It is easy at the grocery store to toss produce into the cart without giving it much thought, but it is quite another experience to actually interact with the person who farmed the crop. Whenever I visit a farmers market, I pick up tips through conversations with merchants, including:
•The best way to store produce (i.e. fridge vs. counter) and how long it will stay fresh.
•Whether or not produce can be frozen (surprisingly a lot can).
•Suggestions to prepare the items I purchase (this is how I discovered grilling fruit).
Whether you’re looking to “eat local” or need to pick up salad fixings for dinner, here are some of the many farmers markets you can shop along the train line.
First stop – Riverside Farmers Market in Riverside (south of tracks, www.riverside.il.us). From fresh produce and herbs to wine and cheese, a variety of vendors set up shop at the Riverside Farmers Market, which takes place from 2:30 to 7 p.m. every Wednesday through Oct. 15 in the parking lot between the library and township hall in downtown Riverside.
Sweet treats include fudge from Aunt Diana’s, cake balls from Chocolate Twist and assorted baked goods from Yoder’s Bakery. Even Fido can get a baked dog treat at Lovin’ Tails. Need to pick up a hostess gift? BWGSLAM Potters offers locally produced pottery and Wanderlust Soaps & Sundries has handmade soaps. Be sure to check out the market’s blog, Just Eat Local, for the latest news about the market as well as the harvest calendar for Illinois so you’ll know what produce is in season.
Second stop – Westmont Open Market in Westmont (north of tracks, Irving Street and Cass Avenue, www.westmontevents.com). Part of the Westmont Street Fair in downtown Westmont, the Westmont Open Market features farm fresh fruits and vegetables, specialty foods, artists and more. The market takes place from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursdays through Aug. 28.
Vendors include Big Head Farm, Great Lakes Kettle Corn, Scentsy Wickless Candles and Spice Merchants. After shopping at the market, be sure to check out the other activities at the Westmont Street Fair, including cooking demonstrations, classic car show and musical performances.
Last stop – Downtown Downers Grove Market in Downers Grove (south of tracks at the train station, www.ymcachicago.org). Jointly sponsored by the Indian Boundary YMCA and the Village of Downers Grove, the Downtown Downers Grove Market has expanded the past few years to include more than 60 vendors. Shoppers can get produce, fresh meat, eggs, olives, hummus, teas and other culinary treats. Entertaining this weekend? Set the table with fresh cut flowers, pick up soaps and lotions for the guest bathroom, and maybe treat yourself to a new pair of earrings. Talk about one-stop shopping!
The market is open from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays through Oct. 18. Besides shopping for meals for the week, the market also includes entertainment from local musicians, periodic YMCA fitness classes, cooking demonstrations and health screenings.