Planning a road trip for your next family vacation? There is one thing to do on any road trip—or any trip—if you want to share the flavor of a region with your children, or just yourself. When choosing where to eat along your journey—
—Choose the farmers market—
A region's farmers market not only reveals an area's preference for food flavors—but, it shares the flavor of the people, insight into what they farm, and what the climate supports growing in their fields. The market reveals what's in season in the area you are visiting. And, better than a rest stop, chain restaurant, or diner usually along the highways you drive to get to your destination, you'll be stretching out your legs instead of sitting at a table or a booth while you eat. A farmers market picnic is just the thing for children who have been cooped up in a car. They don't have to sit still. They don't have to be quiet. It's the perfect family driving break.
Many farmers markets now cater to an eat-in lunch crowd—to those who wander in to eat right at the market. Many markets are held in the prettiest town squares with musicians playing live music, artists with their work on display, and freshly prepared, ready-to-eat meals. You will still find crates of lettuces, tomatoes, and fresh baked breads for those shopping the market to bring food home. But, lunch-breakers from area businesses stroll in for sandwiches, soup, and salads—all made fresh from the farmers bounty.
On our last venture to the Burlington, Vermont, the farmers market gave us the town plaza to stroll, a place for some childish horseplay, music to listen to, interesting people to watch, samples of novel culinary temptations—like lavender jelly, and some new foods for the children to try. We stretched our legs, while perusing choices. Then, we settled on a farm stand who used their own brown eggs and homemade sausage to cook up a wrap, with garden fresh greens rolled in. We selected a cooked-to-order veggie sandwich from another farm stand, and a variety of samosas from another. Our oldest child spotted feathery dill she wanted to try with her lunch too—the farm market may be just the place for children to become eager about eating their veggies. Afterwards, there were choices of desserts too. Homemade ice creams, custards, chocolates, baked goods, and our choice—natural snow cones. Vibrant syrups, made from farm fruits, were poured over ice shaved from an antique ice crushing wheel that was turned by hand. It was just the refreshment for this just-right, sunshine-warm day spent at the farmers market on our road trip.
planning a stop at the farm market
1 We plan farmers markets stops right into our trip plans. You may search for farmers markets by city and state here: http://www.localharvest.org/farmers-markets/ and another national farmers market search tool here: http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/ if you are traveling in the United States. If you are traveling elsewhere, see if there is a farmers market search tool for that country, or search specific cities for farmers market schedules. Farmers markets are usually held only once a week in places that have them, so check towns and cities you will be passing through to see what day their farmers markets are held. Many large cities like New York City, have several farmers market locations held different days of the week. Some of our favorite green markets: Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, Union Square Greenmarket in NYC, and the Burlington, Vermont market we shared here.
2 Many larger farmers markets have a bountiful selection of prepared foods to choose from for your farmers market picnic. But, if the market you visit has only a small selection for take-home shoppers, you can still make a picnic with what you find. We have made lunches by selecting a loaf of handmade bread, homemade cheese or jam, berries, juicy cherry tomatoes and other treasures we find to put together our own simple meal. If you are feeling adventurous, farmers markets are the places to find most unusual jelly flavors made from flowers and even corn (along with your usual favorites like strawberry jam), flavored cheeses, and even vegetables you have never seen before and don't know the names of. And, if you have never tasted a farmers market tomato. You should. A good one is as sweet and juicy as a piece of fruit and completely different than a store-bought one.
3 Plan on dining at your farmers market for lunch. Farmers usually begin packing up what is left around 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon. But, wait too close to closing time— expecting a late lunch—and pickings may be slim as farmers sell out of favorites.
4 Remember to come with cash. Most farm stands at the market are not equipped with credit card machines—but, some are!
5 Farmers markets sell more than food. If you like to bring home mementos of your vacation, this is the place to get something nicer than any souvenir shop—and something that is made in the place you are visiting (and not overseas). You may find handmade postcards, handcrafted soaps, paintings, pottery, children's clothes, and handcrafted toys.
And, remember on your road trip—"The journey not the arrival matters." T.S. Eliot
So, plan a few memorable stops, and make your journey matter. ©heather cahoon • wordplayhouse®
Do you have any favorite farmers markets you have visited, or where you live, to share with us for our next road trip?
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