Beginnings & Endings: The Evanston Farmers Market & the Glenwood Indoor Market

May 10, 2012 at 7:43 pm

Spring is here, and winter – or at least, what passed for winter in 2011-2012 Chicagoland – is all but over.   The two passed like the proverbial ships last weekend, as the first outdoor Evanston farmers market of 2012 (Saturday, May 5th) was in close proximity with the penultimate Glenwood Indoor Market of the season (Sunday, May 6th - the final indoor market of the year will be May 20th).   As the seasons cross over, the products sold at these markets have certain things in common, but many interesting – and delicious – differences.

The Evanston market begins its 37th year in 2012, and is a blueprint for all quality serious markets to follow.   A whopping 51 vendors are participating this season, coming from Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Indiana.  The accelerated 2012 growing season has enabled farmer/vendors to bring a great deal more produce to the market this early in the season, especially asparagus (both green and purple), but also chives and chive flowers, spinach, esoteric items such as stinging nettles, and earlier-than-usual perennial cut flowers, such as Dutch iris and peonies.   Vendors selling bakery products have increased greatly, as Bennison’s and Great Harvest bakeries have been joined by Crust & Crumb of Evanston (artisan breads), Sweety Pies of Skokie (small baked goods, such as scones), Marilyn’s Bakery (pies), and Heinke’s Treats (German and American cookies).   New specialty vendors, such as Lavender on the Lake (selling various fragrant lavender products – soaps, dried flowers, and sachets) join old favorite stalwarts, such as Nichols Farm and Orchard (featuring heirloom tomato and herb plants, as well as small fig trees and early produce) and Henry’s Farm (the aforementioned nettles and chives, as well as unusual organic plant starts, such as papalo, a strong, savory Mexican herb, used in Poblano cooking).   The Talking Farm, an Evanston not-for-profit, is also selling out-of-the-ordinary vegetable plants, such as green Thai eggplant; proceeds go toward funding projects promoting sustainable gardening and education.   Even this early in the year, there is an enormous selection of good things to eat, to grow, and to gaze upon.

(Evanston farmers market:  Saturdays, from May 5th through November 3rd; hours are 7:30AM to 1:00PM; located at the intersection of University Place and Oak Ave. , behind Hilton Garden Inn, east of East Railroad Ave., in downtown Evanston)

The Glenwood Indoor Market, held periodically on Sundays during the winter/early spring months in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, may be the only farmers market anywhere held in a bar.   Latecomers can belly up for a beer, and take inventory of their purchases, as the bar opens at noon on Sundays, providing a 2-hour overlap for the patrons of the Glenwood’s two interesting contrasting faces.

At this time of year, the market serves not only as a marketplace for organic goods and unusual edibles and drinkables, but also as a clearinghouse for community-supported agriculture sign-ups, for taking advantage of the upcoming time when the agricultural season is in full swing.  Several farms are represented, including Earth First Farms, Fat Blossom Farm, Four Friends Farms, Hardin’s Family Farm, Kilgus Farmstead, Kings Hill Farm, Midnight Sun Farm, Mint Creek Farm,  Montalbano Farms, and Nature’s Pasture; ask them about their CSA programs.   While you are at the market, sample some hand-blended organic teas from SentTeaMental Moods, organic cheese from Stamper Cheeses, and something unique to this market, Phoenix Bean tofu, a made-in-Chicago product.  And don’t forget that beer!

(Glenwood Sunday Market: final market of the season, Sunday, May 20 at The Glenwood Bar, 6962 N. Glenwood, Chicago,  from 9:00AM – 2:00PM;  the Sunday outdoor Glenwood market begins June 3rd, on the same block of Glenwood Ave., between Lunt and Morse Aves.)