After almost six years volunteering at Chicago’s Green City Market (www.greencitymarket.org) and many more years shopping at farmers markets, I like to think I know my way around them but I can still be surprised by something I’ve never eaten before. This spring, for instance, a new vendor is selling black garlic, something I had never eaten or even heard of before. It is fermented garlic and you can cook with it the same way as raw garlic, but it’s sweeter and milder. Last Saturday, even parents wanted to try sorrel at the children’s tasting table because most of them had never experienced its unexpected flavour – like biting into a lemon. Discovering and tasting something new is one of the best parts of shopping at a farmers’ market. In this blog I’ve tried to include heirloom recipes using wild or forgotten ingredients you are unlikely to find at the supermarket — such as nettles or gooseberries — to share a little bit of the excitement of shopping at a market. Here are my top tips to enhance your market shopping experience:
- Get there early. Popular items such as eggs or the first asparagus or strawberries of the season go fast.
- Bring cash. Small bills are appreciated. Although more vendors these days are using the Square smartphone technology to process credit cards, most still only accept cash.
- Go with an open mind. Walk around the market before shopping to see what is available and in season. Try something new.
- Bring your own shopping bags and containers for berries, tomatoes or other easily bruised fruit. Bring an insulated bag or cooler to keep dairy products, eggs or meat cold.
- Ask questions. If being organic or sustainable is important to you, ask the farmer about his or her farming practices. If you don’t know what something is or how to cook it, ask the farmer or another shopper. Most people shopping at the market love food and cooking and will be excited to share their knowledge.
About two weeks ago I stumbled on an article in a tech blog about an intriguing new product for bakers — an iPad connected kitchen scale that makes measurements and scaling recipes easy. You can retire the calculator. I was surprised and excited to discover that the team behind this ingenious invention is Irish. Check it out at www.getdrop.com. Until July 4, preorders get Drop for $20 less than retail price by clicking the access code below.
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