In praise of farmers’ markets

January 17, 2013

There is nothing better than freshly harvested fruits and veggies. Early in the season you can find find field-grown lettuce, arugula, garlic greens, radishes, strawberries and asparagus, as well as mushrooms, herbs and greenhouse cucumbers. By mid-summer you can find greens, melons, heritage tomatoes, basil, pole beans, broccoli, peaches, wild blueberries, raspberries, yellow plums, the first apples and corn, and much more.

Buying locally grown food supports nearby farmers, and greatly reduces the energy and resources necessary to transport and store foods. See our environmental section for more on the benefits of eating local and organic.

Where to find a complete list of farmers’ markets:

TorontoToronto Farmers’ Markets on veg.ca (organic markets), the Toronto Farmers’ Markets Network and My Market
OntarioFarmers’ Markets Ontario lists all the local markets across the province.
United StatesLocalharvest.org has a great, zoomable, searchable map of local markets.

An embarrase de richesses at local farmer’s markets

by Lisa Pitman

What is it about visiting a farmers’ market that makes people so happy? I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but when I wander through a market and make a little eye contact I am always rewarded by an overwhelming number of smiles. It may be that the opening of most of Toronto’s markets coincides with a decrease in our population’s vitamin D deficiency, making us generally happier and more energetic. But I think it’s more than that. Spending time at the local market, buying produce from people passionate about growing it, sampling new ingredients, investing in the future of the planet and the health of our community may also contribute to those positive vibes.

There is nothing like the grey, cold months of winter to make Torontonians clamour for the first fresh tastes of spring. Tables full of asparagus, strawberries and baby greens are as much a harbinger of the new season as the return of songbirds.

In the last few years, the focus on eating locally grown produce and developing relationships with those dedicated to nurturing it has resulted in a boom in farmers’ markets. Now, once the harvest season hits (June to October), you can find a market laden with diverse, delicious ingredients any day of the week. I have even stumbled upon new markets while out on a stroll, surprised to see that another parking lot has become the latest spot for procuring fine, farm-fresh food.

I see Toronto’s commitment to local markets as a sign that collectively we care about the future of food security, safety and flavour. For example, vendors at My Markets sell only what they’ve produced themselves. Nothing tastes better than the first, tiny sweet raspberry of the season or apples picked a few hours before you bite into their crisp flesh.

Although many vendors sell their wares at more than one market, each visit is a unique experience. I have ventured to almost all of the city’s seasonal markets, and have enjoyed learning about new ingredients including ramps, garlic scapes, kohlrabi and romanesco. The farmers are always willing to share cooking and serving suggestions to celebrate the flavours of their produce. Many of the markets also include vendors who use fresh ingredients to create breads, cookies, muffins, soups, stews, sauerkrauts, jams and much more. If you’re picking up groceries but can’t wait to get home to enjoy a fabulous meal, most markets offer snacks, salads, burritos and sandwiches prepared on-site (Dufferin Grove even offers pizzas freshly baked in the outdoor brick oven).

So take the challenge this year to visit a new market, try a new ingredient or just get to know your local farmers by name. Enjoy the bounty!