Arriving at a farmer’s market unprepared is kind of like showing up to a one-time-only Backstreet Boys reunion concert without your ticket. Sure, you could stand outside the arena and listen to Nick Carter solo on “Everybody” but you won’t be able to really experience the show. (Because let’s face it, when you’re all alone singing “throw your hands in the air” and “wave ‘em like you just don’t care,” it’s just not as much fun.)
But back to the farmer’s market …
With freshly grown produce sold every Sunday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. right by the Newport Pier—park in the main lot off McFadden Place and you can’t miss the thing—it’s crucial to get organized and fully prepare for your next trip to purchase heirloom tomatoes or pick up some homegrown leeks. This way, you’ll never find yourself lingering by the farmer’s market stands à la ticket-less Backstreet Boys fan, wondering why you can’t quite get a hold on the whole farm-to-table thing.
Here’s how to conquer the Newport Beach farmer’s market like a pro:
Bring a canvas tote or sturdy bag.
Nobody wants to be the guy or girl stuck with an arm-full of fresh groceries that go rolling down West Balboa Blvd. when your paper bag breaks. Keep an extra bag or, as a more environmentally friendly option, a canvas tote close by so you won’t have to worry about where to put that humongous bushel of locally grown Dorsett Golden apples you just had to have.
Make a list.
There’s nothing more annoying than returning home after a successful trip to the farmer’s market only to find out success was kind of a relative term. How are you supposed to make fresh eggplant Parmesan without eggplant? Or peach cobbler without a single peach? Jot down all the items you need before you even step foot inside the tented circumference of the farmer’s market because once inside, it’s all too easy to be distracted by a glistening bunch of cilantro and forget exactly what you came to buy.
Purchase for practicality, not curiosity.
As cool as it may sound, there’s not much use for a single rutabaga if you have no idea how to cook it. Going overboard is easy when presented with awesomely funky-looking fruits and veggies but make sure you’re equipped and ready to prepare whatever food you do get. Americans waste an estimated 23-40% of food grown in this country, (according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture), and as a responsible enthusiast of local, sustainable produce, you don’t want to contribute to that stat. However, this is one rule sometimes made to be broken. There’s no harm in nabbing a ripe persimmon for a warm, home-baked cinnamon strudel every once in a while. Experimentation at a farmer’s market is kind of the spice of life. Or at the very least, the spice of your next snack.
How do you know if this pluot is ripe? And what’s a pluot anyway? The great advantage of a farmer’s market is that you’re not only getting fresh fare but you’re also purchasing produce from the very people who stuck the seeds in the ground to grow it (or someone really close to the farmer who did). The rep working a farmer’s market stand knows best when a Haas avocado is ready to be eaten and you should take advantage of that knowledge as you shop. Don’t be afraid to ask questions; farmer’s market vendors love sharing what they know. After all, that’s why they’re there in the first place, to share their passion for the product with you.
Keep an open mind.
If you forget every other tip listed above, at least remember this one because it is perhaps the single-most important way to have a successful farmer’s market trip. On a related note, it turns out carrot walnut cranberry whole wheat bread is actually—and surprisingly—good.
By: Melissa Marni