Choose the Best Farmer's Market Produce

In order to ensure the best picks, arrive to the farmer’s market early and talk with the farmers about their produce. Also make sure you know which fruits and vegetables are in season in your area. When you are choosing the produce, it is important to use all of your senses. Feel the produce for firmness, smell it for freshness, and inspect the surface for a smooth, even and vibrant color.


Ensuring the Best Picks

  1. Arrive early. Try to arrive to the farmer’s market as soon as it opens. This will guarantee you the freshest picks. There will also be a lot more variety for you to choose from.[1]
  2. Talk to the farmers about their produce. Ask them when the produce was picked. If they have a variety of one particular fruit or vegetable, like tomatoes, then ask about the difference between the different varieties. They may even give you a sample to taste.[1]
    • You can also ask them how and where the food was grown.
  3. Know which fruits and vegetables are in season. When you go to the farmer’s market, only buy the fruits and vegetables that are in season. This way you can ensure that your produce stays fresh once you buy it and take it home.[1]
    • You can also avoid the feeling of disappointment from not finding your favorite fruit or vegetable if you know which ones are in season in your area.

Using Your Senses

  1. Select brightly colored produce. The majority of fresh produce is vibrantly colored. Therefore, look for bright, shiny fruits and vegetables for the best picks. Additionally, the coloration of fruits and vegetable should be smooth and even (versus splotchy).[2]
  2. Look for bruising. Try to avoid produce that contains bruises and soft spots. Bruises, soft spots, and spotting are signs that the produce is damaged or overripe.[3]
  3. Feel for firmness. Fresh produce should be neither too hard nor too soft. Gently squeeze the produce. The produce should feel firm with a slight give. Also, try to feel for dents or pits under the surface. If you feel these, it may be an indication that the produce is overripe or damaged.[3]
    • Citrus fruits that are hard on the outside indicate a dry (as opposed to juicy) fruit.
    • In general, you want to look for potatoes, cucumbers, onions and peppers that are as firm as possible.
  4. Smell for freshness. For fruits, what you are looking for is a sweet, light smell. If the aroma is strong, sour, or pungent, then the fruits are most likely overripe or spoiled. Make sure to smell vegetables for freshness as well. Try to avoid any vegetables that have a moldy, sour, or rotten smell.[4]
    • If a fruit or vegetable does not smell like it is supposed to, then choose a different one.

Picking Fruits

  1. Sniff and inspect melons. For cantaloupe and honeydew, sniff the stem end for a light, sweet aroma. In terms of color, cantaloupe should have a golden color and honeydew should be light yellow. For watermelons, look for a yellow spot for ripeness.[3]
    • The yellow spots on watermelons indicate that they were resting on the ground before they were picked.
  2. Check the bottom of the container for berries. For raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries, the bottom of the container should not be stained or moist with berry juice. Also inspect the berries for any fuzzy mold. Instead, look for berries that are plump and full.[1]
    • For strawberries, select the ones that are entirely red all the way to the top, i.e., the cap.
  3. Buy peaches with varying levels of firmness. Do this for nectarines and apricots as well, unless you are planning to eat them that day. This way, you can enjoy perfectly ripe peaches throughout the week.[2]
    • For example, pick peaches that are slightly firm, moderately firm, and very firm to hard.
  4. Buy firm tomatoes. Because tomatoes continue to ripen after they have been picked, do not be afraid to buy tomatoes that are slightly green near the top. In general, however, look for tomatoes that have a vibrant, red color. They should also be firm to the touch.[3]
    • Try to avoid tomatoes that have bruising and soft spots. This is an indication that they are too ripe.

Picking Vegetables

  1. Avoid wilting leafy greens. When buying leafy greens, the majority of the leaves should be smooth, plump, and unbroken. They should also have a vibrant green color. Leafy greens, as well as herbs, that are wilting are a sign that they are not fresh.[4]
  2. Choose small okra. Okra that are larger than five inches are typically tough and do not taste as good as smaller okra. Therefore, buy smaller sized okra.[2]
  3. Try to avoid shucking corn. Instead, look for corn with bright green husks. The husks should also be tightly wrapped and slightly moist. Also feel the corn through the husks to make sure there are no missing kernels or dents—this means it is overripe. Also inspect the husks for brown wormholes.[3]
    • The corn’s tassels should be brown and slightly sticky.
    • Corn is the freshest once it is picked. Therefore, buy it in the morning and refrigerate it as soon as possible to prevent the sugars from converting into starches.[2]
  4. Look at the base of root vegetables. Try to avoid root vegetables that have cracks near the base. Cracks indicate that the vegetables are dried out, and thus, not very fresh.[4]
    • Additionally, root vegetables, like potatoes, onions and garlic, should feel very firm (almost hard) to the touch.
  5. Choose firm squash. You want to do this since squash ripens quickly. Also, try to avoid squash that has bruising, cuts and/or blemishes. These signs indicate that it is not fresh.[3]
    • Smaller squash are typically sweeter.


  • Pick eggplants that are smooth and firm, and ones that have green stems (as opposed to brown).

Sources and Citations

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