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Editor's Note: This story is unlocked for everyone to read courtesy of the CRVA, our partner in nourishing culinary exploration for residents and visitors of the Queen City.

April 10, 2024

How to shop the farmers market, according to a chef

Chef Eugene Briggs shares five pro tips

by Kristen Wile

Chef Gene Briggs toured South End Farmers Market with patrons for the StrEATs Smarts “Shop Like A Chef” event. Kristen Wile/UP

Before restaurants were able to order directly from area farmers in bulk thanks to local business Freshlist, the farmers’ markets around town were a place to spot chefs from the best restaurants in Charlotte. We got the chance to walk through the farmers market in South End as part of the Charlotte StrEATs Festival with chef Eugene Briggs, widely known as one of the founding chefs of Charlotte’s farm-focused culinary scene, and learn what’s most important when browsing the stalls at your local market. (Find yours with our farmers market guide).

Here are five of the Legion Brewing and Trolley Barn executive chef’s top tips.

Go in with an open mind.

You may have an idea of what’s in season, but don’t plan just to pick up the expected. Ingredients like kohlrabi or garlic scapes will make a fantastic addition to your meal, even though they might not be the ones you expect to purchase.

Get there early.

Some of the best selections are gone within an hour of the market’s opening. Don’t miss out on fresh eggs, ramps, or the season’s first strawberries because you slept in. Grab a coffee — and then grab the best produce.

Ask questions.

The folks standing behind their stands know everything possible about what they’re selling, from growing practices to how long the harvest will last. They also know how to cook what they grow, usually from root to tip. If you see something unfamiliar, get cooking tips as you buy it.

Have a versatile menu.

If you come with a shopping list of specific ingredients, you might leave with items uncrossed. Instead, have a few versatile menu items in mind, like sautéed greens, hashes, or scrambles. Then, you can easily incorporate whatever you find into your menu.

Shop for the year.

Some of our favorite fruits and vegetables, like ramps and figs, have short seasons — but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them all year long. Pickle ramps or freeze figs to enjoy them throughout the year.

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