The Big City Blog: Chicago farmers markets signal the start of summer — and fresh deals
By Clare Edlund
Above photo courtesy of the City of Chicago
Now that the weather is tolerable and the plants can breathe (yet) again, Chicago farmers markets are filled with young families, hipsters, and even solo violinists playing symphonic tunes.
For many, meandering through a vast collection of tents containing locally grown fruits, vegetables, snacks and plants is the perfect way to begin the weekend.
Last Sunday, I ventured out to a couple of farmers markets in place of my standard grocery store shopping.
At my first stop, the Wicker Park market, I was greeted with heirloom tomatoes and an abundance of other vegetables brought in from Iron Creek Farm in Indiana. As I tunneled my way to the center of the market, I discovered more atypical goods, like Puffs of Doom, the scrumptiously flavored cream puffs (I had Oreo), which won my approval for best dessert featured on this particular weekend.
Another excellent experience was sampling the cherry bomb hot sauce, made with Wisconsin-grown cherry bomb tomatoes. This secret sauce, carrying a mysterious kick, was fresh and contained no preservatives.
A great feature about the Wicker Park market was a surrounding atmosphere that included a symphonic orchestra playing classical music — talk about a relaxing environment. Even inside the market, a violinist played among the passersby. Wicker Park features various programs throughout the summer in conjunction with the farmers market, so check online for weekly details.
“I love going to farmers markets because I think they represent the old-timey ways of how people in the community used to come together, and I’m glad to see that they are still around,” says Deanna Shilkus, who enjoys going to the Green City Market.
Logan Square offers more of a street-side market compared to the grassy setup of Wicker Park, and features many of the same types of goods, only with more tents and unique items.
One of the most intriguing finds, I thought, was the $5 bag of stinging nettles.
Apparently, these nasty leaves are quite tasty when boiled, and they work great with tea or even in a breakfast burrito. Who would have thought?
I brought home a five-pound box of frozen blueberries that are guaranteed not to clump and are good for two years if stored in a freezer. I think I’m good for blueberries for the rest of the year. I also brought home a mini garden — three herb plants and a strawberry plant.
“I appreciate that each vendor at the Green City Market is independent, and it always makes me want to support them instead of big-box suppliers,” says Shilkus.
For more on the city of Chicago’s array of farmers markets, click HERE.