Funky bitter melons and misshapen heirloom tomatoes aren't the only ones with character showing up at your local farmers' market. We brought our camera and reporter's notebook to NYC's Union Square Greenmarket to meet a few of the working chefs, artisans and charmingly idiosyncratic folks who shop there regularly.
They showed off their haul and generously shared their shopping advice (see the slide show). We'll be putting the tips we got from these market gurus into use year-round.
Name: Abby Swain
Occupation: Pastry Chef, Craft and Craftbar
Tip: "When in doubt purée." Swain juggles an abundance of fruit in the kitchen at Craft. When there is just too much to use up, she makes jams and compotes to use in desserts throughout the winter.
Name: Justin Smillie
Occupation: Executive Chef, Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria
Tip: What grows together, goes together. "I have the best luck when I purchase ingredients for an entire dish from one farmer. The ingredients are growing in the dirt at the same time, and it yields a yummy result."
Name: Christine Kern
Tip: "Come to the market ready to shop." Christine is truly an urban market pro with the gear to prove it. Her modified Granny Cart means that she can haul away the maximum amount of fresh produce--and bring her compost to the market too.
Name: Hiroko Shimbo
Occupation: Cookbook author, Hiroko's American Kitchen: Cooking with Japanese Flavors
Tip: "Be adventurous--use ingredients that are unfamiliar." Get Shimbo's recipe for refreshing shiso juice.
Name: Chris Miller
Occupation: Executive Chef and Owner, Miller's Near and Far
Tip: "Let the produce guide you." At the restaurant, Miller slices purple carrots on a mandoline and uses them as a sneaky topping on a market green salad. When sliced thinly, the carrots' purple and orange striations mimic the look of bacon.