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Tips on getting the most out of farmers market trips and purchases


Farmers markets are a great way to support local growers and artisans while enjoying fresh, seasonal produce. 

There are several ways that shopping at your local farmers market is different than visiting your neighborhood grocery store. One of the biggest differences is having direct access to the experts: your local producers. This provides an incredible opportunity to learn about where your food comes from, get recipe tips and build relationships with the people who play a vital role in getting food onto our plates.

Follow these tips to make sure you get the most out of your visits:

Know when seasonal favorites arrive. There are two ways to make sure you don’t miss out on the freshest Colorado produce: talk to market organizers and farmers to get an idea of when your favorite fruits and vegetables are going to be arriving; take a look at the Colorado produce calendar from the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

Arrival dates of signature Colorado crops:

• Palisade peaches: mid-July to mid-September.

• Olathe sweet corn: mid-July to mid-October.

• Rocky Ford watermelons and cantaloupes: mid-July through September.

• Pueblo chile peppers: August to mid-October.

• San Luis Valley potatoes: All year.

Plan ahead for your visit

Planning ahead can make your visit to the farmers market more enjoyable and efficient. With a few simple steps, you can ensure you get the best selection and make the most of the fresh, local produce:

• Go early for the best selection.

• Try a new item each visit; you may discover a new favorite.

• Take your time to learn about vendors and their foods.

• Start with a flexible meal plan. You may be able to find wonderful ingredients for multiple meals.

• Ask vendors for handling and preparation tips.

• Check all booths before choosing, as there’s a wide variety of produce and local foods.

• Shop in good health, with clean hands, and only touch what you buy.

• Bring clean cloth shopping bags for sturdiness and better support.

• Wear comfortable clothes, shoes and sunscreen.

• Spread the love: Consider sharing your purchases with friends or neighbors.

• Go home soon after shopping to maintain quality. Use insulated bags for cold or frozen items.

• Place delicate produce, like leafy greens, on top of cold packs.

• Buy perishable foods like eggs, cheese and meats last.

• Place raw meat in individual bags to prevent cross contamination with ready-to-eat foods.

Preserve your purchases

Bacteria can grow rapidly at warm temperatures and quickly cause a decrease in food quality and safety. Try to make the farmers market the last stop on your list so you can go directly home. If it can’t be your last stop, plan ahead and bring a cooler with cold packs for perishable items.

Practice proper food storage:

• Don’t rinse produce before storing. Instead, rinse fresh fruits and vegetables with running water just before use.

• Store refrigerated produce in mesh bags or plastic bags with holes to let air circulate.

• Most fresh produce has a short shelf life and should be used within a few days.

• Apples, tomatoes and melons produce ethylene gas and should be stored away from other produce.

• Store unripe peaches, plums and apricots at room temperature in a paper bag until ripe. Refrigeration slows this process.

• Whole tomatoes can be stored at room temperature until ripe.

Can it

Not only are fruits and vegetables delicious when they’re fresh, but they’re also delicious outside of the growing season as salsas, relishes, pickles, jams and jellies. Learn how to safely preserve foods at your home’s elevation by visiting the Preserve Smart website.