How to Shop the Farmer’s Market


For fans of seasonal cooking, there’s no time of greater bounty than summer and early fall. From berries to basil, avocado to arugula, the kitchen suffers no shortage of color, flavor, or possibility during these prime warm-weather weeks — and what better place to take advantage of the abundance than at the farmers market, which boasts the season’s freshest, finest fare? To help guide you through the produce land of plenty, we’ve asked chef Paul Lindemuth, an instructor at Marcel’s Culinary Experience in Glen Ellyn for tips on how to navigate the stands.


  • Go early. As the old adage goes, the early bird gets the worm. “The best selection is going to be found soon after the market opens, and many items sell out quickly,” Lindemuth says. “Quality is also at its peak in the morning, especially on hot summer days.”
  • Scout before you shop. Do a lap before you take a leap, Lindemuth advises. “Before you make any purchases, take a quick tour of the entire market — you’ll likely find several vendors selling the same items, and you can make comparisons on both quality and price.”
  • Know your farmers. “Don’t be shy about talking with the farmers,” the chef continues. “They’re proud of what they’re selling, and will be more than happy to share information about how the food was grown and what you might see in weeks to come.”
  • Be flexible. “If you have your heart set on something and it’s not in season — or it’s already sold out — step outside of your comfort zone and try something new. Ask questions if you’re unsure of what to buy. You never know — you might just find a new favorite food.”
  • Lastly, bring small bills — and a big bag. “Farmers usually work out of a small cash box,” Lindemuth says.“Respect that, and pay with the smallest bills possible. Also, carrying a canvas tote is the best way to transport your produce — in hot weather, a cooler and several ice packs ensure that perishables make it home safely.”

Browse and sign up for seasonal cooking classes on CourseHorse.