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If you’re a foodie or just someone who loves fresh and unique produce, then a specialty produce market should definitely be on your must-visit list. What is a specialty produce market? It can be a market that highlights foods native to a country or region, such as an Asian market or a Mexican market. It can be a market that has an extensive array of a particular item, such as a specialty cheese market with hundreds of different kinds of cheese.
These markets offer a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and other specialty items that you can’t find in your typical grocery store. But what makes them worth the visit? In this article, we’ll explore five reasons why a specialty produce market is a must-visit for anyone who loves food. From the quality and freshness of the produce to the knowledgeable staff and unique products, you’ll quickly see why these markets are becoming more and more popular.
So, whether you’re looking for a specific ingredient or just want to explore new flavors and cuisines, a trip to your local specialty produce market is definitely worth it. Let’s dive in!
Reason 1: Wide Selection of Fresh, Locally Sourced Produce
One of the main reasons why you should visit a specialty produce market is for the wide selection of fresh, locally sourced produce. These markets often work directly with local farmers and growers to bring you the freshest and highest quality produce possible. Unlike your typical grocery store, which may source produce from all over the world, these markets focus on what’s in season and available in your local area.
If you are shopping at a farmer’s on-farm stand, then you have the extra benefit of getting fresh produce directly from the farmer. You won’t get any fresher than buying directly from the farm. Many small farms also connect with other local growers or producers to provide additional products such as locally produced chocolate, cheese, or honey. You are able to find unusual items from several community businesses in one place.
This not only means that you’re getting the freshest produce, but you’re also supporting local farmers and businesses. By buying from these markets, you’re helping to keep the local economy strong and sustainable. Plus, you can feel good knowing that your produce hasn’t traveled thousands of miles to get to your plate, which is better for the environment too.
Overall, the wide selection of fresh, locally sourced produce is a huge draw for specialty produce markets. You’ll find everything from heirloom tomatoes to exotic fruits like dragon fruit and kumquats. And because the selection changes with the seasons, there’s always something new and exciting to try. As you get to know the farmer or business owner, you can learn how the seasons change in your area and when is the best time for those unusual fruits and vegetables.
Reason 2: Supporting Small Businesses and Local Farmers
As mentioned earlier, shopping at a specialty produce market is a great way to support small businesses and local farmers. These markets often work directly with growers, which means that the money you spend goes directly back to the people who produced your food. The employees all work right in your community, so they spend their money in the area as well.
Small businesses and local farmers are the backbone of many communities, and shopping at a specialty produce market is a great way to show your support. By buying locally grown produce, you’re helping to keep these businesses and farms thriving. However, don’t think of this as a way to do a favor for a small business. Think of it as a way for you to get better produce than you can find elsewhere. And because the produce is often fresher, of higher quality, and didn’t have to travel across the world, you’re getting better value for your money as well.
Overall, supporting small businesses and local farmers is a great reason to visit a specialty produce market. You’ll feel good knowing that you’re helping to support your community and that you’re getting the freshest and highest quality produce possible. Most often, you will be able to find items that you would never find in a large box store.
Reason 3: Unique and Exotic Produce Varieties
Another reason to visit a specialty produce market is for the unique and exotic produce varieties that you won’t find at your typical grocery store. These markets often carry items that are hard to find elsewhere, such as specialty mushrooms, unusual fruits, and heirloom vegetables. Pie cherries? Methley plums? Green zebra tomatoes? Romanesco cauliflower? Beautiful, flavorful, and only found “in season” at a specialty market, these finds grace the shelves for a brief time.
This is a great way to expand your culinary horizons and try new things. You might discover a new favorite fruit or vegetable that you never knew existed. When you shop regularly at a farm market, you will see when something new shows up. Methley plums, also known as the sugar plum, are a plum that has been grown for its spectacular flavor for nearly 200 years…and no, it is not shipped anywhere. You need to find the find that grows it. And because the produce is often fresher and of higher quality than what you’d find elsewhere, you’re getting the best possible experience that cannot be replicated.
Overall, the unique and exotic produce varieties are a great reason to visit a specialty produce market. You’ll find things that you won’t find anywhere else, and you’ll be able to expand your culinary repertoire. In addition, you find the amazing flavor that is inherent in unprocessed foods. You will eat better, not just for flavor, but also for your health when you access the fresh ingredients at a specialty farm market.
Reason 4: Personalized Customer Service and Expertise
One of the great things about specialty produce markets is the personalized customer service and expertise that you’ll receive. The staff at these markets are often passionate about food and knowledgeable about the products they sell. They can help you choose the best produce for your needs, offer cooking tips and recipe ideas, and answer any questions you might have. In addition, you and the staff will get to know each other. You will expand your own village of support for your food adventures and healthy explorations. The staff will come to know you and that you will be interested in the new season of gooseberries or patty pan squash or purple beans. It’s as if you are gaining your own personal shoppers.
This is a stark contrast to your typical grocery store experience, where you’re often left to navigate the aisles on your own. At a specialty produce market, you can get personalized attention and expert guidance. This can be especially helpful if you’re not familiar with a particular product or if you’re looking for cooking inspiration. Can you swap mizuna for mustard greens? What can you pair black currants with? What are these varieties of heirloom tomatoes? The staff generally love talking about how they cook with these ingredients, also.
Overall, the personalized customer service and expertise are a great reason to visit a specialty produce market. You’ll get the attention and guidance you need to make the most of your shopping experience.
Reason 5: Health Benefits of Eating Fresh, Seasonal Produce
Last, but not least, visiting a specialty produce market is a great way to reap the health benefits of eating fresh, seasonal produce. Locally sourced produce is often harvested at the peak of freshness, which means that it’s packed with nutrients and flavor. And because the produce is often in season, meaning it is being harvested locally right now and not stored and shipped, it’s more affordable than what you’d find elsewhere.
Eating a diet that’s rich in fresh fruits and vegetables has been linked to a number of health benefits, including a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer. As we gain more knowledge about how to eat for health and longevity, we know that eating a variety of foods by color is important. What are red foods? Raspberries, radishes, apples, red currants, cherries. What are orange foods? Sweet potatoes, carrots, mandarin oranges, orange peppers. By shopping at a specialty produce market, you’re making it easier to incorporate these healthy foods into your diet because you will be able to find them. It’s much easier to add purple cauliflower into your diet, and add a blue/purple food, when you see it. And yes, we have “Graffiti” cauliflower every fall at our farm market.
Overall, the health benefits of eating fresh, seasonal produce are a great reason to visit a specialty produce market. You’ll be able to enjoy delicious, nutritious food that’s good for your body and your taste buds.
How to Find a Specialty Produce Market Near You
Now that you know why you should visit a specialty produce market, you might be wondering how to find one in your area. It really is not hard, but you need to look around. Here are a few tips:
– Ask friends and family for recommendations. That person who loves to cook? That’s the person who knows where to find some good produce. Don’t be surprised to find that they shop at two or three different places.
– Search online for specialty produce markets in your area. Google can come up with a lot of suggestions, but remember that it will depend on exactly what you ask for.
– Check out your local farmers’ market – many of them also sell specialty produce. Most cities sponsor a market that brings together several different farms once a week during the main growing season.
– Look for local co-ops or food buying clubs that specialize in fresh, locally sourced produce. Not all co-ops feature local produce, so check to see what the focus is.
-Visit your local farm to see what they are growing. Many local farmers grow hard to find greens, herbs, and unusual vegetables which never get to a wholesale distribution center. Pawpaws, figs, and persimmons, for instance, are often found only at the grower’s own market. www.LocalHarvest.org is a great resource for finding a farm in your area.
Tips for Shopping at a Specialty Produce Market
If you’re new to shopping at specialty produce markets, here are a few tips to help you make the most of your experience:
– Bring your own reusable bags or baskets.
– Ask the staff for recommendations or cooking tips. If you are looking for a specific ingredient, such as Mirin, ask if they can stock it. Usually the market has access to a distributor who can provide unusual ingredients.
– Don’t be afraid to try something new. If you have never tried “Tokyo Bekana,” today might be the day to experiment.
– Shop early in the day for the best selection if you are going to a farmers market. The farmers bring a finite amount of produce and hope to take home empty baskets at the end of the market.
– Check the market’s website or social media accounts for updates on what’s in stock.
-Ask your farmer or market specialist when specific products are available. Remember, everything has a season, and the season may be short. If the farm has a newsletter that lets you know what is happening on the farm, sign up to keep up with the news. Some crops have a very short season, sometimes only 10 days long, so you don’t want to miss out.
Recipes Using Specialty Produce
Specialty produce can incorporate recipes from around the world, even if the produce was grown at your local farm. If you’re looking for inspiration on how to use your specialty produce finds, here are a few recipe ideas:
– Grilled Peach and Burrata Salad
– Roasted Beet and Carrot Salad with Feta and Pistachios
– Heirloom Tomato, Olives, and Basil Bruschetta
– Kohlrabi and Apple Slaw
– Grilled Eggplant with Miso Glaze
Conclusion: Why You Should Visit a Specialty Produce Market
Farmers grow a much wider variety of produce than ever before, including kohlrabi, heirloom tomatoes, multi-colored carrots and beets. In addition, they often carry the special ingredients such as miso, fresh herbs, or olive oil. See if your local farm is growing any of the items you want and find out when the harvest window is. If you can shop at a local farm market, you help support the community, champion a small business, and obtain the freshest produce at the same time.
In conclusion, there are plenty of reasons why you should visit a specialty produce market. From the wide selection of fresh, locally sourced produce to the unique and exotic varieties, there’s something for everyone. You’ll also be supporting small businesses and local farmers, getting personalized customer service and expertise, and reaping the health benefits of eating fresh, seasonal produce.
So the next time you’re looking for a unique and delicious shopping experience, be sure to check out your local specialty produce market. You won’t be disappointed!
If you are in the Wilmington, Delaware area, we invite you to visit our family farm and farm market. If not, please find a farmers market or local farm near you and support the people who grow your food. There is a special connection when you get to know where your food is coming from, how it is grown, and who is doing the work to get it to your table.
About Ruth: I am the 6th generation of my family to farm here at Highland Orchards in Delaware. I grew up here, learning from my grandparents and parents how to plant, weed, harvest, and store fruits, vegetables, and flowers. My graduate degree is in history, so I love to research anything and everything. I have taught at all levels, including university and continuing education. I have done everything on the farm from planting to harvest to selling to social media. I love that I can share knowledge with people through books, blogs, and courses. For more information about our farm, please go to www.highlandorchardsfarmmarket.com.