Guide: How to Shop Spring Farmers’ Markets Like a Pro
With the South End Farmers’ Market kicking off Sunday, and many others soon to follow, fresh produce season is officially upon us. But as any seasoned market shopper knows, the crops available in May look a whole lot different than the bounty of September. We spoke with Chris Kurth, owner and farmer at Siena Farms, about what’s available when, and how to shop spring farmers’ markets.
Pro tips for shopping spring markets:
Embrace your cravings: As winter comes to an end, Kurth says, we all need a healthy dose of fresh produce. “Our bodies and tastebuds are craving fresh green things of all kinds,” he says. “If there’s any time of year where I like to eat a mountain of salad greens every night, it’s this time of year.
Ask questions…: “A good strategy is to ask the individual farmer what their favorite crop on the stand is,” Kurth says. “They’ll know what’s most special at any moment.”
…lots of questions: “Ask questions about the best way to care for that produce once you return home with it, which is not information that’s always readily accessible at supermarkets,” he suggests. “That can go a long way.”
Focus on perishables: “Anything that is particularly good hours out of the field, as opposed to days or weeks out of the field, would be the thing to focus on,” Kurth says, giving greens as an example.
Kurth’s spring picks:
Kurth says salad greens, radishes, herbs, rhubarb, and asparagus are all good finds in spring and early summer. Two unique things to look for, he says, are green garlic and wild stinging nettles.
Green garlic, the first of the plant’s four growing stages, “has this sweet garlic flavor, but the exact same texture as a leek,” Kurth says. “It’s my favorite form of the garlic harvest.” As for nettles, “they’ll sting you if you touch them raw, but once cooked, they have a beautiful spinach-like flavor and texture.”
Spring/summer availability, month by month:
May: Beets, greens, herbs, parsnips, radishes, daikon, scallions.
June: Beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, chard, chicory, cucumber, fennel, garlic, greens, herbs, kohlrabi, lettuce, onions, peas, radishes, scallions, strawberries, turnips.
July: Apples, beets, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, chard, chicory, cucumber, eggplant, fava beans, fennel, garlic, greens, herbs, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, onions, peaches, peas, peppers, radishes, raspberries, scallions, squash, tomatoes, turnips.
August: Apples, broccoli, blueberries, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, cucumber, eggplant, fennel, garlic, greens, herbs, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, onions, peaches, peppers, potatoes, radishes, raspberries, scallions, shallots, squash, strawberries, tomatoes, turnips, watermelon.
September: Apples, beans, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, chard, chicory, cucumber, eggplant, fennel, garlic, greens, herbs, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, peaches, pears, peppers, potatoes, radishes, raspberries, scallions, squash, strawberries, tomatoes, turnips, watermelon.