Why Does Produce Taste Different From The Farmers' Market?

There is perhaps nothing more flavorful than fresh produce. A crisp apple, a juicy peach, carrots with a snap, and radishes that bite back can all elevate any dish. That's beside the vivid colors that make your cooking visually appealing and the heartwarming satisfaction of buying locally. Some people also feel that fruits, vegetables, and herbs from a farmers' market actually taste better, and it turns out there is some hard science behind that belief.

The appeal of farmers' markets is larger than just being able to avoid the disturbing truth of your grocery store's produce department. While Consumer Reports in 2019 shared how some grocery stores do buy produce from local farmers, it's hard to beat farmers' markets for having an impact within your own community. LocalHarvest says that when you shop at a large grocery chain, only 18 cents out of every dollar actually goes to the grower of that produce. As it turns out, farmers' markets allow you to keep money in your community and get a better product at the same time.

Fresh tastes better

The phrase "fresh tastes better" is more than just a lyric from a Mentos commercial jingle (via YouTube). When it comes to produce, it's a fact. With the passage of time, produce begins to break down. The natural sugars in those fruits and vegetables convert to starch (per Baltimore Foodshed) which also means you get fewer of the minerals and vitamins they can deliver in their freshest state.

Often, the produce available at farmers' markets has been harvested within the past 24 hours, per Baltimore Foodshed. At grocery stores, products often take days to even go on display, as the University of Maryland Medical System explains; thus, the fresher the produce is, the better it tastes and the better it is for you. Will you have to pay a premium for that freshness, though?

According to Mississippi State University Extension, the answer to that question is no. Actually, you might save some money compared to shopping at a big chain grocery store. MSU explains that's because produce at a farmers' market is seasonal, the local sourcing means lower transportation costs, and because you're buying directly from the grower, there are no middlemen. There are some additional tricks to help you save even more money at the farmers' market nearest you, too. If you're uncertain of where the market nearest you is, Farmers Market Places has a great locator tool. All in all, farmers' markets are a fantastic way to get local and flavorful produce for your table.