10 Things NOT to do at a Farmers’ Market

by Anne Maxfield on July 4, 2016

Accidental Locavore Tomatoes From Farmers MarketIt’s getting to be peak farmers’ market season. The Accidental Locavore thought it was a good time to re-run on of your favorite posts.

During the taping of a cooking show I was talking to a couple of farmers who have been at the various farmers’ markets for years.

They’ve witnessed a lot.

Drunks, dogs and kids all run amuck.

Women with cigarettes demanding to know if the produce is organic.

They’ve seen it all.

Some of their stories may surprise you and if you recognize yourself…

  1. Give yourself time to wander through and see what’s available.
  2. If you pick up a tomato to see how ripe it is, put it down, someone else picks it up, etc, etc., by the end of the day it’s essentially a tomato water balloon. Not good.
  3. Usually farmers are happy to let you taste berries. If you taste a berry and like it, take the box you picked the berry from. Don’t get a new box and don’t add more berries to the box you have.Accidental Locavore Corn From Farmers Market
  4. My big pet peeve at any market: shucking corn. It makes a huge mess. If you take it home shucked, it loses moisture and flavor. You’ve got nothing to grill it in, one of the best and easiest ways to cook corn. The way to see if an ear of corn is going to be good is to look at it. It should look fresh and moist, not dried out. If you are a corn shucker, try picking one or two ears that look good to you. Take them home un-shucked and see how they compare to the ones you made a mess with. My history shows a 98% success rate just going for the good-looking ones.
  5. Talk with the farmers, they’ll welcome your appreciation of their hard work. In return, they will be happy to help you pick out the best stuff and often give you tips on how to prepare it.
  6. Remember, all this beautiful food is really labor intensive. It’s planted, weeded and harvested, primarily by hand. Trust me, these guys work hard, harder than you or I. If you think prices seem higher than at a big supermarket, be thankful you have access to the remarkable taste that only comes from something being picked that morning, at the peak of flavor. Not to mention the variety. Even at the best stores, you never see twenty different kinds of eggplants or forty varieties of tomatoes. Accidental Locavore Farmers Market Exchange
  7. Even if you are in a rush, hand the farmers the money. If you leave the money on the counter, leave it right in front of them so they don’t have to reach across to get it (or worse, someone else picks it up). And if you’re in that much of a hurry, chill (and stop shucking that corn).
  8. Would you leave an empty coffee cup or other garbage on the counter at Tiffany’s? Then why do you think you can do it at a farmers’ market? Because it’s outside??? All vendors have trash cans, usually behind the counter. Ask nicely and they’ll toss your trash.
  9. If you want cheap prices, to be able to run in and out, grab a handful of plastic bags and toss money on a counter, go to a supermarket (use the self-service line). Don’t complain that the veggies don’t taste good.  When you go to a farmers’ market, look for a more personal experience, a slower pace, an interaction with the people who spend their lives bringing us great food to eat.
  10. And if you want to see if a tomato can actually be a water balloon, just do the one thing that’s universally despised by farmers everywhere…shake your bag in their face…

Don’t say you weren’t warned! Did I miss anything?





Hunting and Gathering

by Anne Maxfield on August 5, 2013

Accidental Locavore Picking BerriesHave you ever noticed that when people get together to do something like pick blueberries things change? The Accidental Locavore noticed last week, in the middle of a blueberry bush, that people pick blueberries and quietly chat. Recipes are swapped, children munch on many more berries than they pick and everyone is united in a simple task. Newcomers are happily told to go to certain areas or rows where there is an abundance of fruit. And it’s just a warm and sunny summer afternoon.

Compare this to the frenetic energy of the Manhattan Greenmarkets, where scoring the perfect box of blueberries, or anything else, can take on a death-match quality – people impatiently waving bills to get the farmer’s attention, while dogs and children get underfoot. At the farm, it’s peaceful, warm and a collaborative effort. And yes, as is almost traditional, a certain amount has to be tasted. A gentleman near me was explaining to his companion that the berries “closest to the sun are the sweetest” so of course, I had to see if his theory was correct (still testing).

Accidental Locavore High Bush BlueberriesFor me, picking high-bush blueberries is as close to a treat as picking blueberries can be. It’s been years since I was in Maine at the time when the wild blueberries are ripe. There the berries are tiny, hidden and nestled close to the ground. It helps to be short-kid-sized, so you don’t have to bend down too much, unless you can find a good bush and just sit down until it’s depleted. Wild blueberries are so small it takes a lot of them to fill up a cup for muffins, tons for a pie and loads of self discipline to make sure you come home with your little bucketful. The omnipresent mosquitoes literally tend to make it a blood sport but sometimes that just makes you pick faster!

Accidental Locavore Raspberry Blueberry PieSome people (and you know who you are) think that any blueberry that is larger than the head of a pin is an inferior product, but now having had them straight off the (high) bush, I still prefer the meatiness of a bigger berry. But you know, anything freshly picked and eaten right away is always the best – right? So what’s your favorite thing to do with blueberries? I’m going to remember to have my mother make a batch of blueberry corn muffins next week when I’m up in Maine and Frank will probably beg for a raspberry-blueberry pie!


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6 Ideas for Picking a Great CSA

by Anne Maxfield on May 6, 2013

Accidental Locavore Spring VeggiesWhile you may not realize it, the Accidental Locavore has never formally been a part of a CSA (a CSA, if you’re not familiar with it, stands for community sponsored agriculture and is essentially a pre-paid pot-luck share of the farm’s bounty). Mostly I was spoiled in the beginning by having my own personal farmer/shopper/CSA with my farmer down the road. What he didn’t have (which was very little) I could always supplement with an occasional trip to the Greenmarkets in the city. And last year, when he gave up farming, I transferred my loyalties to Ron at Stokes Farm who would put bags together for me at the market (and has now turned into his Thyme Saver Box). As good as that was, one of the things that was missing, was the pure surprise of just being handed a box (or bag) of veggie goodies. In other words, I had a little too much say in what went into the bags, so there were never really any big food challenges.

This year, we’re up at our Hudson Valley house full time and while I could try to expand my herb garden, my history with growing edible food is not confidence building. In other words, if we were alone in the world, you would not want to be handing me the bag of seeds and a shovel. Better left to the professionals! But which professionals? We’re fortunate to have a lot of really wonderful farms near us and most of them offer CSA’s  These were my criteria for picking one and while yours will probably be different, these can be some guidelines:Accidental Locavore Strawberries

  1. A convenient pick-up place, day and time. You need to think about where and when you want to have an abundance of produce. Do you cook and entertain during the weekends? Or will you use it mostly during the week? When will you have time to wash/prep stuff? Do you have fridge space?
  2. A reasonable share for two people. I hate wasting food and sometimes feel like the kitchen version of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice-cooking as fast as I can, only to have a whole new box show up.
  3. For some, organic is important; I’m more into sustainable practices (you never know what the guy next door is flooding the water table with…), but if organic matters, only look for those farmers.
  4. A farmer/farm referral. Like most business relationships, it’s all about doing business with people you know and like. The CSA that I went with is being run by a woman I know (extra points for being a female farmer) and like, both personally and her agricultural point of view.Accidental Locavore Summer Greens
  5. Giving back to the community. This is more of an extra credit thing, but this farm/CSA is in the middle of an urban area and gives back through education and by providing produce to local families.
  6. What foodstuffs you’re looking for. Since we’ve got a freezer full of beef (from our share from Brykill Farm), we were looking mostly for produce. However there are many that offer meat, poultry and other foods in combination. A few minutes on the Internet should find you just what you need.

Whatever you decide, a CSA is a great way of exploring new foods, while supporting farmers-a perfect combination. But act soon, many of the most popular may be sold out for the season!



Accidental Locavore Maine Coast

So when the Accidental Locavore isn’t hanging at the bar at Cafe Miranda, what else is she eating that’s local and fresh on the coast of Maine? If you happen to be heading up to the Maine Lobster Festival this weekend, here are some food ideas to get you away from the crowds.

How about water buffalo burgers sourced from the farmers’ market in Camden  stuffed with cheese from Hahn’s End, one of the artisanal cheesemakers there too? Delicious and a healthy alternative…well, except for the cheese…to a beef burger. Grab a piece of their “Petit Poulet,” an ash-rubbed semi-soft cheese to nibble on. If you go to the market on a Saturday, Uproot Pie Company is there with a portable wood-burning pizza oven turning out great looking pies. Wouldn’t that be great (and mobbed) at the Greenmarkets in New York?Accidental Locavore Camden Farmers Market

Another favorite place is your typical lobster joint, Waterman’s Beach. The Locavore thinks it’s pretty safe to say that most fish places on remote beaches have amazing food, world-wide. Waterman’s was actually the recipient of a James Beard Award, but that hasn’t gone to their heads. Lorri and Sandy and their crew serve great lobsters, crabmeat rolls, clams and a lobster roll that the Daily Meal rated one of the best in Maine. Me, I like my lobster straight-up with melted butter and possibly a second “twin” lobster to keep it company. Or if it’s lunchtime, their crabmeat rolls are great. What’s cool at Waterman’s is that you can bring your own wine and when the bottle is empty, add it to the eclectic collection lining the railing. Last summer we spotted an empty bottle of La Tache, supposedly a gift to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and now in my mother’s collection (to disguise the two-buck-Chuck?).Accidental Locavore Lobster Roll

Since Manhattan, for all its good qualities, still hasn’t learned to appreciate a decent fried clam, the Locavore waits all year to hit Maine for real fried clams (the difference? Whole clams vs. strips). This year we found good ones at a friend’s restaurant, the Slipway in Thomaston and really good ones at the Happy Clam, a German restaurant in Tenant’s Harbor.

And the last of the local food? Besides a quart of Maine blueberries on the trip home, what’s become a must-stop for my husband is Morse’s. Maine is full of great places for food in the most unimaginable locations and Morse’s, ten miles off the highway, is really in the middle of nowhere. Their specialties are their own sauerkraut, beet slaw and pickles. There’s a restaurant serving Middle-European breakfast and lunch and the store has charcuterie from all over the world.

So, well-stocked and well-fed, we hit the road, vowing once again never to eat again…