Aug 28
August 28, 2014

Cook Healthy: Farmers’ Market 101


America Cooks With Chefs – our new partnership with the James Beard Foundation – is a health and wellness movement connecting Americans with celebrity chefs. Chef Mary Sue Milliken is one of six James Beard Award-winning chefs that will be educating America Cooks With Chefs’ contest winners on how to prepare and cook healthy, delicious meals. Read Chef Milliken’s tips for how shop smart at a farmers’ market and enter to win a trip to cook with award-winning chefs as well as a chance to compete in a live cooking challenge at our Health Matters conference in January 2015. The America Cooks With Chefs contest is open through September 3. Enter today

Farmers’ markets are a chef’s paradise since a great dish can only come from great ingredients. Whenever possible, I recommend that home cooks should try to shop at a farmer’s market – not only will you get good high-quality food that was grown locally, but you’ll be supporting businesses in your area. Read my tips for maximizing your trip to the farmer’s market and get cooking!

Know your seasons

As food goes in and out of season, my menu changes throughout the year. When you visit your farmers’ market, keep your shopping list flexible and buy what’s available. Keep in mind that the farmers are a fantastic resource for tips and recipes! They will know what was just harvested at peak and can also discuss their growing methods.

Not sure where your local farmers’ market is? Visit the USDA’s farmer’s market search tool to find a market that is open in different seasons near you.


I like to head to the farmers’ market in the early morning before the restaurant opens to get the best selection of produce. I’ve built relationships with my favorite vendors over the years and let them steer me to new products. Trust your senses – smell and taste and be willing to try something new. I’ve come up with some of my favorite dishes by experimenting with new ingredients from my local farmer’s market that happen to be in season at the same time.  For example: raw peanuts, young ginger and sweet gold tomatoes were available recently and they inspired me to experiment with a quick peanut and tomato curry that my family adores.  And the best part – it’s meatless so better for our bodies and the planet, too.   

Be strategic

I like to walk around the market and take in all of the items that are available before purchasing anything. I come prepared with a cart and all sizes of shopping bags that I reuse from week to week.  I even return plastic baskets to the strawberry vendor so they can be reused several times – and they always appreciate the extra effort to save resources.  I have the advantage of always buying in bulk, but if you need a large quantity of an item vendors are often willing to lower the per pound price for you.

Join the Challenge: America Cooks With Chefs

Want to learn more ways to incorporate healthy foods into your daily life? Apply to a be a part of America Cooks With Chefs, a chef-inspired healthy cooking movement. You can win the opportunity to be flown to my restaurant for a healthy cooking Kitchen Camp and a trip to compete in a live Cooking Challenge at the Clinton Foundation Health Matters Initiative Conference. Enter the contest at