Secrets to shop smart at farmer's market

LOS ANGELES Every day, you will find a /*farmer's market*/ somewhere in the Southland. While it's fun for home cooks to enjoy the surroundings, chefs take their visit seriously, as it determines their menu for the next few days.

Chef Scott Garrett of Blue Plate Oysterette said he never goes to the /*Santa Monica Farmer's Market*/ with a set agenda.

"It's just about setting foot in this area," he said. "For me it's a tool to educate myself. With that being said, I like to educate the people that come in the restaurant."

Ray Garcia of FIG at the Fairmont Hotel says along with familiarizing yourself with what is in season, get to know the farmers as well.

"Even though I am here every week, I learn something new from a different farmer, a different tip, a different technique," Garcia said.

Remember, farmers are selling, so ask for a taste and a recommendation for your best bet.

"Do you want something that's acidic or sweet? And just know your application," Garcia said. "They're more than happy and willing to walk you through the process."

Right now, the chefs say citrus is on the way out. Beets are still strong, and stone fruit, tomatoes and strawberries are coming in.

Garrett said right now, everybody is looking for cherries to make everything from jams to salads.

Big artichokes are finishing up their season, but Garrett says small heartier purple chokes are perfect. But be willing to look past the surface because a lot of the outside gets trimmed and cleaned.

Another shopping tip is to check the Sunday circular of the local groceries so you can not only check what's in season, but it's also a good idea to comparison shop.

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