Toi Degree: Rowan County Farmers Market is back in action
Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 15, 2023
By Toi Degree
N.C. Cooperative Extension
Spring has sprung… I think? I’m not very sure, though; winter keeps tipping back in and then out again. But one thing I do know is that the Rowan County Farmers Market has opened! As of Saturday, the market opened and is ready for you to stop by and pick up some fresh produce. So, here are just a few things you might need to consider before visiting the market.
Know your seasons — If you start out with a basic knowledge of seasonal produce, you’ll know what kind of fruits and vegetables to expect when you arrive at the farmers market. I’ll post a list of some things you might find at our market below.
Plan meals ahead of time — Since you know what you’re likely to find at the farmers market, you can do a bit of meal planning and shop accordingly as you do at the grocery store. Make a list and note the amounts you’ll need of each item. Because the farmers market is subject to seasonality and vendors may run out of items or simply not have them that week, maintain some flexibility. No asparagus this week? Try substituting broccolini.
Bring small change — Some farmers market vendors do not take card purchases, so you’ll need to bring cash. Although vendors will make change, purchases will go quicker if you have exact (or close to exact) change. Bringing a stack of ones and fives will make things easier for you and the vendors.
Bring big bags — Farmers market vendors offer bags, but they tend to be thin and flimsy plastic ones that groan under the pressure of any substantial produce purchase. Make sure everything gets home from the farmers market without crashing onto the sidewalk or spilling onto the floor of your car by bringing your own sturdy canvas or nylon bags. A backpack can make hauling easier, especially for weighty or bulky items. If you buy a lot every week, consider acquiring a wheeled cart or wagon to get your haul from the farmers market home in one trip.
Go early — Markets tend to be less crowded right when they open or just before they close. There are exceptions to this rule, so try going to your market at different times to figure out the best time for you. For the best selection, go to the farmers market early. The best goods tend to go first, and popular-but-limited items may even sell out before the day is done.
Be spontaneous — Yes, you’ll fare better if you plan your trip to the farmers market. However, you need to leave a bit of wiggle room for those strawberries you didn’t know would be at the market so early or the zucchini blossoms you’ve never tried before. Trying new things is part of the fun of going to the farmers markets.
You’re buying ultra-fresh produce when you shop at the farmers market, so let its natural flavor show when you cook it. Keep preparations simple and let the peak produce shine.
Talk to the farmers — If you find a fruit or vegetable that’s new to you at the farmers market, don’t be afraid to ask the farmer about it. Most vendors will be happy to tell you all about their products, including how they’re grown, their origins, what they taste like, and how to prepare them. Because farmers are extremely familiar with their crops, they often know the best way to fix them for dinner. Plus, they might give you a sample to taste.
Buy in bulk — The best deals at the farmers market are had when you buy in bulk. You’ll enjoy the best flavors and the best prices when you buy lots of whatever is at its harvest peak. If you’re worried about using all that fresh produce up, try some new recipes or learn the lost art of preserving food. Freezing, canning and drying are just some of the ways you can save the seasonal flavors you find at the farmers market for later in the year.
Think whole foods — Produce sold from the farmers market tends to be minimally processed, whole foods. Carrots come whole and unpeeled. Beets still have greens (and dirt) attached. Learning to handle just-harvested produce can take some getting used to, but the superior flavor is worth the adjustment! A bonus of whole foods: much of the stuff that grocery stores remove from fruits and veggies before you buy is edible. Carrot tops make a delicious pesto, and sautéed beet greens are wonderfully rich.
Here’s what’s in season at your local farmers market in April, according to the Got to Be N.C. Dept. of Agriculture’s, “What’s in Season?” chart.
• Collard greens
• Mustard greens
• Snow peas
• Strawberries — they are ready and from what I have heard, they are quite delicious!
National Center for Home Food Preservation:
Toi N. Degree is family and consumer education agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Contact her at 704-216-8970 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.