One of the best ways to get acquainted with a new city is to visit the local markets. And there is no better way to learn about Chicago than by visiting the farmer’s markets. The variety of food, the freshness and the dedication to local sourcing is evident at every stand.
Open at several locations and offered year-round, the markets, known collectively as the Green City Market, offer shoppers the opportunity to buy food grown within 150 miles of metro Chicago. The pride of such local sustainability is on display everywhere. Each booth has a card with the name of the producer, their home city and the number of miles they are located from Chicago. You can find anything from freshly-made donuts and Amish baked goods to prime meats, seafood, produce, plants, honey, jams, jellies, soaps and lotions. It’s a wonder to see things like fresh peas, rhubarb and pineberries (a hybrid strawberry) if you come from a place where such items do not grow and are never available for sale.
What stands out even more than the food itself is the friendliness of the sellers. They are anxious to help you find ways to use what you buy, offering recipes, storing and transport tips. The latter is especially important if you want to buy food to bring home. All of the producers have at least one specialty certification, such as Food Alliance Certified or American Grassfed Association and most have several certifications to show that their products are organic, natural and raised using environmentally sound practices. The markets are also an important ingredient source for local chefs, and it’s not unusual to see a chef loading up a truck or back seat with boxes of produce, destined for that night’s customers.
Green City Market is now in its 16th season, and has moved beyond the markets, offering tastings, workshops on growing your own food and “Savor the Seasons”; classes that focus on a single item of produce, such as lettuce, carrots and strawberries. And a market cookbook is on its way: Green City Market Cookbook will be available in late July. Copies are $24.95 and can be ordered online; proceeds benefit the market, which is a non-profit 501 [c] 3 organization.
Learning how a city eats and where its food comes from will give you great insight into how people live. Make a stop at one of Chicago’s Green City Market locations part of your itinerary, and you’ll come away with plenty of ideas for your own kitchen.
Green City Market schedule:
May through October, on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the south end of Lincoln Park, just north of the Chicago History Museum, 1601 North Clark St.
November and December, on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Peggy Notebaert Museum, 2430 North Cannon Drive.
January through April, Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Peggy Notebaert Museum, 2430 North Cannon Drive.
There are additional markets in downtown Chicago every Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Federal Plaza, West Adams and South Dearborn Streets, and at Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington Street (between North Clark and North Dearborn Streets) every Thursday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. These downtown markets run through the end of October.
Until the cookbook is available, here is an old recipe for rhubarb pie. It is from James Beard’s Beard on Food:
4 cups rhubarb, cut into half-inch pieces
1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups sugar (amount will vary, depending on the sweetness of the rhubarb)
4 tablespoons flour or 2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
¼ teaspoon salt
½ to 1 teaspoon grated orange or tangerine rind
Two nine-inch pie crusts
Deep pie dish
Mix all the ingredients and turn them into the pie crust. Moisten the bottom crust edges with water, place the top pie crust layer, crimp together and trim the edges of the pie crust. Cut slits in the top pastry to vent steam. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. This pie is excellent warm or cold, and even better with freshly-whipped cream.