The Secret To Getting the Best of the Farmers Market
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Graphic by W Brian Duncan based on a design from DesignCuts.

The farmers market is starting to come alive! While the selection of vegetables may still be limited the first hints of spring are making their appearance. The number of vendors is increasing, with tables starting to appear outside of the pavilion. The crowd is picking up but not so much that all the “good stuff” is gone in the first hour. If you’ve NEVER been to Farmers Market of the Ozarks, now is the perfect time.

With the season slowly ramping up, you can get to know the lay of the land without fighting the mobs. You can take time to talk to vendors about when to expect tomatoes and blueberries. You can easily browse without feeling like you are in the way of other shoppers. You can ask about recipes and get a good ingredient education without feeling like you’re taking too much of someone’s time.

For example, I am horrible at mushroom identification. Every time I visit the gentleman with the mushrooms I have to ask for help if I need anything other than portabellas. On my most recent visit it cloudy and cool, with only a smattering of people. I didn’t feel bad distracting him for a few minutes to help me with the shiitakes I wanted for a soba noodle bowl. We debated whether the recipe meant three cups before or after slicing before I decided to make only half the recipe since Brian was on the road. He had some great oyster mushrooms as well. I have a recipe for vegan “scallops” that I am dying to try but I’ll have to save that one for another trip.

I also had a few minutes alone at the usually jam-packed Granolove table. After getting some recipe inspiration from a previous conversation with founder Christine Daues, I was ready to purchase a couple of bags of this homegrown treat! This gluten free granola is made with natural ingredients and comes in flavors like Moka Java, Dark Chocolate Cherry and Peanut Butter Chocolate. Christine’s husband, Joe, was stationed at their booth on this particular morning and I shared my conversation with his wife. He said to make sure to share my creations on Twitter and Instagram for a chance to win free bags! If you cook with Granolove you could do the same by following them in both places, user name @Granolove.

I also had a chance on my last visit to stop and talk to the folks at the Market HQ table. Based on a tip from one of my clients, I wanted to ask the market team about the Market VIP program. For a $50 fee this program allows you to shop before the official opening bell (very important during strawberry season) and entitles you to additional discounts at market sponsored events. You get a lovely tote bag that identifies you as Market VIP. As long as your bag lasts (even if you have to keep it together with duct tape and twine) you’re still a VIP – no expiration date! Will I make it to the market before 8:00 am on a Saturday? I’ve never attended any of their special events but this might be the incentive I need. I didn’t commit yet but I am definitely thinking it over.

The vegetables are still sparse but one thing you can find is lettuce and spinach! When the greens are this beautiful there is no excuse not to have a salad. If you want to grow your own garden this year, you will find some plants to get you started as well as seeds.

I lack a green thumb so I will continue to leave it to the experts. What about you? Are you planning your own garden this year or are you a market regular? Will you take advantage of the Market VIP program at Farmers Market of the Ozarks? If you don’t live in SGF, does your local market offer something similar?

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