Gentle readers, this is not going to be the usual list of reasons to visit a Farmer’s Market, of which there are many and they are well documented. The Practical Cook is going to appeal to your practical side, listing the reasons that get her out of bed on a Saturday morning. With spring in the air (at least it was when I first drafted this stinking post), it’s a great time to get started with a new good habit.
The Practical Cook’s Top 5 Reasons to Shop at the Farmer’s Market
1. Homemade Baked Goods. It’s called marketing people, and very few Farmer’s Markets are just veggies anymore. There are eggs, meats, cheeses, preserves, breads, and sweets to be had, too. The Junior Practical Cooks are given some allowance money to spend on the treat of their choice. Suddenly, shopping for veggies is a lot more interesting. Bonus, you can buy just one of something (for me, that’s a fresh apple cider doughnut), support a talented local baker, not have to clean up your kitchen, and avoid the temptation of a full-sized cake/pie/etc.
2. Vegetable Variety. This is variety in depth and breadth, lots of types and varietals within the types. Team Practical Cook had many green-bean haters, until we tried a new variety found at the market. Now green beans are back on the list. If you’re going to try a new veggie or give an old enemy a chance, why not try the best in class?
3. Taste. Better ingredients = better dishes with less work. The higher quality ingredients you can use, the less you have to do to make it palatable. Sometimes it’s fun to cook fancy with a lot of layers and sauces, sometimes you want to saute a green veg and just slap it on the table for dinner. The Farmer’s Market gives you options.
4. Inspiration/Field Research. From the samples, recipes, and ideas you’ll get from the vendors, you’ll be a better cook for just walking through the Farmer’s Market. Imagine you’re a larger-scale operation and you focus on winter squash. Chances are you’ve served quite a few butternuts to your family, and have some new ideas. At our local market, there are always chefs shopping. I have been known to follow them and buy what they’re buying (in smaller quantities).
5. Value. I would argue that it’s not on balance more expensive to buy produce this way. You do have to commit to eating what you buy, and shopping a bit more often (or putting away any large quantities you purchase). However, it cuts out the middle man and gives you access to organic or sustainably grown foods at better prices. If it inspires you to eat more veggies or cook more often, you’re winning.
Thus endeth the lecture. If you just can’t face Saturday mornings on a regular basis, make it easy on yourself and go the CSA (community supported agriculture) route. Do some research now and see what’s available in your area, through your company, in your community. Having a CSA forces the discipline of the Farmer’s Market on you, with less time invested. But I’m yet to hear of one that includes apple cider doughnuts (with a special shout out to SacajaweaSinging for greenlighting doughnut consumption).
To continue the theme, tomorrow it’s Green Eggs, No Ham. Yes, it is possible, and delicious. Almost everything on the plate above was locally grown. Amazing how that used to be the norm and is now a feat.
Until next time, intrepid cooks, keep sharing your stories with me at practicalcook at gmail dot com.