To Market, To Market

Farmers’ markets are your local source for everything from fresh fruit to fat pigs.

 Photo by Scott Suchman

Before there were grocery stores, there were public markets—gatherings of farmers selling, primarily, produce. Virginia’s oldest markets actually predate America; the site of the newly renovated 17th Street Farmers’ Market in Richmond has been a public gathering place since 1737, and the Commonwealth’s oldest continuously operating market, the Old Town Farmers’ Market in Alexandria (pictured above), dates to 1752. (The market’s website notes, “George Washington didn’t sleep here, but he did send produce from Mount Vernon.”) In addition to produce, today’s markets often offer fresh meat, baked goods, flowers, coffee, and crafts. There are 356 farmers’ markets in the state; find yours at the Virginia Farmers’ Market Association website, VaFMA.org

Master the Market

“The beauty of seasonal eating is that you can let what’s at the market inspire your weekly menus,” says Christine Lucaciu of Huckle & Goose, an online meal planning service (HuckleGoose.com). “That’s easier said than done, though, especially in the beginning.” Here are some ways to master the market, even if you’re starting from scratch.

• Plan ahead—a little. Buying whatever looks good and finding recipes later might lead to an overwhelming pile of veg, and doing the opposite—going with a set grocery list—might unravel if you can’t find an ingredient. Combine the two approaches by finding a couple of recipes you want to make, but leaving room in your meal plan to find recipes for ingredients that catch your eye. At the market, do a full walk-through and mentally adjust your recipe plan as needed before you buy.

• Start with two dinners and a breakfast. The rest of the week, choose stress-free options like takeout or favorite recipes. This approach lets you gradually incorporate this new way of shopping and eating without wanting to give up. 

 Photo by Scott Suchman

• Find a recipe source you trust. You want vegetable-forward recipes that are foolproof and make your ingredients shine. If you’re making “meh” meals, wasting quality produce, you may decide the cost and effort aren’t worth it. Huckle & Goose offers meal plans, curated recipes, and interactive shopping lists to make this part easy and has just published a cookbook.

• Talk to your farmers! Ask them how they like to prepare their fruits and vegetables. They’ll also give you great intel on when they’re bringing the year’s first strawberry pints and tell you about the pesky pests they had to fight off to bring this batch of broccoli to the market this week.

Mail-Order Market

Billed as an online farmers’ market, Seasonal Roots is sort of like the love child of Blue Apron and a traditional CSA: a food share from local farms that you order online and is delivered to your door. Founded in 2011 and based in Richmond, the company works with 40 sustainable and/or organic farms and artisans across the state to deliver fresh produce; humanely raised meat, eggs, and dairy products; and prepared foods like bread, jam, and coffee. The year-round service is available in the greater Washington, Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Hampton Roads areas, where the weekly deliveries are handled by neighborhood “Veggie Fairies;” orders can be customized or skipped as needed. SeasonalRoots.com

Illustration by Katie Baselj

Where’s the Beet?

You won’t find asparagus at a farmers’ market in October—but beet season runs May through November, and you can find apples, cabbage, cucumbers, green beans, herbs, peppers, raspberries, squash, and tomatoes from July to October. To find a year-round list of which fruits and vegetables are ripe right now, visit VDACS.Virginia.gov.  


This article originally appeared in our August 2019 issue.

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