Try a peach from the farmers’ market, and you’ll know why I have to ration them. They look similar to the peaches you might find at a grocery, but pick it up and it screams for you to eat it immediately. The smell is so strong, you feel like you’re walking through an orchard. And the peel just barely contains the juices.
I’m guessing it’s because of the peaches my kids literally jumped for joy when I told them our local farmers’ markets open this week. Peaches so good the juice streams down their chins and arms. The same goes for the rest of the fruits there.
And the vegetables? We got so used to the taste of farm-fresh tomatoes that I won’t even buy them once the markets close. I buy my whole week’s worth of produce at the market, and we feast on all that is fresh and in season. The only vegetables I’ve ever found better are the ones I pick right out of our own yard.
In a few weeks when the summer growing season finally arrives in full force, the vegetable booth features nearly every vegetable you’ll need (you’ll have to go elsewhere for your tropical produce!). I never plan a Shabbos menu during farmers’ market season and instead cook what ever veggies are fresh and available–making the meals more fun and better tasting.
I know what you’re thinking–Is it more expensive? It depends. If you bargain shop for produce, then yes. But if you like to buy what you buy because you like it, and you want your food to taste as good as it possibly can, then no. When you see your kid eating swiss chard because it is indisputably delicious, that’s priceless. And if you’re a skeptic, then try it and only buy a little. Most likely, you’ll be back for more.
As for organic, most farmers at local markets are too small to pay for organic certification, but farmers with a diversified crop are usually using best practices for healthy produce. Don’t be afraid to ask the farmer what he or she uses on the crops.
Here’s a list of the Farmers’ Markets near our home that we’ve tried. And here is a list of all of them.
Skokie: Mornings in the library parking lot. This is the largest one that’s really close by, but who needs a bunch of produce on Sunday?
Devon Community Market: 10-2PM at 2720 W. Devon (Republic Bank Parking Lot)
Rogers Park: Glenwood, between Morse and Lunt. this one is smaller, but full of interesting people, if you like that sort of thing. It’s close enough to ride your bike there
Lincoln Square: Mornings at the “L” station, near Western and Lawrence. This is also a really large and good market, if you can tolerate driving down Lincoln Ave. for that long.
Evanston: On Ridge and South and on Central St., in the late afternoons.
Lincoln Park: Located right across from the farm, this is probably the best market in Chicago. It’s full of vendors, including some organic farmers, and even features live music. Pack a lunch and stay for the zoo.