This time of year is about warm weather, vacations and relaxing afternoons. It also heralds the return of farmers markets. A trip to the market is a great opportunity to indulge in fresh, healthy produce and to expand your horizons by trying new items or preparing them in different ways. Fortunately, Boston has a number of farmers markets spread across the city in virtually all of its neighborhoods. Downtown, the Boston Public Market on the Greenway (previously on City Hall Plaza), is located in the plaza in front of 136 Blackstone Street. The Boston Public Market at Dewey Square is located at 600 Atlantic Avenue on the Greenway across from South Station, and the Copley Square Farmers Market is located in Copley Square at the corner of Dartmouth and Boylston Street.
Here are seven tips to make the most of your visit to the local farmers market:
Note the hours and dates of your local market on your calendar. Set reminders on your smartphone that will alert you when favorite items such as tomatoes, peas, beans and strawberries come into season.
Prepare your refrigerator and kitchen for the season's harvest. Clean out your fridge's produce drawer, and stock up on items that complement fresh produce, such as salad dressings and seasonings that can be used to turn basic veggies into delicious meals.
While farmers market vendors will almost certainly have plastic bags on hand, take your own reusable bags or baskets to carry your purchase - they're better for Mother Nature. If you'll be buying perishable items, consider packing a cooler as well. Remember to place heavier items (like melons) on the bottom of the bag and lighter ones (such as berries) on top.
You'll find the freshest produce and best selection early in the day. Setting your alarm to wake you a bit early could ensure you get the pick of the day's produce.
Leave the $20 and $50 bills at home. Smaller bills will provide you with greater buying flexibility, and vendors will appreciate the change.
Scope out the entire market before you begin making purchases. Certain popular items, such as tomatoes, cantaloupe, melons, peas and potatoes will be available from multiple vendors. Strolling through the market first will allow you to compare prices and taste samples to ensure you're picking the best and most delicious buys for your family.
Unpack bags as soon as you're home and store each item appropriately. Create a menu plan for the week that incorporates everything you've purchased to help ensure nothing goes to waste. Don't forget to incorporate snacks into your meal plan.
Last but not least, the seasons for fresh produce in New England are short, so enjoy it while you can!
For more information about farmers markets across Boston including lists of vendors, times and locations, please visit the Boston Collaborative for Food and Fitness Boston Farmers Market website at http://bostonfarmersmarkets.org/.