Whether or not you’re a regular at farmers’ markets, you could probably use a little education about what to look for when you go simply because you’re not on the farm every day. Shaun Rosendahl of Sunny Cal Farms discussed what to look for at the farmers’ market, what you can expect of the produce and the prices for this year.
Look for the stone fruits to be really good this year.
One of the great things about being a regular at a farmers’ market is seeing the arrival of the stone fruits. The nectarines, apricots, cherries and other stone fruits are a welcome arrival simply because they are available for such a short period of time. If you like stone fruits, you are going to enjoy this summer. The conditions were great, so look for some really good stone fruits this summer when you stroll through your local farmers’ market.
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Avoid places where the fruit is waxed and all the same size.
If you’re visiting a farmers’ market for the first time, one thing you want to avoid is a place where the fruit looks too perfect. If it’s washed or waxed, or all the same size, it is generally not fruit you want to buy. “You want your produce to have a little dirt on it,” Rosendahl says. “We don’t wash or wax any of our fruit. We just pick it, load it on the truck and bring it to you.” Compare that to your local supermarket, which often gets produce from Chile.
Look for high-quality strawberries this year.
One of the treats of spring and summer is strawberries. They are good on their own and of course in desserts. Last year, the strawberries were generally not very good because of all the rain. This year, the mild winter has led to good strawberry crops even this early in the season. This is good news for all the people that like to make strawberry desserts or preserves, as well as the people that just like to enjoy the fruit on its own.
Know that you’ll probably pay more for local produce.
It is unfortunate that buying local produce will cost a little more, but let’s face it, nothing is getting cheaper. As for produce, the labor is more expensive, but more than anything, the fuel and transportation cost is more expensive. Not a lot can be done about that unless gas prices suddenly come back down to earth. Still, when you taste produce from your local farmers’ market, you’ll know that it’s worth the extra money you paid compared to the supermarket.
Expect some of your favorites to be earlier than usual.
From a young age, we are taught that plants need water and sunshine. That’s true, but that’s not the entire picture. According to Rosendahl, “plants also need a certain amount of chill hours” to mature properly. With the mild winter and sufficient chill hours, some of the trees blossomed earlier than usual this year. What this means is you shouldn’t be surprised if some of your favorites are available earlier than you would normally expect.
Gary Schwind is a freelance writer covering all things Orange County. His work can be found on Examiner.com.