There’s nothing quite as great as bringing home a bag full of colorful, ripe farmers market produce. But that being said—picking out the right produce for the season, knowing which vendor to purchase from or even how to know what is ripe can sometimes be tough for the uninitiated.
Luckily for us, Floridian Adrienne Grenier has provided us with six tips for picking the best produce from your neighborly vendors. Grenier—the executive chef at 3030 Ocean in Fort Lauderdale and a Chopped champion—is a self-professed “farm girl” plus she attended the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, where she honed an in-depth knowledge of ingredients. So you can trust she knows what she’s talking about. Here’s what she says to keep in mind for your next farmers market trip.
Buy the item that everyone at the market is selling–that means it’s peak season. During the summer you will usually find blackberries, blueberries, cherries, figs, melons, peaches, raspberries and strawberries at farmers markets. If you’re looking for summer veggies, opt for cucumbers, green beans, okra, sweet peppers, tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant. For eggplants, you want to grab the ones that feel heavy for their size. Look for smooth, tight, shiny skin; avoid any eggplants with soft spots or wrinkled bits.
Learn what grows in your area during each season and talk to the growers about what will be coming to market in upcoming weeks. What’s in season in Florida–where I’m from–is very different from everywhere else. In Florida, our growing season is pretty much over in the summer but there are still great products available. However, when I lived in California, almost everything was amazing all summer. It can really vary depending on your location.
Make sure to sample everything! Sometimes everything looks so gorgeous and tempting, but certain products can surprise you. The more you taste as you shop, the better produce you will buy.
Talk to the farmers and get to know them. They are a wealth of knowledge and are always so passionate about what they are growing; they have the best insider tips on all the produce! Once you are in their good graces, they will hold product that they know you like because you are loyal to them and you give them good feedback.
Go to the market often. You will learn your favorites, notice trends and even become an expert!
Don’t forget to bring your reusable bags! It’s better for the environment! (Check out Grok Nation‘s gallery below for options of reusable bags and other earth-friendly products you can buy for your kitchen and your home.)
One of the first ways to reduce your plastic use is by cutting out single-use plastics—and plastic food storage bags are a repeat offender. Replace the throwaway bags with Stasher silicone reusable bags. Available in a variety of sizes and colors, the silicone bags can safely store food or other household items. The material is resistant to heat and cold, so you can use them in the freezer or to sous vide. Purchase on Stasherbag.com starting at $9.99. (And if you take their Plastic Free Pledge, you’ll get 25% off!)
Make sure to skip the plastic bags when you pack your lunch as well. Instead try reusable containers, like these stainless steel three-in-one bento from EcoLunchboxes. Designed by a mom of two, the boxes are perfect for packing lunches for diners of all ages. Purchase on Amazon for $29.25.
Silicone and stainless steel straws
In the U.S. alone, 500 million straws are used every day. Since it’s a single-use plastic that never biodegrades, that is 500 million too many straws! Luckily, there’s a growing #holdthestraw trend—this past summer the city of Charleston, SC, launched a #StrawlessSummer campaign and more than 70 restaurants and bars banned the plastic products. This MCIRCO set has six reusable silicon straws, four stainless steel straws, and three cleaning brushes, so you can join the movement. Purchase on Amazon for $12.99.
Reusable food wrap
Bee’s Wrap offers a more sustainable solution than other plastic wraps—the reusable paper is made of organic cotton, sustainably harvested beeswax, organic jojoba oil, and tree resin, so they can be used over and over then recycled or composted when needed. Using the warmth of your hands, you can wrap the product around bowls and food. Purchase this variety pack on Amazon for $18.
Have you banned the bottle yet? Consider this: More than 38 billion water bottles are thrown into the trash each year… just in the U.S. Recycling them is obviously better than putting them in the landfill, but you can eliminate the need for them completely with a reusable bottle. Take it with you to movie shows, concerts, and more—and save money, too! Purchase this stainless steel S’well Milky Way bottle on Sur La Table for $35.
Travel coffee tumbler
The cups you get at your favorite coffee shop may look paper, but they’re actually lined with polyethylene, a type of plastic resin. They can be recycled, but many places don’t have the infrastructure to do so. And that’s not factoring in the lid, stirrer, sleeve, etc. Take the guesswork out of it and bring your own mug. This version from Japanese home goods company Kinto is leak-proof, so you can toss in your (reusable) bag and take with you wherever you go. Purchase on Food52 for $35.
Travel tea bottle
And if you’re a tea person instead, there’s a product for you, too. Skip the same “paper” mugs and bring your own travel tumbler. This glass bottle design from Full Circle Tea Time has an infuser for looseleaf and a cork sleeve to keep the heat off your hands. Purchase on Target for $22.49.