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Farmers Market vs Supermarket: What to Buy Where

There are many good reasons [S1] to shop at your local farmers market. But don’t say goodbye to the produce section at your favorite grocery store just yet. Sometimes it makes sense to get certain fruits and veggies there. Here’s the scoop on what to buy where:

Best for Seasonality

The farmers market definitely wins here, as all the produce you find there will be in-season. Buying fruits and veggies that were grown during the season they’re best adapted for means fresher, more flavorful food.Conversely, if you or someone in your family simply must have a certain fruit or veggie around at all times, your grocery store is probably the best bet. My daughter, for example, adores apples. And since it’s so hard to get a fruit or veggie past her three-year-old lips, you’d better bet I’m not just buying apples when they’re in season in the fall.

Best for an Exotic Ride

Unless you’re lucky enough to live in Hawaii, you’re only going to be able to buy tropical fruits like mangos, pineapples, papayas, and bananas at the grocery store. The supermarket is also a great place to experiment with imported fruits you may have never tried before like star fruit, cherimoya, lychee, and dragon fruit.

Best for Value

This one’s a draw. Quite often fruits and vegetables are cheaper at a farmer’s market because they don’t have to travel as far, but sometime economies of scale means the same food may be more affordable at the supermarket. This varies quite a bit by location. Farmers markets in urban areas are often more expensive than their suburban or rural counterparts. It makes sense to comparison shop and see what’s true where you live, and then adjust your buying habits.

Best for Ripeness

The farmers market typically wins here, as most fruits and vegetables offered on farm tables were harvested at the peak of their maturity, while those sold in grocery stores had to be picked before they were ripe to withstand long distance travel. Tomatoes are the perfect example. A red, juicy vine-ripened tomato bought at the height of summer bears almost no resemblance to its pale, mealy supermarket cousin. Peaches and berries, especially strawberries, are also nearly always superior when purchased straight from the farmer.

Best for Experimentation

A farmers market is a great place to experiment if you’re in a rut and want to find a new favorite fruit or vegetable. In the spring, you can find ramps (spring onions) or garlic scapes (the edible top of the garlic plant) at farmers markets. And in the early fall on the East coast, you can buy pawpaws, a fruit that’s so perishable that it’s almost never found in supermarkets. You’ll also have more luck finding purple carrots, which are higher in antioxidants than the standard orange variety, at a farmers market than the grocery store.

Best for Shelf Life

If you’re buying highly perishable items, such as raspberries or spring mix lettuce, the farmers market is your best bet because they’ll be fresher and therefore last longer in your fridge. But if you’re buying fruits and vegetables that have a longer shelf life, such as apples, winter squash, kale, and carrots, then your grocery store is perfectly suitable.

Are there fruits and vegetables you always buy at farmers markets? Which ones do you get at the supermarket instead? Share in the comments below!







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