How to Play the Farmers' Market

Get the best, freshest stuff when you hit your local farmers' market with these tips.

Farmers' Market

The Playa Vista Farmers' Market     Photo: Justin Sewell/Flickr

Leave the waxed stuff to the big chain stores, follow these orders from pioneering organic chef Alice Waters, owner of Berkeley bistro Chez Panisse, and hit the market prepared for action:

(1) First, look around to see what's fresh. Have a rough idea of what you need and buy ESSENTIALS first. Then see what else is ripe.
(2)
Don't assume all crops are locally grown. Seek out regional SUSTAINABLE farmers and you'll probably get produce picked that morning.
(3)
Check for the presence of VIBRANT stems and leaves, sure indicators of freshness.
(4) No one knows the produce better than the farmer, so ask for TIPS on storing and cooking. You might end up with a secret family recipe.
(5) Try one new, seasonal ingredient each week to SPICE things up. (Find local grub bazaars at ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets.)

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