About every other Saturday morning, I excitedly wake up early to snag some local produce and enjoy the buzz of the farmers market. Before you judge me, it’s the closest thing to self-care I’ve got at this point since I don’t get out much these days.
There’s something magical about the sights, smells and colors of freshly-harvested herbs and fruits and veggies laid out across tables. Besides breaking free from my quarantine jail, there are several reasons I love going to the farmers market:
- Shopping local is sustainable.
- Local produce is a great way to eat seasonably.
- It can greatly reduce the amount of single-use plastic you bring home.
- You feel a part of the community.
- Supporting small and family-owned businesses are the best.
- The produce is way fresher.
- And when “cold season” (as we call it) is over, I hope they bring back the fun kid activities.
Supporting local farms means supporting your own community
There are a lot of ways to be sustainable in life, and supporting our community with our money is one of them.
Some Phoenix farms offer CSA services which are always like receiving a treasure chest of goodness. What’s a CSA box you ask? CSA stands for “Community Shared Agriculture.” I’ll have to share more on that topic after I gather more information, but my favorite place to go for a CSA box is Singh Farms.
Instead of going and picking out your own produce, you can order a preselected box of harvested veggies, fruits and sometimes eggs. I like going this route from time to time because it’s convenient and forces me to learn how to use produce that may otherwise be outside of my comfort zone.
But the amazing challenge here is you get a lot of produce.
Farmers market produce tips
Having fresh ingredients on hand can inspire dishes and imbibements for days and weeks to come. However, efficiently using everything up is an art form I’m always trying to achieve. Over the years I’ve realized a thing or two, so I thought I’d pass it along.
1. Manage your inventory.
My farmers market planning is ongoing. We use an app to keep track of what we need. We run out of something at home, we immediately add it to the list. That way either of us is prepared in the event my husband makes a run. I also take inventory of what we have left in the fridge so I can either use it or avoid buying more of it.
2. Wash your produce.
The best days are when I come home to a cleaned-out sink because my husband knows mama’s coming home with some produce. By now you may have seen the viral video of the strawberries soaked in water and little worms. Yes, food that grows outside can have little friends on it. At a bare minimum, be sure to give your produce a good dunk in water. I like to add some vinegar and maybe a splash of soap if I have some root veggies. After you rinse all the dirt down the drain, you’ll never not wash your produce again.
3. Let it air dry.
This part is really important. Don’t put wet produce away, you’ll cause it to deteriorate and mold in some cases. I usually lay a clean towel out and then marvel at the rainbow of colors on the counter.
4. Plan your recipes.
While your produce dries, plan some recipes out. This is so helpful for me, especially if there’s an unusual or seasonal ingredient I’m not too familiar with.
5. Pre-chop ingredients.
This is one of the best tips someone gave me. Pre-chopping your veggies can save you time during the week. After figuring out some recipes, get to choppin’! There are some things I always pre-chop. Lettuce gets shredded, carrots get peeled and cut into sticks and chopped, some celery gets cut into sticks and chopped. I enjoy dicing an onion or two as well, it’s so gratifying to be able to throw it into a recipe at any time.
6. Immediately use some of it.
If there’s an ingredient you’re less likely to use, I encourage you to find a use for it right away. For instance, I got purple cabbage recently and decided to shred it and pickle it. I’m getting prolonged use out of it this way. The alternative is probably it sitting in my fridge while I struggle to plan a meal around it. If you get fresh herbs, try your hand at making some homemade ranch.
7. Store it properly.
This is a big one. It’s so disheartening to have to throw something out just days after getting it. Until I share tips of my own, here’s an article on storing produce properly. If you take one thing away from this post though, be sure to store your put your celery and carrot sticks in water! They last forever and stay crunchy. (Or put some herbs in water on a windowsill to turn it into a never-ending supply!)