How To Shop the Farmer’s Market Like a Chef: Sam Talbot’s Top 5 Tips

Leah Bourne
Organic vegetables on a stand at a farmers market

Photo: Getty

As a chef living with diabetes, we knew that the handsome Sam Talbot–a two-time Top Chef competitor, and cookbook author–would have a few tricks up his sleeve when it came to finding the freshest, healthiest ingredients at the farmer’s market. From how he navigates the farmer’s market, to what vegetables he buys, and when, to how he takes advantage of his farmer’s market loot for months after he’s gone shopping, you are going to want to live by Tablot’s tips and tricks the next time you go shopping locally for food.

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1. Take advantage of in season vegetables. 

Two of Talbot’s favorite summer vegetables are summer squash and baby white eggplants. Take advantage of them when they are in-season. “Amber Waves Farm [in Amagansett, Long Island] is my go-to for the best of summer squash and baby white eggplants,” says Talbot. “They work with the school system in Amagansett, and really keep it about community and amazing produce. Simple and efficient.”

2. Don’t just think vegetables.

Talbot doesn’t shop the farmer’s market for produce, he also goes to shop for protein, like turkey. “Di Paolo Turkeys at Union Square Farmer’s Market [in New York City] has really plump, juicy turkey that’s great for change of season cooking, and really welcomes in the fall nicely with braised and fried preparations.”

3. Buy for the long haul.

It can be easy when shopping the farmer’s market to just think of a few days out as far as what you should buy, but Talbot suggests thinking further ahead. “Migliorelli Farm in Tivoli [in New York’s Hudson River Valley] is great for the best of orchard-grown stone fruit hands down,” Talbot advises. “I like to buy it fresh and preserve and pickle it all for winter pies for Christmas gifts. White peach pie on Christmas? Um, yeah, I’ll take two. And I’m diabetic, so they must be stellar. People get so stoked they can hardly stand it when you gift one of these.”

4. Hunt out spices and sweeteners, like maple syrup.

“I don’t use any sugar in my cooking so I’m always seeking out the most sustainably sound and natural ways to sweeten,” Talbot says of his farmer’s market routine. “So I use sorghum syrup or maple syrup from time to time either to bind a dressing or vinaigrette, or to simply sweeten and elevate a composed dish. I’m a fan of Wood Homestead maple syrup and sorghum syrup. They’re in New York state and have some of the best syrups this side of the Mason Dixon.”

 5. Ask a lot of questions.

“My last tip is to ask questions at your farm stands,” says Talbot. “These farmers love the interaction and teaching about their passion. They only get to talk to flowers, fruits, bees and vegetables all day, so they love it when an inquisitive human comes along and asks about when the vegetable was harvested, and is it natural or organic, and how do they eat and cook it, whats coming in store soon. Those are the types of things I ask myself, and I’m a trained chef—so no need to feel embarrassed. You empower yourself and your family by asking. Take the time and unlock a whole new world of cooking.”

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