Get the most out of trips to the farmers market

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HOW DO YOU PREPARE FARE FROM THE MARKET?

"When buying food that's so fresh, the less you do to it the better. Obviously, roasting vegetables this time of year is good. But a lot of things that we eat cooked can also be eaten raw. Grate turnips or slice them thin; same with beets. Brussels sprouts are good raw when young," said Tricia Cornell, author of the new "Minnesota Farmers Market Cookbook. "Or if you're used to eating lettuce fresh, try it in lettuce soup, a fresh springy dish."

Local markets

Battle Ground Village Outdoor Market: Farmers, artisans and entertainers gather every Saturday to showcase their produce, arts and crafts for the community. Each Saturday features a signature event or theme. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays through Sept. 27. Southeast Grace Avenue and Rasmussen Boulevard, Battle Ground. 360-397-0334. www.bgvillage.com.

Camas Farmer’s Market: Locally grown produce, flowers, meat, eggs, cheese and prepared foods in downtown Camas. The farmers market also features live music and information on gardening from the WSU Extension Service master gardeners. 3 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays, June 4 through Oct. 1. Northeast Fourth Avenue between Northeast Everett and Franklin streets, Camas. 360-838-1032. www.camasfarmersmarket.org.

Ridgefield Farmers Market: The community market will offer fresh produce and homemade products, including jams, butters, raw honey, meats, flowers, cheese and nuts from 15 local vendors. 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays, through October. Overlook Park, corner of Pioneer Street and Main Avenue, Ridgefield. www.ridgefieldmarket.com.

Vancouver Farmers Market: Returning for its 25th season, the Vancouver Farmers Market offers locally grown produce, baked goods, flowers, food and crafts for purchase with more than 250 regional vendors participating throughout the season. The market also hosts wine, beer and cider tastings from approved vendors. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 26. Sixth and Esther streets, downtown Vancouver. 360-737-8298. www.vancouverfarmersmarket.com.

Portland Farmers Market: The community market fills the Portland State University campus with hundreds of vendors selling produce, baked goods, meats, cheese and seafood. Other attractions include entertainment, chef demonstrations and information about sustainability. 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays through October; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays November through Dec. 20.
Southwest Park Avenue, between Hall and Montgomery streets, Portland. 503-241-0032. www.portlandfarmersmarket.org.

Get out the shopping bags and your walking shoes. Time to head to the farmers market.

For winter-weary cooks, the reopening of seasonal markets is as welcome as any sunny forecast.

For those who need a prompt to explore a venue of friendly vendors and fresh food, consider what three market experts advise: Susan Berkson, the voice of the Minneapolis Farmers Market (quite literally, she broadcasts weekly Fresh & Local podcasts from the market; find them at www.mplsfarmersmarket.com or on iTunes); Tricia Cornell, author of the new “Minnesota Farmers Market Cookbook” (Voyageur Press, $24.99), and Beth Dooley, author of “Minnesota’s Bounty: The Farmers Market Cookbook” (University of Minnesota Press, $29.95).

• For best selection, go early. Some farmers pick produce at night. The closer you buy your food to picking time, the fresher it will be. Not so incidentally, there are fewer shoppers and easier parking.

• Bring small bills. Some vendors accept credit cards; many do not.

• Don’t haggle over prices. “Growers are thoughtful about how to price their food, and they’re unlikely to want to reduce prices,” Berkson said. At the end of the day, farmers may lower prices on what remains.

• Shop weekday markets if you don’t like crowds.

• Slow down and enjoy the experience. The market is a destination as much as a grocery venue.

• Talk to people. Visit with farmers, vendors and other shoppers. “There are lots of conversations that might not take place at a supermarket,” Berkson said.

• Expand your world. Go to a market outside your neighborhood. Explore many other markets.

• Switch up what you buy. Reach for that unfamiliar pepper or herb. Or simply expand your weekly mealtime repertoire with produce you skip over at the supermarket.

• Tell growers what you’d like to see (and buy). “Our growers talk to consumers to see what they would like,” Berkson said.

• Find out about your food — where it’s grown, when it’s picked, how it’s grown. Ask questions.

• Find heirloom varieties of produce. “Many are available only at the market because they’re grown in limited quantity and/or because they’re very perishable and couldn’t withstand the shipping and storage,” Dooley said.

• Plan your menu based on the market. “This time of year, you have to go and be ready to be inspired by what’s there,” Cornell said.

• Don’t overbuy, tempting as it is. “I shop the market with a list just like at a grocery store,” Cornell said.