If you're a fresh-food lover who believes in supporting local producers, you may be interested in discovering the bounty of farmers' markets. In 2004, there were about 3,700 active U.S. farmers markets, more than twice the number 10 years earlier.
Farmers' markets are held regularly in public places, usually outdoors, from small towns to teeming metropolises. Regional and local producers sell their fruits and vegetables, often along with fresh meat and seafood, from booths or tables or the tailgates of their pickup trucks. Here's a taste of what you could find at markets across the country:
Sample Regional Farmers' Markets
- In Florida: The Downtown Farmers' Market in Sarasota, Florida offers "fragrant cantaloupes as big as bowling balls," according to Southern Living. The market, open only on Saturday mornings, nonetheless attracts 8,000 people each weekend looking for fresh organic produce, local honey and fresh shrimp.
- In the San Francisco Bay Area: On Friday mornings, the Old Oakland (CA) Farmer's Market opens near Chinatown. The Oakland Tribune reports "mutant, big-as-your-fist strawberries so big they have their own gravitational pull." You can also find distinctively Asian ingredients, fresh catfish, and peaches and nectarines in season.
- In Iowa: Although most farmers' markets sell homemade foods (i.e. jams) and arts and crafts, the Des Moines Farmers' Market makes sure that at least 80 percent of its products are fresh, uncooked foodstuffs. Favorites include locally produced eggs; beef, buffalo and elk meat; and fresh produce — including truckloads of that sweet Iowa corn.
Many culinary schools partner with farmers' markets to advance the cause of great food. The schools can teach culinary students the importance of high-quality meat and produce, and the markets can invite the culinary schools to demonstrate recipes and techniques for their visitors. Mutant strawberry shortcake, anyone?