It’s spring and farmers markets are booming. Across the country, food lovers like top chef Curtis Stone are lining up to reap the dividends of buying local. “I opt for locally sourced, seasonal produce wherever possible,” Stone says. “Seasonal ingredients have fantastic natural flavor, so you only need to treat them simply to turn out an impressive dish.”
During peak season, market stalls burst with beautiful, ripe fruits and vegetables — from asparagus to zucchini, apricots to strawberries. While some shoppers arrive with recipes in hand, Stone prefers a wait-and-see approach. “I build dishes on whatever catches my eye at the market,” Stone says. “I like the challenge of coming home with a bunch of produce and dreaming up all of the tasty dishes I get to make for my family.
“I’ll cruise through the markets picking up tastes of anything on offer along the way,” he continues. “It’s a sales tool that really works on me — if I taste a cherry tomato popping with sweetness, there’s a good chance a bagful of them are coming home.”
As you explore the aisles of a farmers market, don’t be shy about asking questions. “Get to know your purveyors well, which happens when visiting the same farmers market over and over,” says the best-selling author. “Take time to chat. Ask vendors about their farms, what they grow, what pairs best with your produce. As they notice you coming back again and again, they might just throw in an extra peach or two to reward you for your loyalty.”