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Do you plan meals around the farmers' market?

As I've been wandering the Studio City farmers' market, I've noticed a lot more people walking around with a LOT more produce. Talking to the various vendors, there appears to have been an uptick in purchases, especially from the vegetable farmers.

It used to be that I would see people with just a couple of bags -- maybe some peaches, maybe figs, but almost always fruit.

I personally go to the market, wander up and down at least once, then take out a pen and paper and start writing down what I'm going to cook for the week, so that I can make maximum use of the produce available to me at the market -- I don't like Trader Joe's produce and the Vons across the street is just depressing.

For example, I decided to try the fishmonger (marking the first time in over seven years I have bought fish anywhere except Fish King), and that turned into scampi (which required garlic, lemons and shallots) and salmon with pesto (which required asparagus).

Then I bought lettuce, tuna, potatoes, green beans, olives and eggs for a "ni├žoise" salad (purists, keep it to yourselves). There was some great-looking chard that I wanted to gratiner, so I decided roast pork would work with that.

Do other people do this? Or do you go to the farmers' market for things that are unavailable or much, much worse quality at the standard megamart and buy your other produce elsewhere?

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  1. I do that all the time.

    Sometimes I go to the market with a particular dish in mind. More often than not I change my mind depending on what I find there.

    Other times I'm just buying produce with no particular plans to cook that night and get inspired by what I see. Last week I was almost done shopping when I saw some basil and realized that I'd seen all the ingredients for soupe au pistou at various stands, so I looped back around and got the rest of them.

    We get almost all of our produce from the farmers market and our CSA box. My local grocery store (Berkeley Bowl) has way better produce than the average supermarket, but the quality rarely compares.

    1. When I lived in California I bought everything I could from farmers markets and then supplemented (I miss the Berkeley Bowl for that). Here, the farmers markets are hard for me to get to and not as large. I miss the ones I used to go to.

      3 Replies
      1. re: chowser

        I've been thinking of moving to Eastern Europe for a bit to work and do some research, and the one thing that's really holding me back is the thought of life without good farmers' markets and Berkeley Bowl. I pity those who've never had the thrill of navigating the produce section at rush hour at the Bowl; it's truly an experience.

        1. re: lemonfaire

          What makes you think they don't have markets in Europe?

          1. re: pikawicca

            Perhaps I should clarify. I'm specifically thinking about going back to Russia, and I know what awaits (or rather, doesn't await) me there. There are markets, sure, but they're not as bountiful as what I've become accustomed to.

            There are tasty berries, though...

      2. I don't tend to do that, but more because my farmer's market is on Sunday, and by then I've already got things (more or less) planned out. I go to pick up produce mostly, though sometimes I go spec. for my favorite raw feta or a bouquet of flowers.

        1. Here in Portland I go to the farmers' market twice weekly. I always plan my dishes around what looks fresh and particularly yummy, never coming with a list. What inspires me might be matsutake shrooms, a fall raspberry, dungeness crab, artisan cheese I'm tasting for the first time, nectarine, type of heirloom tomato/apple/asian pear new to me, the fall hazelnut (we say filbert!) harvest just came in, or some surprising new variety that I never would have thought to place on a list or think of a dish without first seeing it at the market. That's the mystery & excitement that always brings me back!

          1. When I go to the farmers market I always see what looks good and what may inspire me. I totally reverse engineer things from the OP. I think it's the best way to go. That way you don't get married to an idea and end up purchasing a less that great ingredient.


            1. Farmers markets on the eastcoast head indoors with the end of apple season but we're still happy for the luxury.

              We shop often based on seasonal produce (rather than freeze) and our meals reflect it. We love trying new produce that comes around...remember wondering what a star fruit was...or how to use jicama...gotta love markets for that!

              1. I know what is in season so I plan my weekly menu before I go to the farmer's market. I do make room for a spontaneous meal if I see something I can't resist...and have been known to open the oysters right there and chow down on em. I carry my own hot sauce, if I need it.

                I feel so very lucky to live in the Sacramento Valley.

                Melly www.sacramentofoodgroup.org

                1. Just back (to Rhode Island) from San Francisco where I purchased the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market cookbook at the FPFM (my yearly trip to mecca). It's organized around seasons and is a great guide to cooking by what's available/in-season. The website also does a nice job with this. http://www.ferryplazafarmersmarket.com/

                  1 Reply
                  1. I'm on my way over to the Wed. afternoon Farmers' Mkt, across the street from my office. Will report back on what's in season and ask for cooking ideas

                    1. Ok, lovely green beans, freshly dug-up beets, apples a plenty, variety of squash...recipe ideas for my purchase?

                      1. oh yes i do plan my meals-- of course, it helps to be a market vendor and get to trade at the end of market for all the yummy seasonal produce. That said, it's still great to plan menus for what's fresh in season. it's so frustrating to see people come to market and buy the feathertop carrots because they think they are a sexy fashion accessory: ooh, I went to the market and got feathertop carrots! The poor carrots get eaten only 10% of the time, I'll bet.
                        we have a tradition of sunday breakfast fresh from the market, and for a fun and relatively painless project, make soup each week from market produce: you will try new things, use up (& eat) more produce and know the season for veggies in your area by the time you are done: plus you'll have lunch for the week! right now it's all about curried squash soup, chicken wild rice, roasted garlic-tomato where i am.