From the time I was 14 until I was 18, I worked at a produce market in Pittsburgh. I swear to you that to this day that was the best job I ever had. This was back before the farm-to-table and hipster movements happened, so most “normal” people didn’t make a stop at a produce market. What that meant is that McTighe’s produce market was sort of like if Cheers sold fruit instead of beer. Lots of colorful characters, oddballs, and zany antics. I fit right in. I even have a weird affection for the smell of overripe (rotten) fruit. I know it’s bizarre, but it’s Pavlovian, so I won’t fight it.
So, it’s possible that my obsession with farmer’s markets is due to my long-standing affinity for produce culture. I love everything about them. I love the scrappy set-ups, the personalities of the different vendors, the endless samples of in-season food. It makes my heart happy (and that’s saying something since we all know I’m secretly dead inside).
I try to make a weekly farmer’s market trip, which is one of the perks of living in California, and I am never disappointed. We recently stopped in at the Torrance Farmer’s Market (which is closer to our house than the famous Santa Monica or Hollywood Farmer’s Markets). Even though I’ve been to and enjoy the more famous area markets, I like Torrance’s style and selection even better. They have fresh, local honey, eggs, meat, and, of course, produce.
I try to focus on what I know we can use easily in dinner recipes and snacks. My son will eat fruit all day if you let him, so he’s on a donut peach, watermelon, and apricot kick right now. It’s all fresh and juicy, so who can blame him.
I never haggle with the vendors, although I’m sure you could. I just don’t want to take a couple pennies away from these people who work their buns off to grow this gorgeous loot. The best advice if you’ve never gone to one is just to listen to the farmers. They will tell you what tomatoes are the sweetest, what herbs are the hardiest, and what fruit is the juiciest. Learn from them. They are the masters.
I am eagerly awaiting pepper season. I want them hot and I want them now. I was able to find one vendor who had serrano and jalapeno peppers, but I’m going to need more. Hear that, farmers, bring mama her hot peppers. Until then, I’ll keep going and enjoying the sights, smells, and sounds of our weekly farmer’s market visits.
Got any tips for how to navigate the world of farmer’s markets? I’m all ears! If you live in an area without a lot of farmer’s markets, try Farm Fresh to You delivery boxes instead. You’ll still get fresh produce, and it’ll be delivered right to you. It’ll force you to cook more and you’ll end up eating healthier and for less money!