As soon as spring comes around on the calendar, folks in Northwest Arkansas start thinking about farmer’s market season. We plan our days around going to the market and spend our evenings cooking up whatever goodies we find.
While the early markets don’t offer the bounty of summer’s harvest, there are still a lot of great buys to be had when the markets first open. Here are some things to look for when your local farmer’s market opens.
Spring is the best time to buy lettuces and other greens. They love the cool, rainy weather of spring, and you’ll find a great variety in the early weeks of market season that just can’t be matched in the summer.
Look for bags of mixed greens if you like a variety; they’re immensely fresher and more interesting than what you’ll find at the grocery store. You can also find heads of red and green leaf lettuce, bags of spinach, collards and other greens.
Though most people think of summer as the time for fresh, local vegetables, there are some great things available in the spring, too.
Broccoli, peas and asparagus, for instance, are all spring crops you can find produced locally. Green onions, carrots, beets and new potatoes can often be found, too. And don’t forget fruit, too; the first of the strawberries will be out before you know it.
The Springdale Farmers’ Market has a great list on its site of what is in season when at their market.
If you’re starting your own garden this season, the farmer’s market is a great place to look for plants. You can find vegetables, herbs, flowers, sometimes even house plants at the market.
The great thing about these plants is that they were grown locally, and often without pesticides and other chemicals. Many market vendors use organic and natural growing methods even if they aren’t certified organic, so it pays to get to know your grower and ask them how they grow their plants.
Meat and Cheese
Selections vary from market to market, but most local markets offer some kind of meat. Chicken is probably the most common, but you can also find lamb in Fayetteville, and the Springdale Farmer’s market will have frozen pork and chicken on Tuesdays and fresh and frozen goat on Saturdays this season.
Some markets also offer cheese, eggs, preserves and other goodies that are available throughout the year.
Whether you’re looking to bring home a bouquet or looking for flower plants to grow in your yard, you can find them at the early season markets. It’s fun to see how the flowers change through the season, from daffodils and tulips in the beginning to a wide variety at the end.
Get fresh flowers on a budget by asking for a bouquet that costs as much as you want to spend (it’s best to do this when they’re not super busy). The grower will then make you a custom flower arrangement that fits your needs. You can also ask for specific colors if you want.
What do you shop for at the early farmers’ markets?