Summertime Farmers Market Checklist

by | Jul 12, 2010
Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

A harsh reality hit me this past Saturday. Believe it or not, I was woefully unprepared to bring everything I wanted home from the farmers market.

It wasn’t obvious to me at first. After all I had remembered to stop at the ATM for cash, brought with me my large market bag, and even had my trusty roll of plastic bio-bags to collect all the delicious summer greens (plastic is so 2008).

This was not a rookie farmers market mistake I made, this was more of a seasonal oversight. Dedicated farmers market shoppers (particularly fruit lovers) have a special concern in the summer that does not exist in the winter: soft produce.

Nothing is sadder than arriving home from the farmers market and finding your bags full of mashed plums and tomato sauce. If you purchase a decent amount of produce you are almost certain to have some fruit casualties if you rely on only one large market bag, even if you’re careful to place them at the top. The tender skins of summer fruit are simply too delicate to withstand any pressure, whether it’s from weight, neighboring produce or the sides of your market bag.

Losing produce is even more heartbreaking when you realize that those stone fruits and heirloom tomatoes could have easily cost upwards of $3.50 per pound.

Luckily there are ways to avoid this tragedy. I recommend a two tiered approach. First, bring a few stackable tupper containers. You want them to be big enough that they allow two or three fruits to fit comfortably inside without pressure from the lid, and without the fruits pressing too firmly against each other.

On the other hand, you don’t want the fruits rolling around inside the tupper. You can avoid this if you place the fruits inside the tupper while they are still inside their paper or plastic bag. Be particularly careful if any of the fruit or tomatoes you purchase have protruding stems, since these can puncture and ruin neighboring fruits.

It is also useful to bring a second, smaller market bag so you can keep your delicate produce completely separate from your heavier purchases. This will save you from worrying about what goes where in your bag and you can focus all your energy on finding the best produce.

Glance through this checklist next time you head out to your local summer market to be sure you have everything you need.

Summertime Farmers Market Checklist

1. Cash

Don’t count on vendors taking credit cards or there being an ATM nearby.

2. 2 Large farmers market bags

One bag to carry the heavy stuff, and another (it can be smaller) for your delicate fruits and tupper.

3. 2-3 Medium-sized tupper containers

Look for wider, flatter containers that can keep peaches and plums in a single layer, stems facing down.

4. Small biodegradable or green bags for produce

These are to carry loose greens and other produce.

5. Sunglasses

It’s summer, and bright out!

6. Camera

Farmers market produce is inspiring and the market changes every week. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to capture the beauty.

How do you get your soft produce home safe from the farmers market?

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9 Responses to “Summertime Farmers Market Checklist”

  1. thomas says:

    1kg of heirloom tomatoes costs almost USD8? i so wouldn’t buy that ;)

    • You get what ya pay for!

      Totally worth it. Really ripe heirloom tomatoes are sometimes better than a steak in my opinion.

      I’ve never even though to bring tupperware to the market. That’s an awesome idea!

      • thomas says:

        I don’t doubt they are bad, but i would probably by a cheaper produce.

        last time Darya wrote about tupperware, i tried it… for the first time ever my produce was damaged ;)

        why do the stems belong face down?

  2. diego says:

    Holy mackerel! 6 euros for 1kg of tomatoes??? They run 1,20euro/kg in my village in Castile, and they’re born and raised on the fruitmonger’s land… 6/kg is more like dead-of-winter prices for the Raf and Pata Negra varieties (and who needs winter tomatoes when you can bottle your own at 1/kg at the end of the season in September).

  3. aubrey says:

    I really wish I had thought of the tupperware idea before I came home with bruised japanese truffle tomatoes last thursday. (not a total loss- i just had to eat the bruised ones over the sink. they were like dessert!)

  4. Allie says:

    I usually go with the two bag approach….a heavy, burlap bag for cabbage, potatoes and carrots, and a lighter, cloth bag for herbs and fruits. It helps also to not carry the cloth bag over my shoulder to avoid bruising.

  5. E. Foley says:

    I’ve seen people at the market with big rectangular baskets. That way, you can have everything in one layer on the bottom and if you bring a few kitchen towels, you can wrap them around the big heirloom tomatoes to protect them. I’m thinking of going that route, as I did have a few of my tiny plums get smooshed this week. It’s okay tho, I just ate those first. ;-)

  6. debunix says:

    I would always go to the market with my backpack for the most delicate items, and two to three large cloth bags, so I the tomatoes would go in the backpack, apricots on top of one of the bags, and the ripest peaches on top of the last.

  7. Laura T. says:

    I’ve gotta admit my checklist always involves asking myself “what day is it” and where is the right farmer’s market given the day; if I’m in a different part of town, I don’t want to have to schlep over somewhere else. I did just find this website called http://www.realtimefarms.com that seems to cover just that.

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