We’ve moved into summer, and into the most abundant season for farms. The sheer amount of produce from heirloom tomatoes, to stone fruits, to summer squash means that there is something for everyone at the summer farmers’ market! Let’s talk a little bit about what you might find there.
Summer is peak farmers’ market season and a great time for you to seek out your local farm stands and farmers’ markets. While many of the fruits and vegetables are going to be familiar and similar to the ones you will see in the supermarket, local produce has a few big benefits: freshness (since it didn’t have to travel far), heirloom varieties (different sizes, shapes, and colors), and flavor (there is nothing like a fresh picked heirloom tomato).
Where I live in Southeastern Mass, I have a great on-line resource (SEMAP), which links me to all the farmers’ markets in the area, along with many of the local farms and farm stands. I can also swing into the MassGrown site for all the markets across Massachusetts. I highly recommend you do an on-line search to find the resources in your area.
What Might You Find at the Summer Farmers’ Market?
One of the biggest sellers and most common item at the summer farmers’ market and farm stands, is tomatoes of all types. And with good reason! Freshly picked, field ripened tomatoes are a completely different vegetable than that ones you usually find in the supermarket.
While supermarkets have gotten better over the years from the pallid, under-ripe, cellophane-covered tomatoes of the past, they can’t compete with the sheer variety of heirloom tomatoes. In addition to the usual red, you can find green (when ripe!), orange, yellow, purple, and black. Striped and speckled. In every size and shape. Visit my heirloom tomato spotlight for more info on heirloom varieties.
Just want a basic tomato to slice into your sandwich or salad? Farmers’ markets and farm stands have you covered here too! The basic beefsteak tomato overflows bins all summer long. The beefsteak tomato is the workhorse tomato of the farm stand – huge, full of flavor, less fussy than many heirlooms to grow, and still full of sun-kissed tomato flavor.
There is a whole world out there beyond the basic green and yellow summer squash you find in the supermarket. As with many other vegetables, there are more colors and shapes than you might realize.
Some of the varieties you might find at the farmers’ market include – Cousa (with pale speckled green skin), Globe (as round as the name and great for stuffing), Zephyr (a two-toned squash which starts yellow and ends green), Pattypan (these look like little UFOs 🙂 ), and more! You won’t know exactly which varieties your local farms have on offer until you visit.
You might also find squash blossoms. Squash blossoms are an amazing treat for those who like to search out unusual produce. You can fry, saute, stuff them, turn them into soup, use them on a pizza. Check out this guide on how to use squash blossoms.
Other Summer Vegetables
In addition to tomatoes and squash, you are going to find all the other summer vegetables which grow in your area. Around here in the Northeast, that means corn, cucumbers, broccoli, carrots, eggplant, plenty of lettuces, all sorts of onions, new potatoes, and more. Each of these vegetables is going to be fresh, field ripened, and come in a number of heirloom varieties. Go look and maybe try something new!
Love green beans? Then you might want to try some of the other types of beans out there.
You’ll not only find a number of varieties of green beans and yellow beans, but you’ll also see purple beans, green and purple striped beans (like Dragon’s Tongue), flat beans (often called Romano or Italian green beans), and French green beans (Haricots Verts – very tender and thin). And those are just your tender beans! You may also get lucky and find some shelling beans – cranberry, butter beans, or mature dragon’s tongue are among the possibilities.
Oh, and the peppers! There are so many types of sweet and hot peppers out there! And you may even be able to find some in the middle, which are basically sweet, but they have a little bit of a zing. Tiny to large, various colors, all sorts of shapes – there is a pepper for everyone who likes peppers.
Be sure to talk with the farmer about the heat level and find out what they recommend for your taste buds. (Or you could be adventurous and buy some and then get home and cut off a tiny bit and be all ‘whoa that’s hot!!’ but asking is good.) Here’s a guide with some of the peppers you might find.
Vegetables aren’t all that you’ll find at the summer farmers’ market. There are all sorts of yummy fruits on offer as well. You may see figs, husk cherries, mangoes, papayas, grapes, and more.
Blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries will make their appearance in season at the market and they are all well worth picking up. I like to either eat them out of hand or use them in simple recipes which highlight their freshness. You might also find loganberries, gooseberries, currants, salmonberries, or other types, depending on the farms you see.
While melons and watermelons are unrelated, you will find them both during late summer.
There are all sorts of newly popular varieties of heirloom watermelons which are just the right size for a family to enjoy. No need to buy a giant watermelon anymore! Also, watermelons come in a bunch of cool colors. Different reds ranging from deep reds to light, orange, and yellow. If your farm stand or market has these multicolored watermelons, be sure to chat with the farmer to find out what color you might be getting. They can usually tell by looking at the rind.
And you haven’t had a melon until you’ve had a field-ripened melon. Whether you enjoy musk melon, cantaloupe, honeydew, or want to branch out to try some heirloom varieties, local melons are a treat.
And of course you will find stone fruits at the market or at a farm stand in the area. Various types of plums, peaches, nectarines, and cherries will have their moment in the summer. Some, like cherries, you’ll want to jump on the moment you see them since they’ll be gone quickly. Others, like plums and peaches, have a longer season so you can enjoy them for weeks.
Ingredient Spotlights for the Summer Farmers’ Market
Every so often I write up an article focusing on a particular ingredients with the history, nutritional information, and recipe ideas. Here are my summer ingredient spotlights:
Summer Farmers’ Market Recipes
Here are links to some of my content where you can find summer recipes. Each ingredient also has a tag and you can just look at the ingredient (I picked a few popular tags).
Also, I have a few roundups from other sites which will give you some more ideas.