Debra Prinzing

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How to choose the freshest bouquets and flowers at your local farmers’ market

May 14th, 2013


Field-grown peonies should be selected at the “marshmallow” stage, when the heads have just a little give when squeezed.

Forget flowers grown far from home. You’ll find the best blooms right in your own neighborhood – straight from a local flower farmer.

The growth of local farmers’ markets is staggering – up 17 percent nationwide in 2011, according to the USDA (USDA Farmers’ Market Data). And as more farmers’ markets establish in communities across the U.S., you can be certain to find more beautiful flower stalls, which is great news for the DIY floral designer, hostess and nature- lover.

When you shop at a weekly farmers’ market, look for fresh, seasonal and uncommon floral crops – you’ll be wowed by the selection and quality. Yes, it’s fun to meet the people who grow these blooms. But you can also learn from their experience and knowledge — ask your flower farmer for tips on how to care for their beautiful stems at home. Here are some of the best ways to enjoy farmers’ market flowers and extend their vase life:

Selection: Most farmers harvest their crops as close to market day as possible, ensuring very fresh varieties – straight from the field. Shop early in the morning for the best choice (plus, flowers are always happier when it’s cooler!). If the market is in an uncovered location, expect to see large awnings or umbrellas to keep the floral products out of direct sun. Look at the stall’s hygiene – are the buckets clean and filled with fresh water? Be sure to ask “Where is your farm?” and “Why type of growing practices do you use?” – let the vendor know you appreciate sustainable practices.

What to look for:

A bounty of local flowers

When properly cared for, locally-sourced flowers will last much longer in the vase than anything that’s imported.

Care for your flowers at home:

I’m always surprised when my workshop students ask: “How long will these flowers last in a vase?” I like to respond by asking: “How long do you enjoy a bottle of wine?” or “How long does it take to eat a farm-to-table meal at your favorite restaurant?”

The answer is usually: 45 minutes! We seem to be satisfied that our food and wine give us less than one hour of pleasure, but we expect flowers to do the hard work of looking awesome for more than a week! Adjust your expectations and be happy with the moment. Some flowers are so delicate they just don’t last that long once cut. But it doesn’t minimize my enjoyment one bit! In general, farmer’s market floral varieties will last 5 to 7 days.

Gretchen Hoyt

Gretchen Hoyt, one of my favorite farmers, sells sustainably-grown tulips at Seattle’s Pike Place Market

Flower farmers are the floral world’s new rock stars! When we support local American flower farmers, we’re helping save agricultural land, encourage rural economic development and create living wage farm jobs. These hardworking farmers are eager to tell you their stories and introduce you to annuals, perennials and other seasonal botanical ingredients that will inspire your own creativity. Some farms accommodate U-pick customers; others work closely with wedding parties to custom-grow flowers for the DIY couple. If you can’t find a local flower farmer in your community, check these resources:

Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers, Click on the “Grower” tab to search state by state.

Local Harvest, lists farmers’ markets across the country.

3 Responses to “How to choose the freshest bouquets and flowers at your local farmers’ market”

  1. How to choose the freshest bouquets and flowers at your local farmers’ market | nycfarmchicflowers Says:

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  2. gankatan Says:

    Good tips, thank you!

  3. christoffersweddings Says:

    I love everything about your tips! Great ideas! Thanks for sharing!

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