Shop Your Local Farmers Market Like a Professional Chef

Summer is the peak season for farmers markets and food co-ops, but shopping the stalls can be daunting. In need of a little guidance, we searched for a professional to show how to shop for the best produce summer offers.

Enter executive chef Daniela Moreira, a Culinary Institute of America grad and James Beard Award semifinalist celebrated by Eater and Food & Wine who once worked in New York City’s Eleven Madison Park, the restaurant ranked fourth best in the world.

While working as a personal chef for Washington D.C. families in 2015, Moreira shopped at local markets six days a week. There, she met two guys running a wood-fired pizza stall and partnered with them to launch Timber Pizza Co., a brick-and-mortar the following year in D.C.’s Petworth neighborhood.Moreira is still at the helm in the kitchen today and sources her ingredients from the same markets she frequented for years.

Here are her tips for how to shop local foods like a pro.

Long Lines Mean High Quality

“Go where the people are,” she said. “Farmers markets are a place for the locals, and the locals usually know what is best. A good general rule is: follow the biggest crowds to find the best produce—that farm has proven itself to the locals.”

Befriend Farmers

Moriera said farmers can be great sources of valuable advice on food selection. “Ask the farmer, they always know what’s best and what’s in season,” she said. “Pro tip: take a look at what the farmer is snacking on behind their stand, that’s the key to knowing what’s best.”

Take Your Time

You don’t get a prize for racing through a market as fast as you can. In fact, it’s a sure way to miss out on quality food and memorable experiences. “You shouldn’t rush through aisles like you would at the supermarket,” she said. “Enjoy the live music, try the pastries, and get to know your local producers.”

Find Inspiration For Your Own Kitchen

Nibbling at the farmers’ market fare doesn’t isn’t worth it just for the experience. It can also inspire your next meal. “The food vendors utilize the locally sourced produce from farmers at the market as well,” she said. “Trying out different pastries and snacks is a great way of seeing how to utilize the ingredients.”

Trust Your Senses

“Touch and smell everything,” she said. “You won’t find pre-packaged produce like you do at a regular store so this is your chance to touch and smell everything before buying. And taste everything. Especially at the fruit stands—they will give out samples of what’s in season.”

Save on Leftovers

“If prices are a big concern, go right before the market is about to close,” she said. “This is when the farmers are trying to get rid of everything they brought with them and you can buy big quantities for less money.”