Sweet Summer Flavor: Savoring tomatoes (and other goodies) at local farmers markets

Ah … summer. The bees are buzzing, the flowers are blooming, and the tomatoes are ripe and juicy. A truly fresh tomato may be the very flavor of summer. But is a tomato a tomato no matter where you buy it?

Personally, I’m a big fan of farmers markets, so I would submit that a tomato from a local farmers market is far superior to one purchased at a conventional grocery store. Sure, grocery stores provide reliable convenience, but at a farmers market the humble tomato becomes so much more. Shopping at these stands means supporting local economies. If you are a visitor to the Reno/Tahoe region this means an upgrade from a tourist (one who observes a region) to a traveler (one who participates in a region).

So why shop at farmers markets?

The produce is fresh off the farm. That tomato wasn’t picked while still grossly under ripe in order to survive the bumpy journey across multiple state lines while buried under tons of other grossly under ripe tomatoes. Chances are that tomato was picked in the wee hours of the morning just before the market, while still covered in dew. Plus you will be face to face with the grower. You can ask!

Speaking of ripe, local farms mean that fruit and veggies come with the season. That tomato will be grown and picked at the height of tomato season. And isn’t a truly ripe tomato so much better than a pale, tasteless shell of a fruit?

Farmers markets offer more variety than run-of-the-mill grocery stores, which stock based on predictable best sellers. Here, you’ll likely be able to find something new and different. Instead of that ol’ boring tomato, try a tomatillo on your burger or a kumquat in your salad (but still get your tomatoes).

And finally there is a positive environmental impact. Most farmers who sell small also sell organic. By purchasing directly from a small farm your tomato represents organic over pesticides and a shorter drive over dreadful long-distance, gas-guzzling shipping.

Sample the Sierrain South Lake Tahoe, on September 15 from noon to 5 p.m., is a farm-to-fork culinary experience. Dozens of tastings are provided by local wineries, breweries and restaurants. While you’re there, be sure to catch the Sierra Chef Challenge, where restaurateurs whip up their very best and compete for top bragging rights. You can also schedule the ultimate farmers market experience, a Farm Tour. samplethesierra.com

While a real juicy, ripe tomato may be reason enough to venture out to a farmers market this summer, be sure to keep an eye out for other items like fresh flowers, homemade jerky, artisanal olive oil, fresh baked bread, and fun activities for the whole family. Because farmers markets are about more than just fruits and veggies, they are about community (and tomatoes).


Where to find your Reno/Tahoe farmers’ markets this summer:


  • Shirley’s Farmers’ Market, June 2 – September 29, at two locations:Tamarack Junction, Tuesdays and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and The Village, Saturdays 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.com

North Shore

  • Tahoe City Farmers Market, May 18 – October 12, Thursdays 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. com
  • Truckee Community Farmers Market, June 10 – September 30, Sundays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. org

South Shore

  • Ski Run Farmer’s Market, June 1 – August 24, Fridays 3 to 8 p.m. com
  • American Legion South Lake Tahoe Certified Farmers’ Market, June – October, Tuesdays 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. com


By: Rae Matthews, Elevation Eats