Farmers’ Market: What are 2nds?


I have a love affair with farmers’ market.  These weekly events provide a vast array of fresh produce, meats, cheeses, wines, breads, eggs, and canned goods offering the very best of the season from early spring through the fall.  With very little effort, it is easy to compose a meal from a single pass through the vendors.

But at the farmers’ market and various CSAs around the country, there is a secret that has been around for decades.  But don’t worry, you no longer have to be an insider to find out about this secret.  Go ahead.  Ask the vendors.  They just might have an unexpected surprise.  It’s 2nds!

Okay…. I can hear you, “What are seconds”?  In the world of fresh produce, 2nds are less than perfect produce.  Seconds can be based on appearance… the ugly produce.  Or perhaps they might have a slight flaw or blemish such as a small bruise or a crack.  Maybe a bird pecked a hole in it or perhaps there is minor damage from flea beetles.  For some vendors, perhaps it is fruit that might spoil in just a few days.  In other words, 2nds are what most shoppers would skip over in favor of something that has a better appearance.  As far as taste, 2nds are the same as first quality produce on the table.  First quality is what everyone sets out in front of everyone.  The ruby-red tomatoes.   The perfect pile of straight cucumbers.   Bundles of gorgeous basil.  Yes, those gorgeous items will be snapped up quickly.  But if you are like me, you can save some money and get great tasting produce for less.  Depending on the market or vendor, seconds may cost two thirds or half of their first quality counterparts.

2nd quality peach

2nd quality peach

One of the best examples in our region is peaches.  They are ripe, luscious, and juicy.  These western slope favorites make wonderful jam, jelly, butter, cobbler, ice cream, and pie.  The flavor is so good, people wait in line for them.  But get this… they wait in line for the 2nds!  One of the big peach vendors has a line every single Saturday during peach season just for 2nds.  These 2nds go quickly.  As the saying goes, if you snooze, you lose. This vendor regularly sells out of seconds in less than an hour each week.

There is one thing to keep in mind when buying seconds.  Their shelf life is can be less than that of first quality.   Bruised 2nds can spoil quickly But if you are a canner, you can readily turn an entire case into canned pints or quarts long before the second quality produce has a chance to spoil.

The idea of buying seconds has been around for decades.  For a while, vendors were reluctant to sell less than perfect produce.  They were afraid it would mar their reputation.   Second quality produce frequently ended up in compost piles or being fed to livestock.   But along the way, someone convinced them to give it a try.  Canners have been buying seconds by the case for as long as vendors have been selling 2nds.

Produce Commonly Sold as Seconds

  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Tomatoes
  • Pears
  • Nectarines
  • Peppers
  • Cantaloupes
  • Greens
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Squash

Tips to Make the Most of Your Seconds

  • Inspect each piece of produce when you get home
  • Remove any produce that has begun to spoil
  • Wash and thoroughly dry the produce
  • Store produce in a cool location and away from direct sunlight
  • Begin using immediately: fresh eating or cooked into meals
  • If canning, cut away any bruised or soft spot before placing produce in preserving pan.

While we all like beautiful produce, consider asking for 2nds the next time you are at a farmers’ market or CSA.  You just may be pleasantly surprised at what is available and the price compared to first quality produce.



8 responses »

  1. We always buy seconds for our peaches but we get “thirds” for our apples. We’ve been able to find some local farmers who allow us to glean their apple orchards when they are done harvesting. Last year we ended up with 6.5 bushels of honey crisps. I’d love to find a place to glean peaches, pears, cherries, etc. Then we’d have enough to preserve and I’d have extra to experiment with making wine.

  2. Oh yeah! We LOVE seconds! Got a 1/2 case of peaches on our way home from vacation this summer for WAY less than half of what the going price was! And nothing was really wrong with any of them! Sure made for some good eating and canned peach slices for cobblers and pies this winter!

  3. We always get seconds when we buy produce. Its like the second ear on the cob; its not as perfectly fourmed as the first but it taste just as good.

    • We are big fans of seconds. They always get turned into sauce, jams, chutneys, pestos, salsas or other foods destined for the freezer or canner. And you are right, they taste just as good as first quality, but at a fraction of the price.

  4. So do you just ask a vendor if they have 2nds? Is this a common lingo that any vendor will know? I’ve never heard of this at a market but think its super cool! Thanks for sharing it!

    • Yes, go ahead and ask. Some may not have seconds, but others will have seconds under the table or in the truck/pickup. There are a few vendors in our area that will go ahead and put up a sign that says “2nds”. Also… some vendors may not have seconds every week… just ask them. It is a great way to strike up a conversation with a farmer.

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