Farmer’s Markets, part 2

OK, it’s  the middle of the week.  This is a good time to plan a trip to a farmer’s market or markets this coming weekend.  The last post gave you a website where you can find out more about my favorite one–Pearl Farmer’s Market at the repurposed former Pearl Brewery near downtown.  There are others around San Antonio as well, and days vary, so I encourage you to find one near you that’s open at a time that fits your schedule.

Oak Hill Farm at the Pearl Farmers Market, courtesy of PearlFarmersMarket.com

Oak Hill Farm at the Pearl Farmers Market, courtesy of PearlFarmersMarket.com

If you’re a “newbie” to farmer’s markets, there are a few “tricks of the trade” that will make your experience even more fun.  You’ll figure them out eventually, but why not save yourself some of that learning curve?  Here are some hints that I’ve found helpful!

1. Go early! 
If it’s a popular market, like Pearl, you’ll get a better parking place,  it will be less crowded and easier to get around the different booths, and you’ll also get a better selection of products.

2. Shop around before you buy-
-also easier if you’re there early.  You can compare prices, selection, variety, etc.

3. Take your own bag or bags. 
It’s easier for you, better for the environment.  And if you’re looking for heavier items (like a watermelon or maybe a pumpkin), buy them first so they’ll go in the bottom of the bag!

4. Talk to the vendors-
-they’re usually the growers and can tell you a lot about their produce.  They may even share recipes with you.  But they’re all proud of what they have to offer and appreciate your questions.

5. Take cash! 
And take small bills.  Again, if you’re one of the early shoppers, many of the vendors may not be able to break a $20 for a $3 purchase, and most of them are not equipped to accept credit/debit cards, so come prepared with some cash.

6. Farmer’s markets aren’t all about veggies and fruit. 
Many of them also have vendors who sell eggs, meat, and other dairy products like cheese.  Usually, these products are eco-friendly (e.g. grass fed, free range), and almost guaranteed to be fresher than what you buy at the grocery store.  And there really is a difference in taste!  A delicious difference!   Again, most of the vendors welcome your interest and questions.  Some markets also have bakery products, fresh flowers, home-made preserves or pickles, and lots of other things as well.  And some vendors offer samples for tasting!

7. Pets-
-many markets are pet-friendly, and I’ve seen lots of folks enjoying an outing with their dogs.  But unless yours is people-friendly and not going to go nuts seeing other dogs, consider leaving him/her at home or bringing someone along to help with Fido.   Farmer’s markets are family-friendly as well, and if your dog is nervous around strangers, it’s not a good place for him/her.

8. This is a farmer’s market, not a flea market. 
Haggling is not usually the order of the day, except maybe at the end of the market.  However, I’ve asked to purchase a smaller amount for a smaller price.  Several times, I’ve seen a basket of tomatoes containing 8-12 tomatoes for $xxx.  Unless I’m planning to make tomato sauce or something, chances are, I’m not gong to be able to use that many tomatoes before they start to go bad (remember, these are home-grown, ripe, and ready to eat!), so I’ve asked to purchase half a basket for half the price.  So far, no one has ever refused that request, but that’s not the same as asking for a discount on a full basket.

9. Enjoy the experience-
-and get excited about trying new things, new recipes.  Also get excited about trying fresh versions of your favorites!  It’s such a pleasure to taste a homegrown tomato in your salad, use fresh herbs instead of dried, taste the difference between farm fresh and mass-produced.

Hope you visit a market soon–why not this weekend?  And I’m looking forward to watching the selections change as we move into fall.  I’m so ready to move into fall!!   Have a great Labor Day weekend!  San Antonio has so much to offer–get out and enjoy!

All the best,
Sue