The humidity levels are rising, the Arts Festival is around the corner, and the Downtown Farmers’ Market is overflowing with local produce – one thing is for certain; summer has officially arrived in Des Moines! Each Saturday morning I lace up my shoes, slather on some sunscreen, and grab my reusable bags and walk to the Farmers’ Market. Over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at making a beeline through all the dogs and strollers to find my favorite vendors.
Here’s how I do the Farmers’ Market:
- Arrive early. I used to get there mid-morning and it would only stress me out. Not only was it difficult to find what I was looking for but I found that some vendors were already out of fan favorites like sweet corn or strawberries. This past weekend I got there later than usual and got in and got out quickly. Normally I like to stroll around and take time to compare prices and freshness/ripeness of the fruits and veggies but that’s difficult to do once the masses arrive. Here are some finds from my recent trip!
- Shop around. After so many years I’ve figured out who my favorite vendors are (Berry Patch Farm, Victoria’s Table, Grade A Gardens, and Barb’s Garden and Pantry to name just a few) so I tend to hit up those places pretty consistently. There are a few vendors at our market who don’t exclusively sell local produce (avocados for example) and many of the items that could be local, like peppers, have stickers indicating they were shipped here from Mexico or California. I tend to avoid those vendors because I would prefer to support the ones who are growing the produce locally. Here are my favorite tomatoes from Ineichen’s, where I almost always get my tomatoes.
- Explore new cuisines. I know many people don’t think Iowa is very diverse, and I suppose on paper it’s not, but our Farmers’ Market does offer a variety of foods across many ethnicities. One of my favorites is Papillon, a Bosnian food vendor. You must try the cevapi at least once (unless you’re a vegetarian)! Other favorites are Indian Delights for samosas, and of course the pupusa’s from the El Salvadorian vendor. Farmers’ markets are a great way to explore a new cuisine without investing too much time or money like you might at a sit-down restaurant!
- Have a treat. Every year I have a different go-to treat and this year it’s the apple cider doughnuts from Barb’s Garden and Pantry. I will admit this proudly, I love doughnuts and I am a doughnut snob. I rarely find doughnuts that are up to my standards but these do the trick. A doughnut every day isn’t great for my health; a doughnut a couple times a month (I don’t get one every time) isn’t going to hurt, especially when I’m walking about 3 miles roundtrip to get to the market and back. I hope you can find a farmers’ market near you! In the meantime, I’ll be browsing through a recent birthday gift – a cookbook all about farmers’ market desserts! What is your favorite farmer’s market find? Do tell!