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What to Buy at the Farmers Market: A Seasonal Guide

Display of various colorful vegetables at outside farmers market
What can you buy at the farmers market? Only the freshest, most flavorful produce! But of course it all depends on what’s in season. Betty’s guide walks you through the fruits and veggies to look for at the farmers market in every season so you can plan your menus with ease.

When it comes to finding the freshest fruits and veggies, your local farmers market is a fantastic place to start.  Unlike grocery stores, where produce might have traveled a long distance before sitting on the shelves for a period of time, farmers markets are stocked with produce harvested directly from local farms at the peak ripeness, which means it’s not only fresh but extra flavorful. Many farmers markets also offer organic and pesticide-free options, which can help you meet your health goals. Sure, farmers markets prices might be higher than what you see in your grocer’s aisles, but the value lies in the quality and freshness of the produce you receive as well as the benefit of supporting your local farmers. While you may not want to stock up on all your produce needs in one trip, it’s a great way to pick up ingredients for a seasonal recipe or occasion you have in mind.

Wondering what to buy at the farmers market in winter, spring, summer, and fall? Betty’s got you covered! While what’s available will vary by region, we’ve gathered the top three most common produce items to look for plus some of our favorite Betty recipes to use with your fruits and veggies. It’s everything you need to know before you grab your reusable bag and head out to peruse the fresh product stands! Do you have a few tips and tricks of your own? We’d love to hear from you! Share them in the comments at the bottom of this page. Happy shopping!

What to Buy at the Farmers Market: Winter

During the winter months, you’ll find produce items that are well-suited to thrive in colder conditions, can be harvested late in the fall and stored for several months while maintaining quality. Here are three of the best produce items to find at the farmers market in the winter.

1. Root Vegetables

pile of colorful freshly picked root vegetables

Root vegetables are plants that grow underground and absorb nutrients from the soil. Often low in calories, fat and cholesterol and high in fiber and antioxidants, they are also a great choice for those new years resolution goals! Varying from earthy to sweet flavor profiles, root veggies lend themselves to countless cool-weather dishes. If you’d like a few helpful cooking tips, refer to our How to Cook with Turnips, Beets, Parsnips and More article.

  • Look for: A firm and feel heavy feel for size; avoid soft spots, holes, rough or discolored skin, and cracks on the base
  • Common varieties: Carrots, beets, turnips, parsnips, radishes, rutabagas, celery root, and kohlrabi
  • Common uses: As a snack, roasted, pickled and mashed or in soups, stews, and salads
  • Betty recipe: Roasted Root Vegetable Salad

2. Leafy Greens

Variety of green lettuces

Surprisingly, many leafy greens can withstand cold temperatures and some even become sweeter after a frost, making them one of nature’s most hardy vegetables. Winter leafy greens are often a good source of nutrients like calcium, magnesium, folate and vitamins A, K, and C.

  • Look for: Thick stems, crisp, moist, and richly-colored leaves without wilting, brown edges, or spots
  • Common varieties: Kale, swiss chard, spinach, collard greens, and mustard greens
  • Common uses: Sautéed and in soups, stews, salads, and smoothies
  • Betty recipe: Pear and Greens Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

3. Winter Squash

Various winter squashes, green, yellow and orange colors, stacked in a pile

Winter squashes come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors but all are equally as flavorful, rich in vitamins, and a great addition to many of your favorite comfort food recipes. The flavor profile ranges from sweet and nutty (butternut squash) to mild and versatile (acorn and spaghetti squash).

  • Look for: Even coloring and a firm and heavy feel for its size; avoid soft spots, blemishes, and dull skin
  • Common varieties: Butternut, acorn, spaghetti, and delicata
  • Common uses: Roasted, baked and in soups, purees, pastas, and casseroles
  • Betty recipe: Parmesan-Butternut Squash Gratin

What to Buy at the Farmers Market: Spring

Once the cold winter months are through, we’re all craving those bright, crisp, mouth-watering fruits and veggies and are getting ready to move past heavier comfort dishes. As you prepare for your fresh salads and desserts, here’s three of the best items to fill your spring basket with.

1. Asparagus

Bright green asparagus lined in a row

Asparagus is one of the earliest vegetables to appear in spring. It is known for its tender stalks and delicate flavor, which can be enjoyed in a variety of dishes.

  • Look for: Firm, straight and brightly colored spears with tightly closed tips
  • Common varieties: Green, white, and purple
  • Common uses: Grilled, roasted, steamed, sautéed, and in salads and pasta dishes 
  • Betty recipe: Asparagus and Prosciutto Rustic Tart

2. Strawberries

Bright red whole strawberries

Spring marks the beginning of strawberry season in many regions. Fresh, local strawberries are often smaller in size than those that you typically find in a grocery store but deliver a big, lush flavor. Serve them up in a bowl or incorporate them into your favorite sweet recipes.

  • Look for: Bright red, firm, and plump berries with a sweet fragrance
  • Common varieties: Vary by region, each with a unique flavor profile
  • Common uses: As a snack, in desserts, smoothies, and salads or on top of yogurt and cereal
  • Betty recipe: Best Strawberry Shortcake

3. Peas

Bright green pea pods and loose peas

Sugar snap peas, snow peas, and garden peas, are a delightful spring vegetable that adds a sweet, fresh flavor to many recipes—or munch on them as a delicious and fresh snack. 

  • Look for: Bright green and firm pods
  • Common varieties: Snap (edible pods), snow (flat, edible pods), and garden (shelled peas)
  • Common Uses: As a snack, steamed, sautéed, and in salads, stir-fries, and pasta dishes
  • Betty recipe: Peas and Corn with Thyme Butter

What to Buy at the Farmers Market: Summer

In the summer months, farmers markets are abundant with a variety of fresh and flavorful produce—and the weather is ideal for getting out in the sun and seeing everything that your local market has to offer! Here are three of the top items to look for:

1. Tomatoes

Beefsteak, heirloom, roma, green and grape tomatoes

Tomatoes are a quintessential summer produce item, known for their rich flavor and juiciness when in season. They are delicious sliced and eaten raw with a sprinkle of salt and pepper and super easy to incorporate into a wide variety of recipes.

  • Look for: Aromatic, heavy, and firm tomatoes that are soft when lightly pressed
  • Common varieties: Heirloom, cherry, and beefsteak
  • Common uses: As a snack and in salads, salsas, sandwiches, pastas, and a variety of other dishes
  • Betty recipe: Tomato Basil Veggie Pizza

2. Berries

Mixed red, blue and black berries

Summer is the peak season for berries. Each has its own flavor profile and they are all sweet, juicy, and perfect for eating fresh, using in your favorite baking recipes, or preserving for winter months. 

  • Look for: Berries that are bright and uniform in color vs. dark and dull
  • Common varieties: Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries
  • Common uses: As a snack, in baked goods, desserts, and jams or on top of yogurt and cereal
  • Betty recipe: Classic Mixed Berry Dump Cake

3. Sweet Corn

Ears of corn on a wooden table, some with green husks still on

Sweet corn is another summer favorite, known for its tender kernels and sweet flavor—is there anything better than enjoying corn on the cob on a warm summer’s day?

  • Look for: Heavy, firm cobs, bright green husks, tan or golden silks (some browning at top is okay), and plump, firm kernels with no missing rows
  • Common varieties: Sweet corn 
  • Common uses: Grilled, boiled, and in salads, appetizers, and a variety of other dishes 
  • Betty recipe: Slow-Cooker Enchilada Pork Tacos with Sweet-Corn Slaw

Summer Bonus Items

Summer is peak season for farmers markets, so keep an eye out for these additional produce items while you’re out and about:

  • Peaches and Stone Fruits: The sweet and tangy flavor of peaches, nectarines, plums, and apricots are excellent in summer and perfect for fresh eating, baking, or grilling. Give this Betty recipe a try: Classic Bisquick™ Peach Cobbler.
  • Cucumbers and Summer Squash: These vegetables are plentiful in summer and ideal for salads, pickling as well as a variety of light summer dishes, like Betty’s Cucumber Salad and Impossibly Easy Zucchini Pie.

What to Buy at the Farmers Market: Fall

In the fall months, farmers markets are brimming with a cornucopia of seasonal produce. From back to school and Halloween festivities to Thanksgiving meal planning, these top three produce choices are ripe for your favorite fall recipes.

1. Pumpkins and Winter Squash

Orange pumpkins and winter squash with stems

Pumpkins and winter squash come in many varieties that store well, making them ideal for enjoying both in the fall and into the winter. Incorporate them into your sweet and savory nostalgia-inspired comfort foods.

  • Look for: Firm, solid and a bit heavy; avoid soft spots or sunken areas and dull or wrinkled skin
  • Common varieties: Butternut, acorn, spaghetti, kabocha, and various pumpkin varieties
  • Common uses: Roasted and in soups, pies, and a variety of other dishes
  • Betty recipe: Harvest Pumpkin-Spice Bars

2. Apples

Bright red apples

The variety of apples available in the fall is nearly too much to count! Each one offers its own unique flavor and texture to suit any preference or recipe so learn about their differences and how to cook with different types of apples in our Betty article. They are also a great source of dietary fiber and vitamin C—pack them in your kids’ lunches for a tasty health boost!

  • Look for: Firm to the touch and crisp with no blemishes or bruises
  • Common varieties: Honeycrisp, Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, and many heirloom varieties
  • Common uses: As a snack and in baked goods, ciders, sauces, and preserves
  • Betty recipe: Apple Slab Pie

3. Brassicas

Heads of cauliflower and broccoli and cabbage in colors, white, green and purple

Otherwise known as cruciferous vegetables, brassicas are plants in the cabbage and mustard family. Some people find them bitter, but time of year can help—their natural sweetness is usually enhanced after the first frost. Brassicas are also known for their high content of vitamins C as well as K and fiber, making them a health conscious choice for weeknight meals around the family table.

  • Look for: Bight, sturdy, and rigid leaves with no wilting; firm and compact florets and heads without yellow spotting or discoloration
  • Common varieties: Kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage
  • Common uses: Roasted and in salads, stir-fries, and soups
  • Betty recipe: Broccoli-Bacon Salad