I’m a little hesitant to broadcast what I believe is one of the premier food bargains in Oak Park, but here goes.

For the past few weekends, my Saturday morning routine has been to go to the Oak Park Farmers’ Market and scout out seconds, the less desirable fruits and vegetables that are priced way below regular levels.

Last weekend, I bought a half-bushel of peaches (over 25 pounds, I’d guess) for $15 and a half case of tomatoes (also about 25 pounds) for $10.   All were, for some reason, deemed “not quite right” by the vendor. I asked the vendor about the peaches, which looked perfect, and he said they were smaller than usual, so they were priced at a fraction of the regular rate. The tomatoes were supposedly softer than the vendor preferred, and indeed they were at the peak of ripeness and ready to eat when I got them home. Both peaches and tomatoes were about as beautiful, lush and tasty as anything we’ve ever purchased at the market.

Of course, even a large family would have trouble eating this much produce before it goes bad, but although we are eating a lot of it, we’re “putting by” most of it. For both peaches and tomatoes, we:

1. Blanche in hot water and then slip the skins off

2. Seed or pit

3. Slice or chop

4. Vacuum seal and freeze

Vacuum sealing is not absolutely necessary; we do it because we freeze a lot of food that needs to keep for many months, and creating a vacuum in the bag reduces oxidation and freezer burn.

Some vendors come to market with boxes of seconds that they’re ready to sell; other vendors generate boxes of seconds as they sort through produce while setting up their tables. Either way, there are a lot of bargains on high-quality food at the Oak Park Farmers Market, and so seconds are first in my book.





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David Hammond, a corporate communications consultant and food journalist living in Oak Park, Illinois, is a founder and moderator of LTHForum.com, the 8,500 member Chicago-based culinary chat site. David...