Shopping at Middletown's farmers markets is one of the great joys of the summer season — fresh-picked fruits and veggies, grown in season, by Connecticut farmers and gardeners, breads baked fresh that morning and gourmet cheeses galore.
Middletown's North End Farmers Markets run Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Oct. 28 in front of It's Only Natural Market on lower Main Street. There are even two more night markets, Aug. 9 and Sept. 20 from 5-8 p.m. — which also feature live music. Next week the band will be Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem.
The South Green farmers market runs Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Oct. 29 at Union Park on upper Main Street. Vendors are Gotta's Farm of Portland and Rose's Berry Farm from South Glastonbury.
These markets' increased popularity around Connecticut has helped teach many of us a greener way of eating, as well as helped connect us with our communities and the folks growing our food. Here are six tips to make the most out of your trip to the market.
1. Go early — the best stuff goes fast. A farmer may only have a single flat of ripe, juicy blackberries or a couple of pounds of fresh green peas, so arrive early to make sure you get the best selections.
2. Bring your own bags and baskets. Vendors may not have disposable bags to give to customers. By bringing your own bags, you reduce waste at the market and in your own home. Plus there’s just something exceptionally beautiful about a basket brimming with bright green lettuce, dark red cherries, orange carrots and other lovely fruits and vegetables.
3. Bring a cooler. Markets offer more than just fruits and vegetables. You can find fish, cheese, yogurt and ready-to-eat items that require refrigeration. By bringing a cooler you can keep fresh foods that need to be kept cool cold and go back to spend more time at the market - listening to music, checking out the arts and crafts, or grabbing a snack at one of the booths.
4. Bring cash and small bills. Most farmers’ markets do not take credit or ATM cards. Cash and small bills makes it easier for the farmer to make change for the masses of folks who bring nothing but $20 bills from the nearby ATM.
5. Know what is in season. Part of the pleasure of shopping at your local market is developing an appreciation of fresh, local foods at the height of their natural season. You won’t find strawberries in September or asparagus in October! If you’re unsure when apricots will be in season or when the snap peas will stop producing, visit the market’s information booth. Better yet, ask the local farmers.
6. Ask questions. Get to know the hand that feeds you. Ask the farmers questions about how they grow their produce, what pest control methods they use, and how to store and prepare fruits and vegetables that may be unfamiliar to you. But remember, if you are on a fact-finding mission it is best to ask questions when the farmer is not busy with customers.
For a complete list of farmers markets in Connecticut, as well as seasonal growing charts, please visit www.buyctgrown.com.