What to Look for When Buying From a Roadside Vegetable Stand

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sunflowers in a bucket

I was driving home the other night and noticed someone down the road from us had put up a little makeshift roadside vegetable stand to sell garden produce and eggs.

I don’t know what it is about roadside vegetable stands, but they sure bring a smile to my face every time I pass one. The tiny little mom-and-pop stands are my favorite, mostly because it’s pretty clear growing and selling the food is a labor of love and it has all been grown on the people’s property.

sun gold tomatoes

Here are a few tips for buying vegetables from a roadside vegetable stand.

Seasonal produce offers the best deals. If it’s tomato season, stock up! The best deals on produce are always the ones growers have the most of. Just think: fresh pasta sauce, sun dried tomatoes, homemade ketchup… BRING IT ON!

Buy in bulk. Don’t be shy about asking for a discount if you would like to buy in bulk. I will typically ask for a bulk discount if I want to buy more than 10 pounds of any given fruit or vegetable. (With the exception of potatoes and onions, as they are usually sold in bulk quantities anyway.)

fresh peaches

Ask if produce is organic. Don’t be shy about asking if the produce you are buying has been sprayed with chemicals. Just because there isn’t an “Organically Grown” sign on them doesn’t mean the vegetables have been pumped full of chemicals. When in doubt, ask.

Did you grow this? I always like to ask. Sometimes larger fruit and vegetable stands will purchase produce elsewhere in large quantities and resell it as a way of expanding their offerings.

bruised apples

Look for bruised or ugly produce.You may not want to pack an ugly apple in your child’s lunch, but that doesn’t mean you can’t save big and turn a box full of apples into homemade applesauce. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Pick your own. If you’re looking to shave a little off your produce bill and the operation is small enough, ask if you can pick your own for a discount. You’d be surprised how many mom-and-pop operations will allow you to do so. PickYourOwn.org is also a great resource.

cash box at a vegetable stand

Cash is king. Backyard gardeners and roadside stands typically don’t accept credit cards, so have cash on hand. If you come across a farmstand that is unattended, round up to the nearest dollar. It might be just a few cents extra to you, but at the end of the day it can add up to a few extra bucks for your local farmer.

Fresh vegetables are cool, no doubt about it.

~Mavis

All photos courtesy of Mavis Butterfield

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