Posted on April 18, 2016

Nourishing your home life

A key event in many communities each summer is the return of the farmers’ markets. Popular with foodies, they’re also a great place to mix, mingle and meet neighbours.

The growth of the markets since the late 1990s has dovetailed nicely with a rising tide of interest in buying local and being greener. Some of the vendors travel hundreds of kilometres to offer fruit, vegetables and preserves, giving urbanites a chance to connect with and support family farms throughout southern B.C.

It’s easy to bring home more than you expect, simply because it’s there, and it’s never looked so good.

Small wonder that a province-wide study of market visitors in 2013 found that 45% of consumer didn’t expect to spend more than $20, but exit interviews found that the average spend was closer to $29.

Where to buy
Come May, vendors will trade their stalls at the weekly winter markets for venues across Metro Vancouver. These include not only the flagship markets at Trout Lake and the Kitsilano Community Centre, but also markets in Richmond, Burnaby, Coquitlam and beyond.

The venues are often near transit. This is especially true of mid-week markets in Vancouver, such as the Wednesday afternoon market near the Main Street-Science World SkyTrain station or the one held on Thursday afternoons outside the Yaletown-Round-House Canada Line station.

Parks and other gathering points are also popular. Burnaby’s weekly market takes place on Saturdays just off Canada Way near Deer Lake Park. Coquitlam’s occurs each Sunday at the Poirier Sport & Leisure Complex. Richmond’s farmers market takes place each week in Steveston and offers six hours of shopping a couple of blocks from Fisherman’s Wharf – a market for farmers of the waters.

What to buy
Buying at a farmers’ market is an easy way to develop the habit of eating seasonally – and in Metro Vancouver, we’re fortunate to have a rich abundance of produce. The market season typically starts with spring greens, fresh herbs and preserves. June brings the first of the summer’s berries, new potatoes and fragrant garlic scapes.

The breadth of produce increases with the longer days of summer: strawberries give way to raspberries, blueberries and cherries, both sweet and tart. Onions of many kinds and beets, fingerling potatoes and heirloom tomatoes all make their appearance. And don’t forget the string beans!

The first days of August might find fresh grapes and summer apples such as Sunrise and Transparent; the sun-warmed golden globes of plums attract children as well as wasps, so be careful!

Assistance available
Of course, not everyone can afford to spend $2.50 a pound for produce that the grocer next door sells for half of that. To help those who need assistance, many markets offer vouchers or nutrition coupons.

Also, if you haven’t the foggiest notion of what to do with a sunchoke or lemon cucumber, many vendors are more than happy to help, giving you the guidance you need to make the most of your latest discovery.

Farmers’ markets give people an opportunity to acquire a taste for new foods, while supporting local farmers.