There’s nothing better than scouring a farmers’ market in springtime: the sun, fresh produce, free samples. And with 70 options—and growing—in the city and ’burbs, it’s never been easier to get your hands on from-the-farm goodness.
This year, I’ve decided to up my farmers’-market ante by going in with a game plan, so I asked a few local pros for their best advice. Here, your FAQ to total farmers’-market domination.
What’s the first thing I should do when I get there?
“Find the market manager,” says Mukethe Kawinzi, project manager of the Food Trust’s farmers’-market program. Because managers set up with the farmers in the morning, they have the scoop on what’s new, what’s good, and what’s about to sell out.
If produce isn’t labeled “organic,” I should skip it, right?
Not so fast. Experts agree that while organic labels make it easy to spot chemical-free produce at a glance, you shouldn’t judge a booth that doesn’t have them. “Although many of the farms in our region aren’t technically certified — organic certification is very pricey — lots of farmers still use organic methods,” says Green Philly Blog co-founder Julie Hancher. When in doubt, ask questions.
My farmers’ market is always jammed. How can I avoid crowds?
Head out in the rain or on weekdays. Kawinzi says Philly’s best-kept secret is the Thursday market at West Philly’s Clark Park: “The Saturday market there is immensely popular, but the Thursday market is sometimes overlooked.”
How can I get the best deals?
Bruised or spotted produce, often ignored by shoppers, still tastes amazing, so pick the ugly ducklings and ask for a discount. If you have the freezer space, buy goods in bulk for a reduced price. Hello, breakfast smoothies!
What vendors should I make sure not to miss?
My experts couldn’t stop raving about the French pastry at Market Day Canelé (Headhouse, Rittenhouse, Fitler Square, Bryn Mawr, Chestnut Hill, East Goshen and Media farmers’ markets); Crabby Granny crab-apple cider from Frecon Farms (Bala Cynwyd, Downingtown, Clark Park, Bryn Mawr, Malvern and more); and asparagus soup from Good Spoon (Rittenhouse, Bryn Mawr, Chestnut Hill, Headhouse and North 3rd), which Hancher says is positively “orgasmic.”
Originally published in the May 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.
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