Farmers Market Tips for the Ultimate Summer Salad

July 24, 2017

Between farm-fresh finds, all things organic, and a chance to mingle with local community, it doesn’t get much better than summer visits to the local farmers market. Still, with edible options for days available via a sea of vendors, navigating through crowds for the perfect produce — and knowing what to do with it post-purchase — can take some practice.

Take it from seasoned pro and Valleybrink Road chef, Barrett Prendergast, who’s been visiting farmers markets since childhood — and now shops weekly at those in South Pasadena and Hollywood. “Sometimes the markets can be overwhelming because there are so many vendors,” she says. “‘Who has the best lettuce?’ ‘Where are the best eggs?’ But once you start going more, you will find your go-to vendors.”

To help ensure your summer market days are as peaceful as they are productive, try these shopping tips and tricks that will land you with the ultimate July-appropriate recipes — including this summer salad from Prendergast.

Farmers Market Tips for the Ultimate Summer Salad | Photography by Morgan Pansing
Farmers Market Tips for the Ultimate Summer Salad | Photography by Morgan Pansing

1. Befriend your farmers
The best part of becoming a farmers market regular? The chance to know your farmers — and, therefore, exactly where your products are coming from. Consider them your guides for everything seasonal, from the differences between heirloom and hybrid, to what variety of tomatoes we’ll see cropping up next. Go ahead — ask away.

2. Rely on the loop
When options abound, it can be easy to gravitate to the very first one we see. Resist the temptation by doing a full circuit of the stalls (coffee in tow), making note of the ones you want to revisit for a purchase. Giving us a 360-degree overview and several samples (and even a touch of cardio!), this method is a surefire way to land the best of the best.

3. Shop first, ideate second
We all know the feeling: We create a lengthy mental list for the grocery store, only to have it vanish from our minds the moment we step foot in the door. Because that lesson is only heightened in these alfresco aisles, where the vegetables and fruit are as good as it gets, try the reverse shopping list: Find the best-looking farmer’s market goods first, then determine recipes that will enhance what you already have in hand — or tweak recipes slightly (like the one below) according to your favorite finds. Bon appetit!

Farmers Market Tips for the Ultimate Summer Salad | Photography by Morgan Pansing
Farmers Market Tips for the Ultimate Summer Salad | Photography by Morgan Pansing

Summer Salad with Arugula, Nectarines, Corn, Tomato and Apple Cider Vinaigrette
Courtesy of Barrett Prendergast
Serves 2

What you’ll need:
For the salad
1/4 pound bag wild arugula
2 small nectarines, sliced thinly
1 corn sheaf, kernels sliced off
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 cup chickpeas, rinsed
2 teaspoons chives, minced
3 tablespoons toasted almonds, roughly chopped

For the dressing
1 tablespoon grain mustard
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup or raw honey
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

How it’s made:
1. To make the vinaigrette, whisk together all ingredients in a bowl until the dressing has emulsified.
2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. To assemble the salad, place 1/4 of the arugula, nectarines, corn, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, chives, and almonds in a bowl.
4. Repeat until all ingredients are layered on top of each other.
5. Drizzle with dressing to taste and toss to combine.

Set your farmers market table with our Dinnerware Collection!
Photography by Morgan Pansing.