The opportunity to talk with the growers and vendors is invaluable to me. This is a great time to ask, how best to store or to prepare the food being purchased. We encourage them when we ask questions! With the holidays around the corner, I found it important to get you to the market with me, so that we could explore what good and perfect things are growing in season for our parties and dinners. Before we do our first tour, allow me to give you a few tips for shopping at Farmer’s Markets. It’s good to start early in the morning. If you wait until later in the day, some of the choicest items may be sold out. There is a theory however, that if you go late in day, you may get the best deals from growers who are packing it up for the day. Bring good walking shoes, a hat for the sun, a nice canvas bag or tote to carry your purchases and plenty of singles (one dollar bills). Being prepared makes it so much easier. The other key thing is to have a plan. I am the girl whose eyes can be too big for her stomach. My advice is to be sure to get something to eat before you get there, or to make a stop at one of the vendors, for a bite to eat. Your budget will thank you later! Without a plan you could go crazy in the market, buying a hundred things and finding out later, you don’t have the time to cook off everything you just had to have at the market. Be thinking about what is in season and what you like to eat. I always try to have at least two menus in mind and not much more. This is the key to food being used and not thrown out. And it today’s economy it’s also the key to saving money. Upon arrival, you will begin to smell the sweet roasted fragrance of “tamales”! The tamale vendor (Corn Maiden) is just around the corner and I stop to try one of the spiciest tamales she has. It is filled with chicken and Gruyere cheese, and then spiced up with a wonderful smokey chipotle sauce. I want one now! Ah man, what a combination of sweet and spicy and I never saw the cheese comin’! Wonderful! As we move along the rows and rows of growers, I see gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, in many colors. I am thinking Caprese salad. I pick up a couple of the pineapple heirlooms. At first glance, one might think that their yellow color indicates under ripe or even spoiled. I can tell you, when I cut into these, they were juicy and screamed flavor. I pass by “George”, who is selling Greek olives and cheese. He gives me a sample of handmade Feta. Whoa, never had it like that! Yummy! Full-bodied, great creamy texture! Moving on, I see more cheeses…my Achilles! I sample a chunk of homemade Buffalo Mozzarella. Hmmm, Barbie is still thinking Caprese salad… So, I buy the cheese. It comes packaged in a bag with water inside. Next, I move on to the fresh wild greens gurl. She is friendly and fun, with a head full of bright cranberry colored hair! I have recently fallen in love with Arugula greens. I seem to be topping my pizzas, making lots of salads and filling tacos with them. Arugula greens have this perfect balance of nutty and crispness. Suddenly a lady motions me to come over and try a sliver of freshly cut Gala apple she is offering. I buy one of these, just to keep up my strength! As I walk through the rows and rows, I am amazed at how many varieties of squash there are and how many colors I have never seen in my life. Where has all this stuff been hiding? The best-stocked grocery store in the world has nothing on the Farmers’ Market. Walking over to the stand with all the bell peppers, I notice some really brown looking peppers. The grower tells me they are “chocolate” peppers. Their flavor profile is much more subtle than those of the green variety but just the same, I want to find out for myself. I have to say, these lovely chocolate peppers were filled, steamed and devoured that very night! Delicious! Along the way, I see gigantic pumpkins (you know the ones that win prizes at county fairs?), beets, and butternut squash in crates, beans, organic fruit, juices, corn, apples, growers, and vendors offering samples. There is Daikon radish the size of a baseball bat. Daikon is an awesome garnishing friend of Sushi and Asian cuisine. There are beautiful shiny eggplants the size of a one-month old baby! There are flowers everywhere…oh my goodness… orchids and wild lavender I want to inhale. Here comes the best part of this adventure, I carried a huge empty canvas bag with me, a twenty dollar bill, left with a full bag of produce and change from my twenty! I encourage you to get out to the market and enjoy the first bite of the season! Don’t forget to take a look at the recipes I’ve included. I’ll see you next month. Until then, make sure nobody goes hungry.