Your Local Beet Winter Market Shopping Tips

November 15, 2011 at 9:21 am

When you were buying your local food at outdoor markets, we had a guide for you.  Don’t you think you need a guide from us for when you do your eat local shopping indoors?  We think there’s enough nuance and such that a winter market specific market matters.  Bring these tips along with you as you shop for local food all year.  As always, we’d love to add your useful tips to our list, so do share.

  • The early shopper gets the goods.  This is the key takeaway for winter markets.  For outdoor markets, there are several advantages to lingering, shopping late, especially as the best buys go to shoppers around at the end of a market session.  Winter markets, don’t try that.  Instead of having enough stuff, winter marketeers usually have only ”so much” stuff. It’s pretty much gonna go to the first people who shop.  Get to your winter market fast in the day.
  • Keep your expectations in line with reality.  Who does not walk away from various winter markets frustrated.  The frustration starts with the fact it has nothing to do with it being cold, that there is not more produce for sale.  Believe you me both, it can be there.  And believe you me also, there is plenty of time to complain about our weak local food system.  Just don’t do it when you go shopping.  Revel in what is there.  The farmer that kept plenty of storage crops around for you, buy.  The farmer crawling through a low tunnel for season extension, support.  Be really happy with what you can find.
  • Then adjust your menus and eating habits.  If there are weeks in the summer that it seems too hot for the oven, if you could go on and on without tiring of platters of sliced cucumbers and chunks of tomatoes, now your body probably wants the warmth of meat.  Fill your bodies with the abundant meat and potatoes around now.  It’s what’s in season.  At the various winter markets you will find pastured pork, grass fed beef, locally raised lambs and chicken and eggs you are not ashamed to eat.  You can find bacon, hams, and sausages too.
  • And make tweaks.  In the darkest, coldest days of the season, when you cannot put another root in your system, you can find something green.  For instance, Tiny Greens from Urbana comes to many winter markets with all sorts of, well, tiny greens.  Stuff them in a baked potato or make the Sheila Special Sandwich (Wisconsin cranberry cheddar, jam and sprounts on whole wheat bread).  Growing Power, usually at the Green City Winter Markets, also has various sprouts and micro-greens.  You can always find mushrooms.
  • As always, it is best to bring cash, but many winter markets take plastic.  As in prior years, the Logan Square Winter Market is letting you buy all your goods with a card.  The Glenwood market also can ring you up this way.  The 61st St Market at Experimental Station lets you use your LINK/SNAP cards.
  • Winter markets are showcases for all the good items beyond  fruits and vegetables.  If you had to spend all your food budget then on produce, now is the time to splurge on some fine local cheese or all the other local treats: popcorns, syrups, dried beans, grains, and more.
  • Winter markets tend to put locally produced ahead of locally sourced.  During the summer, a good amount of markets will not allow items not “grown on the farm” (so to speak).  Most winter markets hold their vendors to less strict rules.  Sure, we want locally sourced but we also appreciate all the small producers selling their goods at winter markets.  There is no better place to try hand made than at a winter market.
  • Wool is an agricultural product too.  Many winter markets feature yarns and knitted wear made from locally raised sheep.  All the good reasons to eat local apply to wearing local.
  • Take advantage of the farmers who have done the work for you.  There are many reasons why you may not have preserved your seasonal harvest.  You have no room for a freezer.  You scoff at the idea of having enough time to can your own.  Don’t worry.  You have many options.  Seedlings Fruit takes their extras and turns it to jellies or they dry ‘em; they even freeze.  Tomato Mountain, sold by my wife, makes all the things you need from their peak seasons products.  Tomato Mountain is more than salsa; it’s canned tomatoes and tomato juice and even a jam made from sungold tomatoes ( which would go just perfectly with your seasonal cheese plate).  We have seen all sorts of pickles and relishes and such.  Remember, fresh is not always the best of foods!

Share winter market tips with us too.