The first time I visited London’s Borough Market, I remember coming back home empty handed.
There was simply too much to take in, too many possibilities in front of me and I couldn’t make a choice.
The first time I visited Barcelona’s world-famous Boqueria market, the same thing happened.
And then, right before Bastille Day, I was lucky enough to attend a private tour of the Borough market with demo chef Luke Robinson, who showed us around and shared his top tips to shop around the market.
And that’s when it hit me: buying produce at the farmers’ market is not as obvious as it appears and a few farmers’ market tips go a long way to find the best produce and make the most of your trip!
1. Go early
The early bird gets the worm. This is especially true at the farmers’ market.
The crowds much more sparse, produce is fresher when it hasn’t sit in the sun/cold for a few hours and you’ll also avoid the risk of the produce you really wanted to have run out.
So check the opening hours, take a big nice latte along and head on down early & bright!
2. Plan ahead
Whether you want to go all in by doing all the meal planning heavy-lifting ahead of your farmers’ market trip is entirely up to you. If you go for this option, make sure you compile (and take to the market!) a grocery list.
One thing you definitely want to think about beforehands though is the quantity of produce you’ll need and whether any impulse buy is a good idea.
How much will you’ll cook that week? How many people are you feeding? Do you want to (and can you) freeze any leftovers or will they need to be eaten soon?
Asking yourself those questions will help you make sure you buy enough food without wasting any of it.
3. Shop around
At the market, it’s quite often the case that a few stalls offer the same type of produce.
If that’s the case, it’s always a good idea to take a stroll around to check for freshness, quality and prices before you start shopping.
4. Follow the seasons
One of the main advantages of shopping at the market is the availability of fresh, local, seasonal produce.
It’s no secret that seasonal produce tastes better and, more often than not, is cheaper than out of season alternatives.
But while we’re all roughly aware of fruit & vegetable season, fish, meat and even flowers (!) have seasons too, and markets’ merchants are always happy to show you what’s good at any point in time.
5. Trust the queues…
Most farmers’ market rely on regulars’ customs.
Which means the people around you most likely know their way around the market, and therefore know who has the best meat/fish/vegetable/bread…
6. … And your nose!
When it comes to finding the best produce, your nose is your best friend.
Fish shouldn’t smell fishy. Fruit, especially berries, melons and tomatoes should be fragrant. And I am still to meet anyone who can resist the smell of freshly baked bread…
7. When in doubt, ask!
Farmers’ market merchants are knowledgeable professionals and you should absolutely make the most of it.
Want to know what’s truly sensational this week? Unsure about which cut of meat to choose or how to cook it? Not sure you can quite fillet a fish on your own?
Don’t be shy and ask way! You’ll be surprise how much helpful advice, useful services and inspiration you’ll get that way.
8. Don’t be scared to try something new
While you should definitely not buy each and every alien thing you see at the market, a little something new here and there never hurt anybody (and absolutely helps keeping the creative juices flowing!).
Heirloom varieties, uncommon produce, rare spices, there are many ways to think outside the box and you should take full advantage of it!
9. Look out for special events
On top of their regular schedule, some markets also hold special events that are always worth taking a look at.
From weekly cooking demos (if you’re ever near the Borough market on a Thursday…) and tours, to annual events and Christmas specials, make sure you keep an eye out for those as they’ll allow you to see your local market with fresh eyes!
10. Always reward yourself with some celebratory baked goods!
Because let’s face it, if you don’t come home with a freshly-baked all-butter croissant, a crunchy baguette or a bag of artisan doughnuts, have you even really been to the farmers’ market?
What’s your top tip to make the most of a trip to the market? Answer on a croissant-filled brown paper bag or in the comments below!
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