Local farmers’ markets and community markets are open and ready for business. Local growers are showing up with their bounty of fresh vegetables, fruits and more for locals to purchase and enjoy. Thanks to a rainy spring, the crops are on time and ready for the taking. When hitting the farmers’ or community markets here’s how to make the most of your trip.
- Arrive early—specifically, before 9 a.m. if it’s an all-day market. The early bird does indeed get the worm— or in this case, the okra or green beans.
- Come prepared. Bring a reusable bag with comfortable handles for easy transport.
- Bring a cooler along to keep produce chilly on the trip home. This is especially important as summer temperatures rise.
- Bring cash and small bills. Not all farmers markets accept credit/debit cards and it can be hard to make change for large bills.
- Talk to the farmers. No one knows the ins and outs of food like the people who grow it. Farmers can tell you how and where your food is grown, plus how to store and prepare it.
- Heirloom tomatoes have unique flavors and colors. Don’t hesitate to ask the farmer about differences in varieties. Most will also give you a taste.
- Local honey is a great product thought to help with allergies. Look for fresh local honey in spring and fall.
- Learn what’s in season to ensure you have realistic expectations of what can be grown locally in Tennessee. Then you won’t be disappointed if your favorite vegetable is not in season yet.
- Your nose knows the best cantaloupe. Sniff the stem end. It should have a great melon aroma.
- Cucumbers should have completely green outer skins. They begin to turn yellow as they age.
- Eggplant should be shiny, heavy for its size and without wrinkles.
- Peaches continue to ripen after picking. Buy them at various stages of ripeness so you don’t have use them all at once.
- Be careful if you handle too many hot peppers at the market. Wash your hands promptly and avoid touching your eyes.
- Okra should be no longer than 5 inches to taste best. Never wash okra until you’re ready to use it, or it will become slimy.
- Check the bottom of the container when purchasing blackberries or raspberries. It should not be stained or moist.
- Berries do not ripen at all after picking, so look for berries that are full and plump. When purchasing strawberries, make sure you select those that are completely red all the way to the cap.
- Corn with little dents in the middle of the kernels is over-mature, which results in a starchy taste and texture no matter when you pick it.
- Want to make apple butter? Then purchase a variety of different apples. It gives extra flavor to the finished product!
- Always purchase clean produce that looks as fresh as possible. Don’t be shy about asking about best use and varieties.
Local Farmers’ Markets
You don’t have to travel far to get fresh produce, check out the list of local markets.
The Cannon County Farmers’ Market opens at 6 a.m. each Saturday at the Arts Center of Cannon County.
The Coffee County Farmers’ Market is open each Saturday April-October at 1331 McArthur Street in Manchester.
Tullahoma Farmers’ Market opens at 6 a.m. each Wednesday and closes at noon on the corner of Wilson Avenue and Cedar Lane at Trinity Lutheran Church.
The Cumberland Farmers’ Market is located at the Sewanee Community Center in Sewanee. Customers can pick up their orders at the centrally located Sewanee Community Center Tuesdays between 5 and 6:30 p.m. Join the Cumberland Farmer online, http://www.sewanee.locallygrown.net.
Southern Middle Tennessee Farmers’ Market of Franklin County opens at 7 a.m. each Saturday, May through October at the site of the Old Franklin County High School off Dinah Shore Boulevard.
The Grundy County/Tracy City Farmers’ Market is open 2 to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday and Saturday from 9 a.m. until noon off US Highway 41 14399 in Tracy City.
Ardmore Farmers’ Market in Ardmore is located on a city lot, north side of Highway 53, behind Pizza Hut.
The market is open from late April through late October on Saturdays from sunrise to 1 p.m.
Fayetteville Farmers’ Market, 421 Lincoln Ave. South in Fayetteville, opens daily at 6 a.m. April-October.
Lynchburg Farmers’ Market is located in Moorehead Pavilion, Wiseman Park in Lynchburg. It is open from 3 to 6 p.m. on Fridays, May-October.
And don’t forget to look for the Pick Tennessee Products logo. It’s your guarantee that the product you purchase is as fresh and local as it gets. For more information visit picktnproducts.org
Unusual but delicious
While tomatoes, squash, potatoes and corn are the more common of the farmers market fare, local growers are now offering a more interesting types of produce.
Thanks to the national movement toward eating more fresh and local produce grows, growers are looking to entice folks with a variety of vegetables and fruits.
Other, less nutritive foods are tempting if you grow bored with a limited roster of vegetables and recipes.
Pick Tennessee Products has new recipes at www.PickTnProducts.org that feature produce you may not yet have tried, including bok choy, kohlrabi, jicama, fennel bulb and leeks.
Many vegetables that are unfamiliar at farmers markets are actually items we already enjoy at restaurants, we just don’t recognize them in a fresh, whole state. CSAs often include recipes for whatever produce is in the box. At a farmers market, the best way to explore new produce is to ask the grower. Farmers are happy to share tips for proper storage and uses for that produce.
Having fresh foods on hand makes healthy cooking and eating more likely. Take time to identify vegetables you don’t recognize and experiment with a quick and simple recipe. Using local produce leads to eating seasonally, and many people discover they enjoy eating fruits and vegetables more when they are at their tasty best.
Pick Tennessee Products connects farmers with consumers. It is a free service, offered by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.
Find Tennessee produce and farmers markets on the Pick TN mobile app and at www.PickTnProducts.org. Follow Pick Tennessee on social media for seasonal updates.