An Intentional Sunday: The essential guide to Farmers market(ing)
Words by Saer RichardsPhotography by Joe Gomez
Ah, Sunday. A chance to rest from the hellish week that was and get a head start on the promising week to come. Even if we had a month of them it wouldn’t be enough.
However, its all too tempting to let this amicable day of the week get lost in a flurry of unproductivity. Staying in bed a few too many hours, flipping the digital pages of the nearest device and finally introducing oneself to humanity via a visit to your local café for a slow brunch. Only to realise that it’s tea-time or worse still supper.
With a little forethought Sunday can be the most leisurely productive time of one’s week. Instead of letting this day fall by the wayside, make it a purposeful one. An intentional Sunday.
One of my favourite Sunday morning activities is to visit the local farmer’s market. What used to be a rural staple has now become a facet of many urban spaces. Allowing family owned farms to sell their products directly to the discerning consumer, they are on track to irrevocably change the landscape of grocery shopping. One can only hope.
Half the fun of these weekly expeditions is the learning curve they bring – being a novice is a delight. As you learn about new fruit and veg as well as ways to prepare them, the trial and error process yields a gastronomic adventure. There are however, a few essentials to making a trip to the market a successful and unintimidating one:
A reliable jute bag
This is your most vital tangible tool. Environmentally, (and sometimes socially) friendly reusable shoppers vary in price and quality. Investing in a good one will save your veggies from spilling out onto the curb.
Look for a spacious bag with reinforced handles for those days when you pick up a few more items than expected. Also, a reinforced bottom is key to preventing sag; no one likes his or her goods to drag on the ground after all! A personal favourite is the local series by Apolis, allowing you to show a little local pride while you shop.
Do your research
As the seasons change so do the market offerings and it’s best to be prepared for what’s in store before you get there, otherwise you will end up with a bag full of every weird and wonderful item you come across, (ghost aubergines anyone?), without the time to cook it all.
A quick online search should be able to advise you of the farms that will be at your local market as well as their specialties. I came across a dairy farm which specialised in the creamiest Araucana eggs – but they only sell them to you if you specifically ask for them.
A menu plan
This goes hand in hand with doing your research. Pre plan your menu for the week and carry a list of what you need to fulfill it. Be sure to bear in mind that different foods perish more rapidly than others, so plan so as to use the most perishable items earlier in the week. It also helps to buy up items that are nearing the end of their season, so you can pickle, jam or can them to reuse later in the year.
Get there early!
Sorry. Grandma was really right about this one, and while you might not get the worm the allegorical early bird does, you WILL get the very best produce and sometimes the unique items that are long gone by time the average person rolls out of bed and strolls to the market.
Wear your boyfriend’s jeans*
Seriously. I cannot tell you the amount of times a muddy bushel of beetroot left their mark on my favourite jeans before I learned my lesson! A lot of the produce for sale is harvested within days or hours of arriving at the market – so it will not be scrubbed and clean like its supermarket counterparts. Embrace the dirt but be prepared to not wear your best. (* You’re boyfriend likely doesn’t want mud on his jeans either…but he is more likely to think the dirt got there from an impromptu game of footy in the park…).
Join a CSA
Community supported agriculture provides a unique way to guarantee receipt of seasonal produce AND support a family owned farm in the process. Participants pre-pay for their groceries before the start of the season, allowing the farmer to utilize the funds to buy seed and resources. They then share their harvested items with CSA participants over a 20 week or so season. It gives you the opportunity to receive a ‘surprise box’ of groceries each week and test your acumen when it comes to culinary improvisation.
Carry an anecdote
The market community is a tight one, but its also very friendly and inviting. You will likely find yourself in conversation with the vendor if they see you on a regular basis. Have an anecdote ready. They love to know what’s been going on since they last saw you. Had an ah-ha moment with some produce that caught you off guard? I will never forget the raucous laughter that emanated from my CSA farmer when a lady told him the shock-horror on her kids face when they cut open the watermelon she purchased from him only to discover it was yellow AND had seeds!
The key is to enjoy yourself and improve the quality of your Sunday. Fearlessly trying unique produce will expand your palette and cooking skills. Besides, friends are always impressed when you cook an ingredient that is a tweak on the usual – white carrots, golden beets, white aubergines. Earn those bragging rights, and allow Sunday to help you start your week as you mean to go on. With intent.