“I have [corporate grocery store] down the street, it’s so much easier.” (But I want to eat healthier)
“I don’t know what’s good.”
“I don’t know what to get.”
It can be overwhelming for the everyday person to shop but after a few years of coming to the market, I’ve come up with a guide to help you out, no matter what market you go to.
Every Wednesday (and Saturday) the Santa Monica Farmers Market is poppin’ with the best available produce coming from San Diego to Tehachapi to Dinuba. No crafts, no food vendors, just the best fruits, veg, cheese, nuts, milk, meat, fish, bread and honey. Well, there’s the “treat ya’ self, don’t cheat ya’ self” rastafarian who sells herbal body care, but that’s it. One thing for sure, this is THE chef’s market that every farm-to-table restaurant in town sources from. But hey if you need to pet a goat and listen to a band, by all means check out the many other wonderful markets in Los Angeles.
A dear friend and talented photographer Jacqueline Verdugo joined me one Wednesday to capture the vibes.
Reasons To Shop At The Farmer’s Market
-Stickin’ It To The Man
Being outside in the ocean air supporting local family farms and nourishing myself with non-GMO pesticide-free ingredients is the most pleasurable way to flip the bird at large agribusiness, gas-ripened fruit, fluorescent lighting and the wanna-be DJs (sorry, Whole Foods) of large grocery stores. I’d gladly sit in my car at 8am on the 10W freeway or brave Hollywood on a Sunday because it still beats the 1500 miles mass-produced veg travels to a supermarket. I get to catch up on the phone with my family in France and food podcasts!
Have you tried speckled raddichio? Pinkerton avocados? Seascape strawberries? Ichilium blue garlic? The market provides varieties of fruit and veg that you’ve never seen or tasted. It opens up your world and the normal supermarket specimens will lose their luster. Blessing and a curse.
-Flavor Flavor Flavor
You can cook anything with enough fat, salt and sugar and make it taste good. With superior products, you can enjoy them simply and revel in their natural flavor.
Not only do you have access to wonderful produce, but you have access to top chefs and the farmers who grow what you’re making! Curious about the spiky green? Ask! And you will be met with several ways to prepare it at home. The farmers are trying to sell their product and keep you coming back. They do not want their hard work rotting in the corner of your fridge. Plus all the chefs you go gaga over on Instagram are there to gawk at. Maybe that’s just me.
If you frequent organic farm-to-table restaurants, chances are they are sourcing from your local market. And selling it back to you at 3-4 times the price. Why spend $14 dollars on a simple salad you can make for a fraction of the cost? Spend money on more complicated preparations, get inspired and still feed yourself at home!
Regier tangerines and mandarins are always jammin’ in the winter! My favorite are the Murcott. In summer, their peaches and nectarines are unparalleled. JJ’s Lone Daughter Ranch citrus and avocados always make their way into my bag. They grow dozens of varieties of each and have opened my eyes to the various flavor profiles of these magnificent California fruits. ps. I have “lamb” written on my hand because I had bought some shanks at Jimenez Farms and they were keeping it in their cooler for me. Heaven forbid I forget!Maggie’s Farm RUNS the greens game. Their salad blends have micro greens, herbs, bitter greens, baby greens, edible flowers, everything you could ever want. And they continue to expand their selection.My boo, Peter Schaner of Schaner Farms. Every restaurant in LA is in love with his eggs, squash, citrus, avocados, pomegranates, herbs, tomatoes and so much more… an impressive selection! I’ve had the pleasure of helping out at the stand and he always takes good care of his staff and customers. Hug your farmer!Gloria’s has amazing artichokes, cauliflower, peppers, and strawberries that stay sweet all year round!Windrose Farm is an organic, biodynamic farm that carries a seasonal artistic palette of produce. Their varieties of garlic and they smoked garlic have changed my life. I had no idea how different they could be. Colorful Mexican blankets perk up the produce and make a food stylist like myself just gush. I grabbed a monster beet with a ton of greens!
Stinging nettles at Coleman Family Farm, OUCH!!! I adore the Colemans, a multi-generational operation out of Carpinteria. They have as many jokes as they do lettuces! Their tropical fruits like guava, pineapple guava, sapote and cherimoya spare me from my longing of island destinations.
If you’re making your first trip out, the vastness of the market can be a bit overwhelming. Here’s a helpful list to keep it simple.
Your organic ingredients will only last about a week so buy accordingly to your household. Start off with one bunch/handful/pack/bag and see how you use it.
Organic certification is just an expensive stamp. Taste, taste, taste. Do you like it? Does it look good? Get it. Ask the farmer about their methods. Do they spray? Do you care? Some of my favorite farms would rather save the money on certification to support their actual growing of the food. Like any relationship, you develop communication and trust. At the very least, the stand should have somewhere posted “We Grow What We Sell.”
THINGS TO CONSIDER
I bring a basket for eggs, ripe avocados, anything soft. One bag for greens, and another for hard veg like beets, squash, onion. Consider a sherpa or wagon for large purchases.
Two ways to approach this. One is to pick a recipe (like this awesome salad) and shop as much as you can from the market, supplementing from elsewhere. Or begin with this simple list and adjust to your taste and budget.
Cooking Green (Chard, Kale, Mustard, Spinach, Beet (yes, the tops!)
Salad Green (Kale, Spinach (double whammies!) Romaine, Micros, Little Gems)
Fruit Just pick a couple; 2 apples, a pack of berries. If you over purchase, roast or saute in butter for an oatmeal topping or bake in a tart.
You Could Get At Your Local Supermarket But Awwww They Look So Much Prettier Here
Oy My Bag Is Getting Heavy But OoOooOoH So Pretttyyyy
Seasonal Vegetables: Beets, Flowering Greens, Celery Root, Tomatoes, whatever catches your fancy.
Ciao from the market, stay tuned to see what I do with my purchases!
Have extra from the market and don’t know what to do with it? You can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll help you out!