Winter has lost its icy grip on us, and spring is finally in the air. It is a verdant time of rejuvenation and planting new crops. Soon, many local farmer’s markets will open to share their bounty of early-spring produce. If you do not have time or the space to raise a garden, a farmer’s market is your family’s best place to get the freshest fruit, vegetables, and herbs.

Forget the sorry selection in the produce aisle of the grocery store. Most of these items were forced-bloomed in greenhouses or shipped from overseas. They are usually inferior in quality and taste and may have been treated with questionable chemicals. At your farmer’s market, you shake hands with the folks who grew what you buy.

This farm-to-table movement has spread across America and encourages families to make better food choices. Instead of buying processed food loaded with empty calories and chemicals, they may now opt for locally-grown whole foods. Leading the movement are home gardeners and regional farmer’s markets.

You do not have to wait until late summer to find nutritious and affordable treasures at the farmer’s market. Some of the tastiest produce varieties are only available in the spring, so now is the time to go. To get the most out of your market experience, there are a few helpful tips to keep in mind.

Before you go, make a shopping list of things you need to buy. Do a quick inventory of your fridge and pantry and note those ingredients that you use often. Research the produce that is in season for your area, and work from that list. Some familiar spring crops include asparagus, artichokes, leaf lettuce, baby carrots, and spring peas. You may also see sweet cherries and fresh rhubarb.

For the best choices available, arrive at your farmer’s market as early as possible. Many vendors sell out quickly, and some markets are only open until noon. If you plan to buy produce in bulk, bring a couple of large reusable shopping bags or baskets. Very few vendors at these markets accept credit cards, so bring cash (in small bills). The morning may be chilly, so dress comfortably.

If this is the first time you have visited a farmer’s market, stop at the visitor’s booth for helpful information. They often have a list of vendors and what they offer, as well as the vendors’ locations. Before you purchase anything, take your time and peruse the booths to see what is available. Vendors appreciate your questions and will be happy to tell you about their wares and how everything is grown.

Shopping your local farmer’s market is good for the community and brings fresh food to your table. It is a way for you to connect with others who are interested in healthier ingredients. Bring your children to the market so they can discover the wonders of growing and eating your own food. The recipes listed below feature the freshest of the produce from the farmers market, try them out today!

Wilted Spring Greens With Bacon

Some of the most flavorful greens are available in the spring, like dandelion, mustard, and spinach. For a delightful side dish, try this recipe featuring sautéed spring greens and bacon. The meat is cooked with a little olive oil, shallots, mustard seed, and chili pepper. When greens are sautéed in this mixture, they wilt into a tender delicacy.

Creamy Asparagus Soup with Ramps

Ramps are in the same family as onions and garlic, and they resemble miniature leeks. These pungent greens have a short spring season, so take advantage of them in a delicious soup. This recipe also features tender asparagus. The cooked veggies are pureed with chicken stock, yogurt, and fragrant spices. Top this velvety soup with a few sautéed asparagus tips, leeks, and mint.

Braised Roman Artichokes

While many people are familiar with artichoke dip, some may not know how delicious this spring veggie is for other dishes. Artichokes are native to the Mediterranean region and were prized by the Romans, who inspired this recipe. The artichokes are braised in the oven in a sauce of white wine, olive oil, garlic, and fresh herbs. It is perfect for a spring brunch!

Paella with Fennel

Spring fennel brings light anise flavor notes to this fantastic vegan paella. It is brimming with rice, mushrooms, artichokes, peas, and aromatic spices. In less than an hour, you can make this lovely paella to serve as a light meal or to accompany a main dish.

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