National Farmers Market Week

Produce

Beautiful Produce

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has declared August 1-7, 2010 National Farmers Market Week. If you haven’t been to a farmers market, or, like me, its been a while since you’ve been, it’s a great time to check one out. 

You can find farmers markets in your area by visiting the USDA’s Farmers Market Search site at: http://apps.ams.usda.gov/FarmersMarkets/. Unfortunately, this site does not work for me. It yields no results in an area with plenty of well established farmers markets. Maybe it works better in other areas of the country. However, a national site that does work is Local Harvest at http://www.localharvest.org/farmers-markets/which lists many, but not all, of the markets in my area. I did a Google search and came across a local resource in the Orange County Farm Bureau (OCFB). They provide a list of certified markets along with facts about products and recipes. 

What does it mean to be a certified market? According to the OCFB “every farmer who sells at a certified market is inspected by the county agricultural commissioner to make sure he/she actually grows the commodity being sold.” 

There is a farmers market in our area, but until yesterday, I had not visited for more than 5 years. What a fool I’ve been! Especially since I routinely complain about the quality of berries at our local grocery store (I think the produce buyer needs to have his/her taste buds examined). I was so pleased to see over 30 tents with everything from fresh, ripe fruits and vegetables to fresh seafood, nuts and even tamales (more on that later in this post). Many vendors are certified organic. Others are pesticide and fungicide free, but not certified organic. 

Berries

Trio of Berries

There are so many benefits to buying produce at a farmers market. Besides the fact that you are supporting local farmers, you get to sample just about everything to ensure you are getting the most flavorful items. You also get expert advice on how to pick the best fruits and veggies: some by color, others by touch, smell our sound (melons). 

I’ve been wanting to try pluots (a plum/apricot hybrid) and there were many varieties to choose from. I asked one of the vendors which one he recommended and he suggested the Flavor Queen. I was not disappointed. They are delicious – more plum-like than apricot, but still a wonderful piece of fruit. I also purchased softball-sized yellow peaches, a variety of berries,  and pistachio nuts. 

Flavor Queen Pluots

Delicious Pluots - A Plum/Apricot Hybrid

There is another farmers market a little bit further away that is open on Tuesdays and is supposed to be the best market in the area. When I visit  tomorrow I plan  to purchase tamales from a couple of vendors and have a little taste test. As many of you who live in Southern California know, homemade tamales are the best. 

Some vendors accept credit cards, but many only accept cash. And sometimes you can haggle to get a better deal, especially if you buy in larger quantities. 

So if you get the chance, stop by your local farmers market. You won’t be disappointed. 

Stay tuned for the tamale update later in the week.

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