Navigating Farmers Markets

I struggle with farmers markets. I wish I could saunter through the stands with ease, tasting the different fruits, vegetables and cheeses with confidence. Yet, typically when I go I’m either a) overwhelmed or b) buying things I don’t know how to use and c) spending unnecessary amounts of money.

This summer, while in Tuscany, Italy, my mom and I took a cooking class with Juls’ Kitchen. We met at Juls’ home and drove to a local farmers market to find our produce for the meal. We sampled sweet peaches, tried the most insane creamy gorgonzola paired with a spicy chorizo. We bought three different types of eggplant for parmesan, sweet beans to simply blanche and serve, as well as peppers to roast.


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We didn’t go into the market with an exact recipe or menu in mind, but we had a general idea; an appetizer, a side or two, and a main dish. We left with cheese, chorizo and fresh bread for the appetizer, green beans and peppers for the side, and eggplant and cheese for the eggplant parmesan. It was this idea that allowed us not to overbuy, not come in with a set menu, while still being inspired by what we found.

Fast forward to a chilly Saturday in Brooklyn. I made my way to the Fort Greene Greenmarket with my sidekick Lucy (a sweet Bichon I’m watching for the week) with my New Yorker tote bag with the formula from Tuscany in mind: appetizer, sides, main.

I walked through the whole market first to get inspired (mind you, it’s pretty small in the winter). I saw lots of potatoes and root vegetables (radishes, turnips, rutabaga, carrots), as well as a variety of meat and fish (each stand had a specialty), lots of baked goods, and a few dairy stands.

Duck would be the star, I decided, after waltzing past the turkey, chicken, seafood and pork stands. I purchased a single duck breast, and talked to the gentleman who ran the stand about how he suggested to cook the meat. He liked with just salt and pepper, but said my thoughts on Chinese Five Spice would pair well too. While the stand across the way had run out of bok choy, he suggested next time to sear the duck and then cook the greens in the duck fat with garlic and ginger.

Without bok choy, I decided to reroute, going for butterball potatoes and Japanese turnips, which I think will be thinly sliced on the mandolin and cooked in the duck fat. For a green, I picked up a big bag of mixed greens from a different stand and a single large radish.

And just like that, we have dinner!

In addition to the dinner ingredients, I snagged a half loaf of maple and oat sourdough (they typically don’t sell half loaves, but the gentleman behind me wanted half, as well, so we split), a container of radish and kale kimchee (I’ve never really known how to use kimchee, but a blogger I adore, Shut the Kale Up, swears by it, so I figured it was time to try), and finally grabbed a single onion.


I left feeling productive, excited about my ingredients, like I didn’t overspend, and I will use everything I bought. It’s a new approach for me and I’m excited to continue this process, and cannot wait for dinner.

Would love to hear any of your thoughts on navigating farmers markets!

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