Shopping the farmers’ market twelve months of the year is the best way to enjoy seasonal bounty, from blueberries to butternut squash. The demand for locally grown food is on the rise, and many cities are meeting the trend, offering markets in the fall and winter. Each of these seasons offers their own gifts to nature—winter squash, root vegetables, citrus fruits, and more. See our best tips and tricks to fill your plate with farm-fresh goodness all year long.
2 of 11Photo: emholk/Getty Images
It’s better for the environment.
Eating locally reduces the distance your food travels to your plate, saving on fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Plan your shopping around the farmers’ market all year long, and you can help make a positive impact on our planet.
3 of 11Phot: Monty Rakusen/Getty Images
Farmers need year-round support.
It’s well known that shopping locally helps small farm owners and food artisans compete with larger producers who dominate the food industry. However, because farmers are often growing and maintaining crops twelve months out of the year, continued support from market shoppers is essential to their livelihood.
4 of 11Photo: Jason Varney
You’ll fight fewer crowds.
While markets are becoming more popular year round, they are still significantly less hectic in the fall and winter months. Take advantage by building a relationship with your local farmers and vendors. Ask about their farm or craft, and don’t be afraid to ask for recipes or preparation tips. They’re the experts after all!
5 of 11
Veggies taste sweeter.
Cruciferous veggies such as kale, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, and bok choy stand up surprisingly well to harsh winter frost. To defend themselves against the cold, these plants convert their starches into sugars, a natural phenomenon that produces a satisfyingly sweet flavor. Parents, this is the perfect time to introduce picky eaters to nutrient-packed leafy greens!
Sweltering summer heat can wreak havoc on delicate greens such as mesclun, Swiss chard, arugula, mustard greens, and more. In an outdoor market, the cooler weather keeps these veggies perky and healthy naturally—no refrigeration needed.
Valued for their versatility, acorn, delicata, butternut, and spaghetti squashes are quintessential autumn and winter ingredients. Nearly all are ideal for roasting with a drizzle of honey and a pat of butter, while spaghetti squash is a perfect, gluten-free alternative to pasta. Starting in early fall, look for these beauties at markets.
When the weather turns cold, there’s nothing more comforting than a slow-simmered stew of carrots, turnips, parsnips, sweet potatoes, and more. Your local farmers’ market is likely brimming with these gorgeous tubers and taproots, whose peak season is fall through spring. Buy organic when possible, as root veggies absorb toxins from the soil easily.
From tart blood oranges to sweet-skinned kumquats, vibrant citrus fruits are winter’s jewels. While many varieties can be purchased year-round, they’re juiciest and sweetest during colder months. Best of all, citrus perfectly counterbalances rich, holiday dishes and makes for refreshing tarts, sorbets, and even cocktails.
This year, consider crowning your Thanksgiving table with a heritage breed turkey. While pricier than a supermarket bird, a heritage turkey is humanely raised and fed an antibiotic-free diet. Conventional turkeys are often injected with a solution of water, salt, preservatives and other flavorings when packaged, but heritage turkeys contain no additives whatsoever and most people say the flavor is much better.
Most farmers’ markets boast an impressive array of artisanal goods, such as honey, salsas, jams, homemade pastas, cheeses, and pickles. Many vendors also offer samples, so it’s a perfect opportunity to expose your palate to new flavors. Even better, these craft products make wonderfully thoughtful, yet inexpensive gifts during the holiday season.