I was raised on local fruits and vegetables. If my mom wanted a fresh lettuce she just walked out into the backyard and picked one. No, I didn't grow up on a farm; my parents had a vegetable garden in our backyard complete with a composter. And they weren't hippies; just people who believed that homegrown tasted better.
Eating seasonally and locally has become a buzz phrase making my parents trendsetters way before it was trendy to eat as a locavore. I'm not sure if it's the freshness, the flavours, the fact I'm supporting my local farmers, or the memories that are evoked when I eat freshly picked produce, but I am hooked on my local farmer's markets. From mid-May to the end of October, I look forward to Tuesday mornings with great anticipation.
As with my parent's garden, the seasons at a market unfold bringing along new flavours every week. When strawberry season hits I indulge until raspberry season starts and then it's blueberry season and then blackberry season and just when you've eaten your last luscious local berry till next year's crop, the crisp juicy apples appear.
Before you run willy nilly, heady with farmer's market lust, here are some rules that will help you become an informed shopper.
Before you leave home
- Pack a cooler and a cold source: Those just-picked berries will become jam and the organic eggs will be ruined if you don't take care of them on the way home.
- Bring small change and small bills: Don't expect a farmer to be gleeful as he's giving you change for a twenty when you only spent a loonie. Save your loose change all week for market days.
- Pack your own bags: Embracing a farmer's market isn't just about the freshness and flavours of homegrown, it's also about keeping our environment green. Put your money where your mouth is and bring your own bags.
- A buggy, a wagon or a Sherpa: No wonder farm people are fit, produce weighs a ton. I usually bring my bundle buggy or talk my husband or son into coming to help carry my treasures.
- Timing is everything: Arrive early to make sure that you get the best pick of the crop and the best parking spot. I set my alarm for 7:30 a.m. on market days so I can get there for 8:00 a.m. sharp.