Farmers markets bloom in Chester County

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Local foods can bring flair — and great tastes — to your table

By Cathy Branciaroli, Columnist, The Times

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Shopper Ella Van Riper, one of the New Garden Growers Market’s loyal customers, enjoys a mushroom toy on the market’s opening day.

As farmers market season kicks off again I am excited to reconnect with the farmers whose produce graces my summer dinners and the artisans whose foods and crafts enliven my table.  With markets now reopening for the season, now is the time to stop by local markets to savor spring produce and other delicious goods, chat with the sellers and get the inside scoop on dishes that can be prepared using market ingredients.

A trip to one of these markets can yield nearly all that’s needed to make a spring dinner – local meat, fresh vegetables, tender herbs and salad fixins.  For good measure, pick up a loaf of just-baked bread to round off the meal.  Once underway, each week’s market promises the opportunity to try new items and new recipes, not to mention experiencing the freshest produce one can buy at the height of seasonal ripeness.

According to Michele Spencer of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA), farmers markets are increasingly popular with consumers who are looking to eat healthier and get their food from sources closer to home.  “Chester County boasts an abundance of farmers markets offering great varieties of goods including everything from fruits, vegetables and meats to specialty products like jams and baked goods.  They offer great venues for connecting with the community while keeping food dollars in the local economy and supporting local growers,” she said.

Here are Michele’s tips for enjoying the best farmers market experience.

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Sellers and customers alike enjoy the New Garden Growers Market.

Markets tend to be less crowded when they first open and sell out of the more popular items as the day progresses.  Don’t take the chance that sellers might be out of products you are looking for.

Ask questions

Don’t be shy.  Strike up a conversation.  Farmers are knowledgeable about their produce and can offer great advice on how to prepare an item, suggestions on pairing with other ingredients and even recipes.

Experiment

Each month, even each week, new items are offered based on what is in season. Discover new foods and check out interesting varieties to make the most of delicate greens in the spring, juicy peaches in the summer and squashes as the season turns to fall.

Bring your own recycled bags and cash

Be a friend to the environment and the sellers by bringing your own bags or baskets.  While most vendors can process credit cards, cash is always welcome and speeds your visit through the various stalls.

A trio of tantalizing markets in southern Chester County include the New Garden Growers Market, celebrating its tenth year in 2014. On opening day in mid-May organizer Carin Bonifacino celebrated the market’s milestone, noting, “We are so appreciative of our incredibly loyal core customers who come here week after week to do their shopping.”  Open Saturday mornings, the market offers fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy, eggs, honey, cut flowers and artisan crafts.

The centrally-located Kennett Square Farmers Market is open on Friday afternoons.  While Kennett Square is best known for its mushrooms, the market offers selections from over 20 vendors including produce, grass-fed meats, artisan cheeses, hearty breads and many delicacies

Perhaps the grand-daddy of Chester County markets is the West Chester Growers Market, open on Saturday mornings for more than 20 years and offering produce, herbs, colorful cut flowers, gourmet cheeses, homemade preserves and even chili pepper products.

Farmers markets are open during the growing season, starting in May and typically running through late fall although some remain open during the winter months on a less frequent basis.  Each market sets its own opening days and times.

Considering the great abundance of healthful local produce, delicious homemade goods and the opportunity to connect with the people who grow your food, what better choice than to shop farmers markets this summer.

Here is a listing of local farmers markets courtesy of the Chester County Agricultural Development Council:

 

Anselma Farmers and Artisans Market

Historic Mill, Route 401

Chester Springs, PA

Wednesdays 2PM – 6PM

 

Artisan Exchange West Chester

208 Carter Dr.

West Chester, PA

Saturdays 10M – 2PM

 

Coatesville Farmers Market Association

Outside the main entrance to Brandywine Hospital

Starting June 4, Wednesdays 2PM – 6PM

 

Downington Farmers Market

Kerr Park

Thursdays 3PM – 7PM

 

East Goshen Farmers Market

East Goshen Park

West Chester, PA

Thursdays 3PM – 7PM

 

Kennett Square Farmers Market

Downtown Kennett Square

Fridays 2PM – 6PM

 

London Britain Township Market

Nichol Park

Landenberg, PA

Fridays 2PM – 6PM

 

Malvern Farmers Market

Burke Park

Saturdays 9AM – 1PM

 

New Garden Growers Market

Near New Garden Township Park

Saturdays 9AM – 1PM

 

Oxford Village Market

3rd & Locust St.

Tuesdays 12:30PM – 6PM

 

Phoenixville Farmers Market

Under the Veterans Memorial

Saturdays 9AM – 1PM

 

The Farmers Market at Elverson

Livingood Park at Rt. 23

Saturdays 9AM – 1PM

 

West Chester Growers Market

Church Street Parking Lot

Saturdays 9AM – 1PM

 

West Grove Farmers Market

Harmony Park

Thursdays 2PM – 6PM

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Tags: chester county, farmers' markets, fresh foods

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