Portland Farmers MarketWith seasonal markets beginning to open up for the year, you may have decided this finally is the year you’ll buy from local growers. Feeling a bit timid? You’re not alone.

Last month I was on Cape Cod, where I helped my son and his fiancée plan their June wedding, which they want to source locally and sustainably. Although my son now lives in Boston, none of us was familiar with the Upper Cape (the part closest to the mainland). I may know many markets, but here I was, a newbie once again, with little time to suss things out.

Here’s what I did: I asked friends, strangers, and Google for advice, grabbed copies of Edible South Shore and Cape Cod (the mother lode!), and asked questions of the growers and purveyors we met along the way. Anxiety soon gave way to delight as we made discoveries and gradually widened the breadth of our knowledge, puzzling together a tiny sense of community.

What I’m saying is, we’re all beginners from time to time. Now, once you’re at a farmers’ market, use all your senses as you continue to explore? Smell the scent of fresh berries, taste them, and listen to the farmers’ advice about how to store and prepare them. You can find more on how to shop at farmers’ markets on page 21 of my book.

But, back to SE Mass. Here’s what we found, but I’d love to know any other great resources you might have for me: Bay End Farm near Buzzard’s Bay and the Plymouth Thursday market for produce; Turks Seafood in Mattapoisett for their daily catch; and local meat, milk, and other provisions from the nice folks at How on Earth across the road. In June, there should be strawberries, pea tendrils, Swiss chard, lettuces, arugula, chive flowers, garlic scapes, scallions, and radishes, which for me will be a nice spring rerun, since New England’s season runs about two months behind southern California’s.

In other news, I just returned from Portland, Oregon, home to this year’s International Association of Culinary Professionals conference. I did duck out with my New York friend Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan to troll the big Saturday market. (Toasty hazelnuts! Glistening rhubarb! Creamy sheep’s milk cheese!). You can see her right-coaster’s take on our adventure here.

There was an Urban Farm Mini-Symposium at the conference, where I was inspired by the tireless Deborah Kane (Edible Portland), who created Food Hub, an online match-up service for food producers and buyers; and Kamal Mouzawak, founder/director of Souk el Tayeb, an extraordinary farmers’ market program in Beirut, Lebanon. I often talk about the deeper communion markets offer, but Kamal gave new perspective to their power. In Beirut, the market and its food provide a common meeting ground among religious/ethnic sects.

I’ll close by sharing my new carrot recipes (Bon Appétit, May 2010)—You’ll love the Pickled Carrots, Moroccan-Style— and fun summer recipes (Cooking Light, June 2010). And, by offering you a good laugh: tune in to Food Network’s The Private Chefs of Beverly Hills on May 7, where I was invited to be a dinner guest on the episode “It Ain’t Easy Being Green,” shot at the intriguing Path to Freedom Urban Homestead in Pasadena. The segment I was on chronicles the misadventures of young chefs struggling to produce a “green” meal (think: bicycle-driven blenders and solar oven-baking on a very cold, very grey day).