Best  'farmers' markets' practice presumes refrigeration after harvest and a shade canopy. 

Since today was my own local market day selling homegrown produce, I want to register the complication that even on same day harvest it is still very hard to  display good looking veg after a couple of hours of refracted sunlight or even (in my case) consistent shade.

My experience suggest that displaying green veg with their stems in water will work better than any other option I have explored...and I have indeed explored.

If your stock wilts -- it looks bad...despite being just a couple of hours old. 

So I'm thinking: harvest>straight into da 'vase'.

For those who shop for local produce, this  habit of green veg to wilt --outside  certain chill temperatures, no longer with us each day -- may explain why there is a lot of produce that won't make it to the farmers' market stall.It also determines which green stuff -- especially salad veg -- are carried -- or not --by the supermarkets. Indeed, old (often tough) kale keeps (ie: looks fresh) and displays much better than the sweeter softer younger versions {Go check out your supermarket offerings on this point.] Same with silver beet.

If you peruse a market's offerings -- even supposedly direct from the farm --there is a major preference for:

  • older greens
  • whole greens: roots and all
  • root vegetables
  • fruiting bodies like peppers, zucchinis, sweet chills,tomatoes, eggplants,cucumbers, etc.
  • Mesclun mixes (often packed) rather than a large range of separate salad greens, lettuces, radichio, etc. 

The complication -- the contradiction-- is that a way around this is to plastic bag 'em. And if you bag 'em you can harvest them anytime and anywhere. That's supermarket speak for 'fresh'.

I'm ruled by TODAY and YESTERDAY harvests as that seems the key point. 'Local' means 'fresh'...and 'fresh' is indeed best.

This is why true veg markets aren't worth visiting after  8 or 9am, most days.

What this means is that there is sure to be a lot of stuff that doesn't appear in farmers markets due to this wilt factor.And if it does, chances are older leafery will rule.They've got more 'backbone'.

So here's the backstory: locavare market  gardeners may be on show at farmers markets and such, but marketeering is likely to be only a minor , albeit promotional, factor in their turnover. Their 'bread and butter' is likely to be better served supplying a network of regular customers with orders, home deliveries, local restaurants, wholefoods shops and the like.

Fresh primarily matters with the greens and greesn are so often wilt sentenced. 

So next time you pass by a market stall piled high with Asian greens at reasonable prices you need to marvel at the aggregated skill on display. Produce selection. Harvest. Display. Them folk's know their a way others have not yet replicated for the green veg of their choice

[But even there, display is its own censorship...]

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  • I'm off to the Caboolture Mkts this morning (on my way to Fathers Day at Bribie) and will keep this in mind when selecting and admiring the multitude of gorgeous locally grown produce on offer there. The tropical/asian veg now being offered is astounding. Hopefully I will find some surprises today.

    • My point is that 'Asian' stalls do 'greens' so well. Green is a Chinese nutritional obsession for instance and a SE Asian cuisine standard.

      Also of note is that it is more conservative  to sell established plants and seedlings rather than fresh vegetables because the potted plants live a lot longer: a LOT longer. Many markets tend this way -- Caboolture especially. Great for buying your horticultural needs but the 'organic' niche isn't as large as you'd expect. In fact there is no certified organic produce sold at Caboolture Markets-- despite the thousands who attend each Sunday.

      And harvest is usually  days in advance with growers ship to market after refrigeration. To move greens requires refrigerated containers or cool rooms and styrofoam  eskies. Generally though, your 'local' grower will stick to root crops and tubers,pumpkins, some zucchini, tomatoes and strawberries. Tree fruits in season of course. 

      The Vietnamese sell outstanding cucumbers there -- but many veg stalls, the big ones, are really Rocklea Markets sell ons. Some may mix Rocklea inputs with their neighbours' harvest. The great tragedy this year was the  car accident which handicapped  a 'no sprays'  grower who had a large loyal following. He no longer makes the journey from his farm at Warwick.He absolutely nailed a wonderful niche...and he is so sorely missed.

      That means 'no sprays' is probably limited to the one Gympie supplier who nonetheless mixes other supplies from his district.

      But you can see this pan out among what's left of any local fruit and veg shops in your neighborhood. The range is limited by storage factors...and last time Rocklea was visited. If Woolworths are indeed the 'fresh food' people they are covering the fact that they are really  the refrigeration/cool room/refrigerated truck/climate control people...and that probably was a key factor that undermined the existence of your local veg shop: capitalisation.It also sabotages the potential of farmers markets as a alternative outlet some what, especially in our climate.

  • That explains the huge size of the Silverbeet … freshly-picked much smaller Swiss Chard/Silverbeet wilts dramatically unless put straight into water. I harvest Lettuces by the leaf and put them into water until ready to wash and eat them.

    The firmer greens like Pak Choi survive fairly well out of water.

    If we knew when produce was picked, we probably wouldn't buy it.

  • You can imagine what that means for harvest + handling + transport over distance + time...So many species simply wont make the cut. So your produce offerings as well as being culled by the demands of production are sure to be also culled by the requirements of pretension and display.

    Remember: any label, at best, will say 'USE BY'...and not 'PICKED ON'...let alone 'picked where' inside Australia.

  • That is very interesting.  I must admit that on picking my lettuces, they get washed and put straight into the fridge.  I never really thought about how hard it must be to get them to market. 

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