It’s time for the farmers market! Okay, if you live in a southern climate this probably seems very puzzling to you. After all, you have fresh produce year round (or so it seems to this native northerner). But while we have a “year-round” farmers market in town, for most of the year it just features crafts (such as homemade soaps) and canned and preserved goods. But now, finally, it’s that time of year again. The farmers market in town is finally starting to get a bit of fresh produce.

Okay, so right now it’s not going to be a lot of fresh produce. Maybe rhubarb (and what one does with rhubarb is completely beyond me)? Perhaps some fresh herbs? But it’s here, the glimmerings of those wonderful months of June through September when an abundance of fresh produce is available at the farmers market.

I treat a trip to the farmers market completely different than a trip to the grocery store. Before I hit the grocery store, I have a list of things I need to get, as well as a list of meals I plan to prepare over the next few days or week. It’s all quite regimented to save me from overspending and forgetting. And there’s nothing fun about those trips. But the farmers market? That’s a completely different thing. I head out to the farmers market with no preconceived notions of what I’m going to buy. I talk to the farmers, get their thoughts on what to make with their products. And I listen to what my fellow shoppers are saying they plan to make with produce.

I buy what looks fresh, what smells good, and what looks interesting. My meals for the next few days are completely determined by those spontaneous purchases at the farmers market. Sometimes in the middle of the summer it will be a series of salads or cold soups. Other times the vegetables will serve as a side dish for a piece of fish I pick up (there’s a fish market next to our farmers market). But always, it’s unplanned. That’s the fun of the farmers market.

My very favorite things to buy at the farmers market are heirloom tomatoes. I realize I have several months before they will be available, but my mouth is already watering thinking about them. But before I get those tomatoes, I should be treated to strawberries, blueberries, and an assortment of greens.

Do you have a farmers market in your town? Is it open year-round? What are some of your favorite things to buy there. And about that rhubarb: should I buy some, and if so, what should I do with it?

-LinnieGayl