No, that is not a typo . . . It is Saturday morning which is farmers market day, or at least it should be, so I am in mourning. While we live smack in the middle of downtown Chicago, we are blessed to have a farmers market footsteps away on Division Street, and I mean footsteps – 200, I counted. We didn’t know it existed when we bought our house 8 years ago, but what a bonus it has been! In normal times, the farmers market runs from late May to the end of October (or into November if it’s a mild autumn and produce keeps coming) and one of our favorite rituals is to grab a Go Cup of coffee and walk the block and a half to check out check out the scene.
And a festive scene it is . . . Normally, Division Street is full of bars and night clubs, notably “Mother’s” which was made famous in the 80’s movie “About Last Night . . . “, among others, and not what you would typically think of as “family friendly” as the crowds tend to be rowdy and tipsy into the wee hours. On Saturday mornings, however, the two blocks between State and Clark are transformed into a county fair like atmosphere and families with children and/or dogs wander about as musicians play. The first stop for many is the bakery stall on the northeast end to grab a croissant or other pasty for a nosh with their coffee from Le Colombe or Starbucks as they survey the current harvest. We frequently run into many of our neighbors and the kids are covered in powdered sugar or chocolate, content to let their parents visit for a bit.
My route is typically to walk the enitre length and check out each stall and assess what looks best where, often grabbing some beautiful peonies before they are sold out . As I mull over menus for the week, I usually begin my shopping at the southwest end at Nichols Farm, where today they would likely have tomatillos, sweet spring onions, asparagus and many varieties of chili peppers, including shoshitos, which I would load up on. I like to pop them on the grill until they just begin to char and serve with a drizzle of olive oil, sprinkling of sea salt and hummus for dipping.
I can’t resist a stop at Stamper Cheese from Wisconsin for some freshly made mozzarella and their delicious pistachio log and perhaps a few samples. I have to be careful not to blow the bank here, as there’s still a full block left. Next up, Smits Farms to stock up on herbs. It’s a little early in the season now, but they would have pots of basil, rosemary and lavender to grow at home along with pots of geraniums and other flowers to hang or decorate the stoop. As the season goes on, giant bunches of basil, flat parsley, arugula and mint would go into my bag at a mere $2 a bunch, meaning we would have Tabbouli and Basil or Arugula Pesto in addition to wonderfully fresh salads all week. The last stop this week would be Mick Klug Farms for their beautiful green and purple asparagus. Sadly, I don’t have any pictures, since they are still not able to set up shop at the moment. I am truly in mourning today, as it is peak asparagus season and I’d love to be stocking up on it right now. However, there is some good news, we can still support our local farmers by ordering from Green City Market through the “What’s Good” app with pick up at Band of Bohemia. I’ll be ordering next weekend and will keep the faith that as we open up, I can walk over to support them in person very soon.