Sunday, June 26, 2011

Farmer's Market Etiquette

Skinned & Chopped Tomatoes

Photo courtesy of Stuart Spates

I was shocked yesterday at Barton Creek Farmer's Market when a woman chided me for smelling a tomato.

"I sure wouldn't want that tomato," she said in passing.

"Why? Don't you like tomatoes?"

"After you smelled it!"

Well ex-cuuu-use me, to borrow an old line from Steve Martin.

I put down the tomato and walked off wondering if I inadvertently violated some unwritten rules of shopping at Farmer's Market. Is it really gauche to smell tomatoes and other fruit?

In a few minutes, the farmer selling them found me and offered me a bag of plum tomatoes.

"I thought what the woman said to you was rude. I want you to have these."

How nice!

Still the incident set me to thinking. I'm not the etiquette police, but I try to be a civil, courteous person. What is the etiquette for shopping farmer's markets? Here are a few things I can think of.

1. Honestly, I think sniffing fruit and vegetables from the stem is okay. A strawberry, tomato or melon without fragrance isn't ripe and won't taste very good.

2. It's okay to pick up something, but don't squeeze, poke or prod vegetables or fruit to judge their ripeness. This creates a bruise which makes the item less market-able.

3. If you want to taste something before you buy, ask for a sample.  Sometimes local laws prohibit sampling, so don't be put off if you can't. (Likewise to farmers, sampling is the absolute best way to sell your wares.)

4. Vendors love to talk about their processes and goods, so feel free to ask questions. If the booth is crowded, stow the chit-chat for another time.

5. Have your money and shopping bags at the ready; farmer's have a limited time to sell. As the market gets busy, they'll want to handle each sale efficiently. You can help.

6. Keep dogs and children on a short leash for their sake and for the sake of other shoppers. And parents, please ask before you let your children pet a dog who does not know you.

7. Watch where you park yourself; try not to stop or stand in the middle of a traffic pattern.

I'm off to enjoy the fruits of yesterday's embarrassment - tomato and black bean salsa using those plum tomatoes. What unwritten rules of farmer's market shopping do you observe?

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