Green City Market: It’s February, But There’s Lots of Produce

February 13, 2012 at 4:47 pm

I have to confess that I rarely go to the Green City Market in summer, fabulous as it is. It’s not easily reachable by public transportation from my house, and parking around there is difficult. It’s also extremely popular, so it’s a little too crowded for me. I prefer the relative tranquility of the sleepy Michigan farmer’s markets and farmstands whenever I’m up there, the relaxed, Northern California vibe of the Logan Square market, the neighborhood feel of the Wicker Park market, or the convenience of the Daley Center market on Thursdays (which is located only two blocks from my office).

But come wintertime, I visit The Green City Market almost every Saturday. If you didn’t already know, the GCM has taken up winter residence in the upstairs of the Peggy Notebaert Museum. Even though the gray, cold winter weather doesn’t inspire thoughts of colorful farmer’s market produce, there are plenty of foodstuffs available to make your visit more than worthwhile. In fact, there are several upsides to the winter Green City Market. One, it’s less crowded. A crowded GCM is good for business, but you won’t have to worry about jostling people to get to the front of the vendors during winter. Two, it’s indoors. You can comfortably shop without a coat if you wanted. Three, there’s free and plentiful parking. Four — and most importantly — there’s a large variety of produce. Yes, produce – even in winter. Just two weeks ago, I purchased a beautiful head of cabbage from Genesis Growers that was pulled from the field (on that day, I was the beneficiary of our relatively mild winter temperatures). Genesis Growers also offered a multitude of stored winter squash, root vegetables, mixed salad greens, and eggs.

It seems strange to admit that I’m craving something as mundane as salad, but it’s winter, and I’m not eating greens as often. Luckily for me, Tomato Mountain was selling spinach this past Saturday, as was Majestic Nursery, which also had a bitter green mix with baby kale and mesclun. The ubiquitous and reliable Nichols Farm and Orchard had several varieties of storage apples and pristine potatoes. They, along with Three Sisters, were selling dried pinto and black beans. Three Sisters was selling oatmeal and cornmeal as well. There was plenty of meat offered by Kinnikinnick, TJ’s Poultry, and Mint Creek Farm. River Valley Kitchens was selling their specialty, mushrooms and canned goods, but also huge bulbs of garlic. Lately, my favorite vendor is King’s Hill, which had extremely well-priced and carefully stored root vegetables like celeriac, beets, parsnips, and potatoes. Cheese and butter vendors Nordic Creamery and Brunkow were there. (Be sure to sample Brunkow’s shitaake mushroom and shiraz butter.) Heritage Prairie Farm freshly mills organic flours made from Ted’s Organic Grains (sometimes they’re milled the day before market). I love buckwheat flour in the winter for pasta, pancakes and yeasted waffles. Eggs were available from multiple vendors. Next time you’re there, check out the multi-colored variety from Kinnikinnick. Pasta Puttana was selling pasta, and Burton’s Maplewood Farm had their special maple syrup aged in bourbon barrels. Breads were available from Bennison’s, and pie from Hoosier Mama. (There are also several prepared food vendors, such as Tiny Greens, Zullo’s, and Las Manas Tamales, though I didn’t sample any of the prepared foods.)

On Saturday, I left with a market bag filled with eggs, parsnips, celeriac, pinto beans, spinach and mixed greens. Not bad eating for the dead of winter.