Summer can be an exciting opportunity to take advantage of local, seasonal produce, especially at the farmers market. Use these tips to navigate the options with ease.

By Lisa M. Dierks

Eating local foods might be new to you, but it has become a popular trend over the past several years. Consumers cite taste, cost, decreased transportation and being able to "know their farmer" as benefits for choosing local produce. Many grocery stores and supermarkets are adding local produce to their offerings. But one of the best places to explore seasonal, local foods is at a farmers market.

Figuring out the farmers market can be intimidating, however. Not sure what fiddlehead ferns are? Or how to choose among five different kinds of squash? Use these tips to navigate the farmers market with ease — and have fun while you're shopping, too.

Don't know the difference between a Pink Lady apple and a Fuji? Ask for a sample. Most vendors will be more than happy to let you taste test.

Ask the vendor about what is currently in season and what will be available in the coming weeks. Being prepared will make meal planning easier, and you'll be able to shop more efficiently during your next visit to the farmers market.

This is your chance to load up on organic produce you can't always find at the grocery store. Plus, you might find that the prices are lower since you're buying directly from the source.

As you peruse the vendors' tables, look for things that are familiar. Maybe for you, that's a red tomato. Buy one and add it to your basket. Take it a step further by selecting a variety you haven't tried before, such as an orange tomato or a purple heirloom variety.

Look for something unique that catches your eye, or an item you've never tried before. How about kohlrabi, Thai eggplant or another unfamiliar vegetable? If you're not sure what to do with it, ask the vendor. Vendors often have simple, tasty ideas about how to prepare the produce they're selling.

Dec. 10, 2016