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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Saturday at the Farmers' Market

I don't make it every weekend, but I absolutely love shopping at the farmers' market.

I'm lucky to live in a city that has two Farmers' Markets, and both have the appeal. The Piedmont Triad Farmers' Market is open later (in case you can't drag yourself out of bed) and has some permanent vendors, so you can pick up produce any day of the week. But I prefer to go to the Greensboro Curb Market, which is much more stringent in its rules that products must be locally grown or produced.

Things were hopping at the Curb Market on Saturday, as they always seem to be in the summer.

If you don't shop the Farmers' Market in your community, you're missing out on some great prices and some great products. In addition to produce and homemade food, I've purchased books from local authors, homemade laundry soap, handmade jewelry, fresh flowers, tea, photographs and great crafts from the farmers' market. And I alway seem to run into old friends and acquaintances while I'm there, making each visit all the more sweet.

If you're interested in organic produce, the farmers' market is the way to go. At my local farmers' market (and indeed at many across the country), the food is organically grown and the prices can be significantly lower than they are at grocery stores and other retailers.

That's not to say shopping at the farmers' market is always a bargain. I've found that I alway spend exactly what I have in my pocket or purse, whether that's $10 or $100. And on those days when I do spend the big bucks, I don't feel guilty about it at all. I find some amazing products at the farmers' market. I think the quality of the produce is so much better than what I find at the grocery store, so I don't mind splurging.

This weekend, it was tomato day at the Greensboro Curb Market, and boy did I love that. I've been eating tomatoes since I was a toddler, and they may well be my favorite food. Farmers were sampling different varieties of tomatoes, and I think I bought a little of everything available -- Brandywine (my new favorite), Sungold (a close second), Better Boy, German Johnson, Cherokee purple, other heirloom varieties and cherry and grape tomatoes for salads.

To celebrate the bounty, we had a simple but delicious dinner on Saturday: a feta, tomato and basil salad, artisan bread and homemade marinara sauce, which I doctored up into a summer tomato soup with the additional of basil and a touch of sugary. Light, fresh and delicious.

When I'm shopping the farmers' market, I like to stop at every booth. But there are a few that I keep coming back to: Simple Kneads Bakery (try their iced cinnamon buns), Dodge Lodge Farm (the reason I love beets), Zaytoon (they introduced hummus to the curb market), Slices of Heaven (truly heavenly homemade breakfast breads), Handance Farm (my source for heirloom tomatoes), Homeland Creamery (great milk and ice cream) and REAL Catering (great homemade pimiento cheese, salsa and marinara).

[Pimiento cheese is something of a southern delicacy, and if you've never had it, then you're missing out on one of life's great gustatory pleasures. Who knew that mayonnaise, pimentos and shredded cheese could taste so good? If plain-old pimiento cheese is too country for you, throw some in a pan and melt it over low heat and then serve it with crostini for an easy and delicious appetizer (an idea I cribbed from Harper's Restaurant.)]

OK, that was a tangent. But it kind of proves my point that farmers' markets are wonderful. You never know exactly what you'll find there (besides great food and great farmers). And you're likely to be exposed to foods and cuisines you've never tried before. I know that I've many times brought home foods I had never before tried, and in every instance, I've been pleased with the purchase. And many times, I've come away with a new favorite.

The farmers' market also makes a great family outing. Sometimes, I go alone, but often Jackson and Bruce go with me, and we always have a ball shopping together. (And we usually treat ourselves to breakfast at Simple Kneads or to homemade pancakes by Cheesecakes by Alex or goodies from other vendors. Yummy!)

Most communities have farmers' markets and certainly local farms. You can find out about what's available in your area by visiting Farmers Market Online, Local Harvest or Farmers Market.

If you live in my area, I'd love to hear about your favorite markets, vendors and products. And if you live elsewhere, please feel free to post your recommendations, as well. As we all know, the world is getting flatter every day, and many farmers and local cooks will sell their products online.

4 comments:

  1. You forgot to mention Farmer's Market Online (FarmersMarketOnline.com) in your list of sources for information about farmers and farmers markets.

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  2. Thanks for clueing me in to your terrific Web site. I've amended my post to add your great site.

    Thanks.

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  3. Like Amy says, going to the farmer's market is a fun family activity. Jackson & I always enjoy coming along.

    Local farmer's markets aren't just good for your wallet -- they're good for your community, too. When you shop at one, you're supporting the small farmers in your community.

    I also feel more comfortable when I know the people growing my family's food. You see the same people selling at the farmer's market week-in and week-out and you get to know and trust those folks.

    Given the food safety horror stories coming out of China in recent months, I'd say it is in America's best interests to raise as much of our own food here at home as possible. So I see buying from your local farmer as a small act of patriotism!

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  4. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

    I was so lucky this week -- I was busy on Saturday by my hubs and in-laws took the kids to the farmer's market. I came home to a fridge with some roasted zucchini and peppers in it --not to mention other leftovers from their bbq. I'm SO gonna stay under my grocery budget this week.

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