A Go-to Guide to Navigating Nature’s Seasonal Bounty

I recently went on holiday with some old friends and it quickly became apparent why we were so close. Besides being crazy about food and how our families could share our meals together, we were also market obsessed. Farmers market, that is.

We couldn’t miss any chance to be in an open-air market with farmers, vendors, music and all the other local colorful delights. In the town where we stayed, or in any other town within a 60-mile radius, we were researching the market and using it as a bargaining chip as to whether or not we made the visit.

The market presented such treasures of the season and so much excitement for the kiddos. It made me think about the first time I went to the market, so overwhelmed that I believe that I ended up empty handed. Agh, no way!

If I had only had some handy tips, as I am about to share with you, then I would have not left with nothing but with bounds of amazing somethings.

Early Bird Catches the…
Show up early, but not too early. You want to make sure that you get there in time to snag that hard-to-find asparagus or foraged mushrooms everyone is talking about, but not so early that they’ve barely unclasped their table and sat up their sign.

Make a Loop
Take one slow stroll around the market to see what everyone is offering. Grab a coffee and take note of certain vendors that are selling unusual or hard-to-find gems and see whose greens are looking the most lush. This is a perfect time to do a little comparison shopping as well.

Start with a Blank Canvas
Find a basic recipe where ingredients can easily be swapped in and out. That way you can adjust the recipe to what’s available at the market. It’s always a great idea to have a plan, just don’t be too tied to a set idea.

Sample, Sample, Sample
Farmers and vendors will often let you sample their product. Take them up on this offer! It’s the best way to know if it tastes as good as it looks.

Meet the Farmers
Market time is community time. Building a relationship with the farmers allows them to help you make the best decision as a consumer. They can let you know how things are growing and what will come into market in the coming weeks. They also usually have favorite recipes that they would love to share. This is a community aspect you can’t find at your average grocery store.

Take Care of Your Product
If you’ve gotten this far, you are relaxed and have just had a fabulous time shopping at the market and are ready to enjoy all your freshly harvested and purchased produce.
Here are a few quick tips:

• Don’t store fruits and vegetables together.
• Clean and store vegetables, if placed in a bag make sure to poke a few holes for air flow.
• Wash and dry all leafy greens, cover with paper towel and store in a bag.
• Herbs can be bundled and placed in a small glass of water in the refrigerator for optimal freshness.
• Stone fruits and tomatoes will continue to ripen at room temperature, and even quicker in a paper bag.
• All other fruit should be refrigerated.

Make Something Delicious
Remember that blank canvas reference? Now is the time to put it to use. Get those creative juices flowing and create a dish with all that beautiful new bounty. I guarantee it’ll get you jazzed about going to market next week to discover what else you can make.

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Market Quinoa Salad: A blank canvas for all your market finds.

2 cups cooked quinoa
1 clove garlic minced
2 ounces red onion diced
1 ounce kalmata olives sliced
4 ounces sliced sugar snap peas
4 ounces red pepper diced
4 ounces cherry tomato sliced in half
½ cup chopped herbs (such as mint, cilantro, dill)
2 cups pea shoots
2 ounces crumbled feta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook snap peas in a pot of boiling salted water for approximately 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl of ice water and let sit until cold. Drain, pat dry and slice. Toss the remaining ingredients together in a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.