minutes to walk through the farmer’s market to get an idea of which vendors have what items and how much they cost, which can save you the aggravation of purchasing three pounds of nectarines for $10 only to find that a vendor three booths down has equally beautiful, organically grown nectarines for much less. I’ve noticed that many vendors will change their prices from one week to the next, so it always pays to do a run-through!
4) Don’t get stuck on ‘organic.’ Did you know that it costs thousands of dollars each year for a farm to obtain and maintain their FDA organic certification? Many farmers simply cannot afford to pay the exorbitant prices associated with claiming the official ‘organic’ title, but still follow organic farming practices. This is a topic that is great to bring up with the farmers. Don’t be afraid to ask them if they grow organically! They will gladly offer details regarding their farming methods – for better or worse. Just this weekend, I heard a farmer readily admit to growing produce conventionally.
5) Keep an open mind. The farmer’s market is the perfect place to discover new foods. In just the last couple of months, I’ve picked up cherimoya, flowering purple kale, and Oro Blanco grapefruit.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions! Most vendors are excited to offer information on their produce and will even share cooking tips and preparation methods. Most also have samples out or will cut a bite for you if you ask.
When I finally get my bounty home and stored away, I make sure to jot down a list of the items I picked up so I don’t forget about anything in the back of the fridge. I like to use our pretty flea market chalkboard because it’s nice and big and is the perfect way to inspire new ingredient combinations.
The enormous box of strawberries called to me from the fridge, just begging to get tossed into a crunchy salad. The purple flowering kale I picked up seemed like the perfect companion for a quick salad to take on an impromptu picnic, so I threw the kale and strawberries in a big bowl with a few other ingredients and was totally blown away by how simple yet addictively delicious the combination was. Juicy, sweet strawberries, spicy radishes, tender kale, and cool dill and mint came together for a super fresh treat.
Herbed Strawberry and Purple Flowering Kale Salad with Roasted Chickpeas
1 pint strawberries, chopped
1 small head purple flowering (or curly) kale, rinsed well and chopped
1 bunch radishes, removed from leafy stems and sliced thinly
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. finely chopped dill
1 tbsp. finely chopped mint
1 can organic chickpeas, rinsed and drained
juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1-3 tsp. honey, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400*. Prep the first six ingredients. Toss chickpeas with 1 tbsp. of the olive oil, salt, and pepper, and spread onto a baking sheet. Pop into the oven for 20 mins or until golden and slightly crunchy. Set aside to cool while you get the rest of the salad together.
2. In the bottom of a big salad bowl, whisk together lemon juice and zest, the other tbsp. of olive oil, honey, salt and pepper, and herbs.
3. Toss the remaining ingredients into your bowl and mix gently. Pack up and head to the park, or enjoy immediately!
I hope everyone had a fun long weekend for Memorial Day!
Do you have any tips for shopping the farmer’s market? Share!