Autumn is the harvest season. Farmers’ markets are filled with an abundance of produce that first sprang to light beneath the summer sun, reaching ripe perfection as the days draw in.
When Chuck Williams was a boy growing up in northern Florida, his family did not buy vegetables and fruits in supermarkets. Their produce came from small shops or horse-drawn wagons that brought the harvest of local farms to them.
Today, with the proliferation of farmers’ markets, we are once again shopping close to the source. Communities everywhere have markets filled with locally grown bounty. Their presence reflects a growing interest in good food and cooking and an awareness of the benefits in taste and nutrition that come from enjoying the freshest fruits and vegetables from local farms.
Here are a few tips for shopping at farmers’ markets: First, be flexible. You might not find what you were planning to buy but see instead an unexpected ingredient that captures your imagination. Do not pass it up. Although it is tempting to fill your basket, buy only what you need. Finally, talk with the growers. Let them guide you to the best of the season. A visit to the farmers’ market can be a deliciously enlightening experience. To celebrate these markets, we offer a bumper crop of inspired recipes.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Lifestyles Series, Cooking from the Farmers' Market, by Georgeanne Brennan (Time-Life Books, 1999) .