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Finding and Enjoying Farmers Markets While Traveling

Finding Farmers Markets on the Road

Brilliant green shoots of new grass popping up everywhere and pastel pregnant buds ready to burst declare one thing in my roadabode, prime farmers market season is upon us. What feels like a long winter’s nap for our taste buds and tables is drawing to a close.

While many farmers markets remain open year-round, especially in our favorite warm weather snowbird locations, their wares are nothing like in the spring and summer. Asparagus, rhubarb, apricots, and those funny fiddleheads usher in spring. By summer we’ve got a smorgasbord of flavorful delights: corn, tomatoes, peaches, berries, summer squash and zucchini, and so much more.

It’s not that you can’t find almost any fruit or veg in the stores year-round through the miracle of modern commerce. You can. But finding fresh seasonal produce, influenced by location and climate, in an atmosphere that celebrates the earth’s lip-smacking bounty? It’s this experience that satisfies not only your palate but your heart and soul as well.

Farmers Markets in All Shapes and Sizes

From the earth mamas of the ‘60s to the scientifically minded organic farmer of the 21st century, farmers markets have become a staple in America’s collective conscious.

Smaller towns might have a single, weekly market day, sometimes a row of tents set up in the hardware store’s parking lot or inside a structure. The Bastrop (Texas) Farmers Market is a good example, held in a converted barn and open on Saturday mornings.

Larger communities may have several markets each week in different locations. In California’s Central Coast region you can find a market every day of the week. From Baywood/Los Osos on Mondays to Arroyo Grande on Wednesdays to San Luis Obispo’s entertaining, multi-block market on Thursday evenings, these are simply a sampling of the nearly 20 markets that you can shop when you are in the area.

And then there are urban markets, often delivering high-quality produce along with entertainment, classes, and dining outlets. With up to 50 farmers (depending on the season), the Dupont Circle Market in Washington, DC, open every Sunday, year-round, is said to be one of the best city markets in the U.S. You will have to be the judge of that yourself.

Finding a Farmers Market

Fortunately for us, if there’s a farmers market to be found, discovering the details is easy.

It’s not unusual to see signs advertising the market attached to power poles along the street or stapled to event boards in various businesses and locations.

The city chamber or visitor center will almost always have information about local markets including time, place, and scope.

Locals are often in the know. Simply ask around and you’ll be rewarded with valuable information. They might even volunteer their favorite farm stand.

Your RV park or campground can most certainly direct you to a local farmers market. Sometimes you have to ask, other times it’s in the site map or posted in the laundry room(s).

Then there’s the old (new) standby, the Internet. Simply Google “farmers market town name and chances are good that if a market takes place in town, you can learn all about it online.

How to Shop a Farmers Market

Shopping a farmers market is part know-how and part art. Understanding what’s in season and having a loose idea of what you’d like to prepare back at the rig are useful. But don’t be too rigid. Remain open to new (to you) produce and preparations. If something looks interesting but you’re not sure what it is, if it’s ripe, or how to use it, just ask. Chances are good that the grower is the one working the booth.

Take advantage of my many tromps through farmers markets across the country with these four farmers market tips:

  1. Prepare to arrive early for the best selection and least crowds; arrive later for a lesser selection but potential price cuts.

  2. Bring a few reusable bags. If you think you’ll make a big purchase (perhaps a flat of berries for a jam-making session) bring a rolling bag.

  3. Walk the entire market upon arrival, before you buy. Look at the booths, the produce, and the prices. This will give you a great feel for what’s freshest, what’s plentiful, and what you might want to snap up before they sell out.

  4. Availability can turn on a dime based on weather, demand, etc. If there’s something you really, really want, buy it now, don’t wait until next week or even your initial walk through the market.

Forever Farmers Market Memories

Seeking out and savoring farmers markets is not only a wonderful way to connect with a new location but provides memories and flavors that last a lifetime.

You may never forget the day you were introduced to beautiful curlicue garlic scapes and found a new seasonal staple that changed your RV kitchen. These are the moments that matter. Isn’t that why you’re here?  

Recipe courtesy of the RV Cooking Show

Garlic Scape Pesto

Easy and easily addictive, this simple late spring/early summer pesto will wow your taste buds.

1 cup garlic scapes*, chopped

½ cup fresh basil leaves

½ cup walnut pieces (or sunflower seeds)

1 T fresh lemon juice

½ cup (or more) high-quality extra virgin olive oil

½ cup Parmesan cheese (or nutritional yeast)

salt and pepper to taste

*Remove and discard the bulb portion of the garlic scapes and trim and toss the tough ends

Add garlic scapes, basil, nuts, and lemon juice to a food processor and pulse until everything is finely chopped, about 30 seconds.

Restart processor and slowly drizzle in olive oil.

Add cheese (or nutritional yeast).

Taste. Add salt and pepper and adjust ingredients to your liking. Want a more pronounced olive oil flavor? More cheesy-ness? Add accordingly.

That’s it. Serve as a dip or a spread. If you choose to mix it with pasta, reserve and use some of the pasta cooking liquid when combining the pasta and pesto to create a silky sauce. Delish!! 

Evanne

Author

Evanne Schmarder

Evanne is sure she got the wanderlust bug from her Grandpa and Nana who traveled the U.S. in their city bus conversion in the 1940’s as what we now call ‘workampers’. In 2000 she and her husband Ray set off on their own RV adventure, affectionately called Operation Sunshine, from hip but rainy Portland, Oregon. A nod to their “love to travel, love to eat” philosophy, these young fulltimers founded the RV Cooking Show, as seen on TV stations across the country. They believe in RVs as all-access tickets to adventure and have adopted the motto: simple dishes as souvenirs and menus as memory makers.

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