For those of you who read a similar post to this a couple months ago, please bare with me. Some of this info won't be new to you.
A recent thread prompted me to post on this subject again. We were discussing an article about the effects of the culinary elite, famous chefs (Alice Waters most specifically), and the effect they have on society. Also mentioned and discussed were G.M.O.s (genetically modified organisms). That led to writings on organics, their cost, value, and availability.
I am back singing my praises of the farmers market. Theres probably one close to where you live. Once or twice a week local growers get to offer up their crops to the rest of us. If you are like me, as interested a home cook as you are a restaraunt hound you owe yourself a trip to the farmers market.
Many smaller organic farmers can be found in these settings. It is also an eviroment that lends itself to other proponents of sustainable agriculture.
Summer is the best time to go. Stonefuit (peaches, cherries etc.) season is in full swing. I assure you won't find the hard tasteless nasty junk your local supermarket tries to pass off on you. You'll find peaches that give when gently squeezed, that smell like violets and honey, that are loaded with so much nectar that it may run down to your elbows before you finish. You will find tomatoes that look nothing like those pale orange supermarket orbs. The will have odd sizes, irregular shapes and odd names; brandywine, manuel stipe, green zebra. They will be packed with , hold on to your knickers, flavor.
Summer offers a bounty of flavors colors textures and menue options. Corn, eggplants, cucumbers, soft shelled squashes, herbs, onions, figs, melons and potatoes round out summer fare. Ever see purple fingerling potatoes at the local Safeway or Kroeger. You won't.
The U.S.D.A. websight has a farmers market finder. It is organized by state, and easy to use. As great a resource as it is, it doesn't list every option. Chowhound being Chowhound though, I'm sure someone out there can offer even more options.
The final point I wan't to make is that of cost. certain items will cost more than the traditional grocery store. Many, however, will cost the same or less. Often times even higher prices yield greater values. Last summer I bought a huge bunch of organic European basil (roots intact) for $4. A bunch of basil at any local supermarket (about one sixth the size) would have set me back $1.50 or $2.00. Supermarket basil looks like black slimy death within 72 hours. I put the farmers market basil in a vase on the kitchen counter and we had fresh basil for 3 weeks. Ultimately the $4 buch was a much better value. Don't try this with corn eat it within 2 days. Soft stonefruit won't hold either, so don't overbuy, or you will throw a lot out.
I'm willing to bet that a lot of you that haven't eaten this way will be amazed. Give it a try.