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Hands Off the Tomatoes! And Other Market Mishaps to Avoid

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Does this description in the Washington Post sound like people you know?

Call them the tomato touchers. They’re the people who go to the farmers market and handle every plump orb, squeezing and groping, feeling them carefully for firmness and flaws before deciding which one will make it into their next Caprese salad.

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Excessive tomato-squeezing can bruise the thin-skinned fruits for the rest of us: Leigh Hauter, who owns Bull Run Mountain Farm in Virginia, told the Post that he used to lose 25% of his tomatoes to damage when CSA customers picked them out themselves.

Still, it's hard for even the most-informed shopper to resist. (Just try buying the first tomato you lay a hand on. I admit to having handled, and pushed aside, plenty a tomato over the years. I'd be out of line in Italy, where it's improper etiquette to touch any of the fruit.)

Photo by James Ransom

The most vexing part is that squeezing an heirloom tomato isn't even the best test of ripeness, Paul Mock of Mock’s Greenhouse and Farm in West Virginia told the Post: A strong aroma or a dark color on the bottom of the tomato are the truer indicators.

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In addition to needless-but-irresistible tomato-squeezing, what are the other most egregious farmers market (or grocery store) offenses?

Well, there's this...

...and a few other—less completely terrible!—faux pas:

  • Corn exposing (that is, disturbing the corn for those who want to cook it husk on and hastening its deterioration; there's a better way to choose without peeking)
  • Fava bean peeling
  • Sample hogging (that is, camping out in front of the samples—even worse if you do not buy anything)
  • Sample... saliva swapping (that is, using your fingers when toothpicks are provided—even worse if you go in for seconds)
  • Sample stealing
  • Price scoffing in a perceptible way (besides, farmers markets aren't expensive as we think they are, anyway)
  • Obtrusive photo-taking (there's a better way for that, too!)
  • During peak hours, aisle or entryway blocking (by walking incredibly slowly on an aimless, ambling path—even worse if you have a dog that's wandering—or by abandoning your bike/stroller/shopping cart at a central entry-point or intersection)

And as for what we should all strive to do?

15 Tips for Navigating the Farmers Market

15 Tips for Navigating the Farmers Market by Leslie Stephens

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10 of the Best Farmers Market Tips We Learned from Cookbooks

10 of the Best Farmers Market Tips We Learned from Cookbooks by Caroline Lange

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For Italian Kitchen Secrets, Head to the Market

For Italian Kitchen Secrets, Head to the Market by Emiko

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Don't Touch the Fruit! (& Other Tips for Navigating an Italian Market)

Don't Touch the Fruit! (& Other Tips for Navigating an It... by Emiko

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What are your farmers market (or grocery store) pet peeves? Tell us what we missed—or what we got wrong—in the comments!