Farmers’ market advice from the pros

Farmers’ markets hold such promise. Wandering through the stalls can make you feel like the proverbial kid in a candy shop. In much the same way, they can be a bit overwhelming. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell which vendors have the best tomatoes, peaches, or melons. Karen Beverlin does not have that problem. A veteran produce buyer, she knows her way around a farmers’ market, and offers produce picking advice that all of us can use.


Beverlin has been a fixture at Los Angeles-area farmers’ markets for 30 years, and has accumulated almost a cult following. You’ll see people gathered around her as she provides information and advice to other market goers. The piece of advice that I found most surprising is that fruits are more fragrant and have more flavor when they are stil a bit firm. “It took me years before I realized what I was seeing: Tree-ripe fruit that’s firm tastes better than what is traditionally identified as ripe, when fruit is soft,” she said. “I think some consumers give up flavor to get juice running down their arms. But they don’t know what they are missing.”

Beverlin also offers a tip on choosing the best peaches, nectarines, and other stone fruits. She says everyone looks for more red, but the color on the sides of the fruit is not important. Instead, look at the stem area, which should be yellow with nary a trace of green.

Farmers’ markets are also home to a dazzling array of tomatoes, but how can you tell the difference between them and which ones are the best? Eater offers a guide on the different types of tomatoes, ranging from twee cherry tomatoes up to the huge beefsteak types. Finding which type is the best for you is a matter of trying different varieties, says Beverlin. Some people prefer the punch of high-acid, high-sugar tomatoes like, while others prefer more subdued, lower-acid types. After you try some of each you will know which you prefer, and then you can ask a vendor if his or her tomatoes are low- or high-acid.

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