Farmers' markets are popping up all over the country, and with so many edible offerings to peruse, they're becoming a regular family activity on the weekends. But, while these markets have plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables on display, they're also a great place to pick up food items that are either pre-made or can be used to elevate your dishes.
The variety of goods at your local farmers' market depends on where you live. Vendors generally drive in from surrounding towns, and even states, showcasing everything from seasonal fruit to handmade crafts. The markets are a reflection of your regional culture and economy, so they're an excellent way to sample locally sourced food.
However, while farmers' markets are synonymous with fresh produce, they're also a great place to buy baked goods and artisanal ingredients. There's no shame in picking up pre-made pies, pastries or quiches. In fact, you're likely getting top quality items, while supporting your local purveyors.
For multitasking moms, farmers' markets offer entertainment for kids, as well as a one-stop shopping spot to pick up meal solutions. Sure, there are raw ingredients all around, but there are also plenty of specialty food items that are easy to purchase in one fell swoop.
Consider hitting up the weekend market in the morning for the best selection of items, including ready-to-eat breakfast and brunch foods. Many markets also sell products like jams, preserves and local honey, which can add seasonal flavor to any meal without any extra effort -- or preservatives.
If you're unfamiliar with a market, make sure to stop by the information booth to get a map, as well as quick answers to any questions you may have. If you're looking for a particular item, you can save time by asking a market rep here. For those looking for a bargain, stop by the market close to closing time. Vendors would rather sell their goods at a lower price than have to haul them back on their return trip.
Green markets are most abundant in the summer months, but many people can find year-round indoor markets in their area. Be sure to check your local listings for the best of what's around, and take the time to get to know what your local market offers. Shopping at a farmers' market will ensure that you'll always have peak-season produce, as well as easy meal items that can be prepared at a moment's notice.