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I have been going to the new local Farmer’s Market pretty regularly this summer. After doing a lot of reading on the subject of food over the past few months, I decided that working local food into the budget would really be a benefit for our family. Although I had planned on increasing the food budget to allow for the higher prices of local food, I have found that as the summer goes on, the prices at the farmer’s market have become much more reasonable. I have also figured out a few strategies for shopping smart and getting better prices. So, I thought I would share a few with you here. Of course, they may or may not work for your farmer’s market, but they are certainly worth a try.
1 – Circle the entire market before you buy anything, especially if this is your first time there. Ask about prices, look at the produce, taste any samples, ask any questions. Then make you purchases.
2 – Go later in the day. Unless you are looking for something specific, go later in the day. The vendors will be much more likely to go down on their price, make you a deal on that big crate of okra they don’t want to take home, or just throw a few extra jalapeños in your bag.
3 – Be a loyal patron – Find the vendors you like the best and go to them first. They will notice. Chat with them. Tell them how great their tomatoes are. Ask them a question about your pepper plants. In short, get to know them.
How do you find the best vendor? I like to start with the guys ( or gals) with overalls on and dirt under their fingernails. They are usually the best.
4 – Shop seasonally and stay away from the weird stuff – Now this isn’t too hard to do since this is a farmer’s market. It’s in season if everyone has it. Black Eye Peas, tomatoes, and greens are in season right now. I know that because every body had some this week at the market. Every now and then, you will see something awesome that is hard to resist, like lemongrass or ramps. Unless you actually have something in particular in mind for that product, leave it for the rich people.
So, there you go. Now you are well armed for the farmer’s market. Don’t forget your bags!
Here is a great recipe for some Hoppin’ John with fresh tomatoes. Serve it with hot sauce and some cornbread for a great meatless main dish!
3-4 cups fresh hulled Black Eye Peas ( or pre-soaked dried equivalent)
2 cups hot cooked rice
1 large tomato diced
1 large bell pepper diced
2 large onions diced, seperated
3 slices of bacon or hunk of salt pork ( or ham hock or something)
Hot Sauce and Cornbread to serve
In a large saucepan cook peas, bacon, 1 onion, and bay leaf along with some salt and pepper until peas are tender, about 30 minutes to an hour ( depending on your peas).
Meanwhile saute onion and bell pepper until tender. Drain peas and mix with rice, bell pepper and onion, tomato, and salt and pepper.
Season up with hot sauce and serve with cornbread. Enjoy!