When Johnny and I lived in Boston, we stumbled upon the Boston Haymarket. Rain or shine, the Haymarket is open every Friday and Saturday of the year, offering up some super cheap produce. The first week we walked into it, Johnny and I bought a quite a loot of fruits and veggies. As we walked home to our apartment, we added up the contents of our bags (plural) of produce and realized we’d only spent $7! And thus began our love affair with farmers’ markets. We braved the crowds and the rude merchants (“You touch it, you buy it!”) almost every Saturday so we could keep our fruit bowl and fridge stocked with fruits and leafy greens. Speaking of leafy, does anyone else think, “I’m eating leaves!” when they have a salad? Or is that a conversation only Johnny and I have had? Well, thanks to the haymarket, they were always inexpensive leaves — while we lived in Boston, anyway.
And then we moved to North Carolina, and we wanted to keep this awesome trend of cheap produce. And we were lucky enough to stumble upon a farmers’ market co-op through our church. Every other Saturday, about 15 families pitch in $15 each, and are handsomely rewarded an overflowing bin of in-season, locally grown fruits and veggies. Another perk of living in the luciousness that is NC is being able to pick your own fruits! We live down the street from a farm that offers strawberry picking in the spring. So we headed there last Saturday and picked to our heart’s content for $1.50/pound. Cheap berries fresh from the vine and sweeter than any grocery store’s? Let’s just say we’ll be back.
Johnny and I didn’t grow up in families who did the whole farmers’ market thing, so we didn’t realize the potential green we could save on fresh greens. We happened upon it accidentally, and we’re sure glad we have. It means we don’t have to shop at Whole Foods (which is basically our mortal enemy). And it helps us meet our healthy quota of fruits and veggies. Which usually offsets our weekly cheeseburgers and fries, right?
So we’ve told you our story of farmers’ market conversion. And now for a few tips:
1. Beware the surplus. On more than one occasion Johnny and I have gotten a little too excited and bought more fresh food than we could consume before the dreaded spoilage occurred And so despite wanting to buy 15 bananas for $2, we now resist. Because our freezer is already too full of Costco-sized everything to house a bunch of rotten bananas, too. And five loaves of banana bread is probably excessive, too.
2. Choose your co-op wisely. For the most part our current co-op delivers some awesome goods that make it well worth the $15 we spend. But one time an order was full of onions and cabbage. Sad day. And I tried to use it all, I really did. But I failed, and Johnny made me throw the onions out once plants started growing out of them. But that has only happened once, so we feel like it’s still worth the money.
3. Consider the season. Unlike grocery stores, farmers’ markets offer only what’s in season. So if you sign up to receive a basket of mixed fruits and veggies, make sure you’re ready to use what’s actually in season. I got burned one month when we got a ton of potatoes and yams, since I rarely cook with either. But luckily it was easy enough to find a use for them. To remedy such a problem, we use our co-op less during the winter months.
Do you frequent the farmers’ market and local produce scene? Got any tips for us newbies?