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I have recently started venturing out on Sunday to our local farmers market, where there are a large number of people selling various fruits and vegetables. I find that they have a better price than simply going out to a grocery store and purchasing the same items there for usually 3 - 5 times the cost. However, there are often so many vendors selling the same items that it can be difficult to choose which one to purchase from.

Is there an easy way to determine which vendors are selling better quality vegetables? While different fruits/vegetables will have different ways to check, I was wondering if there are some general tips on picking vegetables (or fruits) from a vendor at a farmers market.

I have tried going by the samples that they have for fruits, where the sample was delicious, but some times I would get home and the fruits from that same stand would taste sour. That could just be the luck of the draw though.

Some of the items I look at more often are: Cherries, Artichokes, Oranges, Mushrooms, Onions (Green and Red/White), Garlic, Broccoli, and Celery.

Any help is appreciated!

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maybe break this question up in to multiple simple questions like 'how can i tell what are the best cherries to pick?'. –  Echo Jun 7 '12 at 18:34
    
Sour doesn't necessarily mean bad quality.. As you've noted, different produce has different ways of identifying ripeness. But yes, your question seems a little broad. I'd suggest just talking to the vendors and finding more about their product (where it came from, whether they are farmers or just resellers, etc...) –  talon8 Jun 7 '12 at 20:01
    
Do they allow you to pick your own veggies (touch them, smell them etc.)? –  nico Jun 8 '12 at 9:14
    
@nico Yes, it's essentially a bunch of large tent covers set up and everyone has their produce on tables and crates. You can pick and choose what you want. –  SirCobalt Jun 8 '12 at 14:24

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Some general rules for veggie hunting at your local farmers market.

  1. Get there early and watch how they handle the produce, if they are rough unloading it chances are they where rough loading it.

  2. Does it smell fresh and like the product you are buying. Beware some vendors use air fresheners and other products to hide the true smell.

  3. If the deal seems to be too good to be true it probably is.

  4. The firmness of a item is not always a good sign. Some fruits and veggies tend to get hard as they age.

  5. Talk to the vendors ask them about where the item was grown. True farmers and craftsmen are usually proud of their items and will speak loving of it.

  6. Don't be afraid to haggle, worse they can tell you is no.

  7. Some produce can be very hazardous to your health if eaten rotten.

  8. Check the items for wax or other preservatives

Some quick hints for the items you listed (please note this is in general and may not apply to the variety you are looking at)

Cherries - should be slightly firm and ooze juice if squeezed hard enough

Oranges - should smell fresh and be squeezable without being mushy or firm

Mushrooms - good coloring, should not be mushy, fresh murshrooms tend to be earthy smelling

Onions - firm, good onion smell, no eyes or growths (could always buy them to plant) look for dark spots if found unless they are small or you are going to eat it soon after walk on

Garlic - pretty much like a onion

Broccoli - look for firm very good coloring, check the nooks for bugs and worms

Celery - very firm, should have a good smell to them and should break with a crispy snap

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This comes by experience, and sure each kind of vegetables and fruits has its specific standards.

For ex. when the vegetables (ex. cucumber or zucchini) are mushy it means that it is not fresh (it must be hard), however in fruits it is ripe and good.

In addition to the vegetebles and fruits standards, there are your own standards, what you like in the fruits and vegetables. (for example, some people just don't like fruits that are so ripe.)

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