Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Farmers' Market Season

Rainbow chard from the Ottawa Farmers' Market

However chilly it may be outside, that doesn't change the fact that farmers' market season is almost upon us! With most markets opening in early May, I'm sure there's a market in your area that you will enjoy. Inspired by Lisa Borden's tips for visiting a farmer's market, I thought I'd share my own tips, along with some photos I took this past year at some lovely markets:

Cherry tomatoes from the Parkdale market

Shop around
If there is more than one market in your area, why not explore a different market each week? You might discover a farmer or food producer you haven't yet encountered, or even a crafter or artisan who makes unique gifts! By shopping around, you are supporting more local vendors and giving yourself new experiences!

Mushrooms from Le Coprin

Summer sausage from the St. Jacob's Farmers' Market (near Kitchener)

Read the signs
Not all food at a farmers' market is locally grown. (Gasp!) Yes, it's true. Read the signs carefully and try to buy locally when you can. Don't assume that just because it's at the farmers' market it's hasn't necessarily been shipped in from (for example) the U.S.A. Some markets are all local, which will definitely make it easier to shop locally, but some are not, so make sure you peek at the signs just to be sure.

Cucumbers from the Ottawa Farmers' Market

Heirloom carrots from the Parkdale Market

Write it down
If you see a vegetable you don't recognize, talk to the farmer or vendor and find out what it is, and write it down! Type it into your Blackberry or take a photo of it with your iPhone. A farmers' market can be a great place to learn about new fruits and veggies. Once you discover new varieties, you can get creative with recipes and create some amazing meals.

Raspberries from McGregor's Produce

Rhubarb from the Parkdale Market

Meet a Farmer
Not all sellers at the market are actually the farmers, some are simply helping out or they are vendors who purchase from farmers or other suppliers. If, however, you do come across the farmer, why not have a chat? If you are able to get through the throngs of shoppers, why not say hello and ask them some questions about their product? Farmers take a lot of pride in their work and I am sure they would be happy to see an enthusiastic shopper eager to learn more about what they grow or raise. Some farmers like to chat more than others, so just be sure to gauge the situation and you and the farmer will both be happy.

Garlic from the Carp Farmers' Market

Have Fun
Some markets have parks nearby or activities for kids, so why not make a day of it and enjoy some of your purchases on a picnic table nearby? It's a great family outing that will educate your kids about food and get everyone excited to cook some amazing meals in the coming week. It's also fun to snap some photos as I did, you don't have to be a "food blogger" to enjoy the beauty of some nicely arranged veggies!

For those of you living in Ottawa or Toronto, I've listed some markets below that you can check out! Don't forget your reusable bags!

Ottawa Farmers' Market
Byward Market
Parkdale Market
Main Farmers' Market
Ottawa Organic Farmers' Market
Carp Farmers' Market
Almonte Farmers' Market
Arnprior Farmers' Market

St. Lawrence Market
Trinity Bellwoods Farmers' Market
Wychwood Barns aka Green Barn Farmers' Market
Dufferin Grove Farmers' Market
Evergreen Brickworks Farmers' Market
Riverdale Farm Farmers' Market

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