Places to Go, Things to Do… Saint Paul Farmer’s Market

Whoa. In this family, we love veggies. Not quite enough to become vegetarians, because, let’s be honest, nothing beats bacon and eggs on a Saturday morning. Except maybe going to the Farmer’s Market on a Saturday Morning.

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One of these days, I’ll make it to Seattle’s Pike Place market. {Dreams are made of it!} For now, though, I could wander up and down the three main aisles of St. Paul’s downtown market for hours.

With friends at the market last weekend!

With friends at the market last weekend!

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This was in early October of last year; in July and August, the market is like a mountain river during salmon spawning season.

Which we have been doing lately!  During the summer months {when there’s not an out of town wedding – and even when there is – we plan on hitting up Madison’s capitol square farmer’s market next weekend}, fresh, locally grown produce procured at the farmer’s market brings happiness to my heart and peace to our grocery budget. The sheer volume of basil one can procure for $2 is beyond incredible. And, it’s fresh! And, produced organically! Usually in Minnesota!

Tally ho, to your local farmer’s market. These farmers are bringing Americans back to the source of our food {or relatively close, for that matter}.  Goodness.

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Choosing where to buy your food, as well as what you buy, is paramount. Michael Pollan said, in his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, “’Eating is an agricultural act,’ as Wendell Berry famously said. It is also an ecological act, and a political act, too. Though much has been done to obscure this simple fact, how and what we eat determines to a great extent the use we make of the world – and what is to become of it. To eat with a fuller consciousness of all that is at stake might sound like a burden, but in practice few things in life can afford quite as much satisfaction.” 

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Small changes in our daily diet at home have made us feel like we are doing our {little} part to purposefully eat well and do good. More fruitsandvegetables, buying organic produce when we can afford to do so, shopping around the exterior of the grocery store and avoiding the aisles in the middle, all guide our food shopping. Though we don’t have much sun-space to grow our own garden {someday!}, living in this big beautiful city offers so many options for thoughtful consumers {Hello, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s and Lund’s and Kowalski’s and even Hello Cub Foods!}

Including the farmer’s market. There is at least one or two farmer’s markets to visit in the city on any given day of the week  {Schedule}. I plan on visiting at least two or three more before the summer’s up and taking some DSLR photos home with my overflowing basket of veggies.  For now, Saturday morning market is kind-of a fresh newlywed date for us. Fancy, I know.

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Let’s break it down à la senses, for that is how food should be experienced. Virginia Woolf, in her common reader, said, “For ourselves, who are ordinary men and women, let us return thanks to Nature for her bounty by using every one of the senses she has given us.”

Sight: When you walk in {in? It is an open market; inness and outness are nonexistent}, colors abound. Blissfully cherry-red tomatoes, sunshine yellow zucchini in blue baskets, soft-amber mason jars upon mason jars of honey, deep purple eggplants waiting to tumble into your basket. Bouquets of rainbow-hued lilies and zinnias, daisies and hydrangeas sit in water, ready to delight the hostess at the party you’re going to tonight. And the greens! Yeesh. Bundles and bundles of grassygreen chives, cilantro, and basil.

{*Side note: if you’re into people-watching, this is THE. PLACE.} I love checking out farmer-fashion, handmade skirts {got mine here}, Saturday-morning still-wearing-my-glasses sleepy eyes peeking open with a cupofcoffee, and the baskets and totes customers bring in which they place their green treasures.}

Sound: I wish there were real live chickens squawking and pigs oinking. That’s what I picture in my idyllic farmer’s market dream land. Here, though, little ones squeal with delight when they get a honey stick or a strawberry to squish between their sticky fingers or a fresh-baked blueberry muffin. Farmers ask “Which bundle/dozen/bunch/pint would you like?” and customers reply with grateful pointed fingers, whooshing toward the prettiest, most scrumptious looking bundle/dozen/bunch/pint.

Touch: Smooth onion bulbs have stalks that go on for days. Feathery dill tickles the tips of your fingers. Sharp rose thorns juxtapose with their gentle, pillowy pink petals.

Smell: Stick your face in the basil plant, my friends. Just do it. THAT is summer goodness. Or, take a whiff of the sweet strawberry crates intoxicating passersby into taking a closer look. Real strawberries, farm strawberries, have a smaller body but a richer, redder, sweeter smell than any strawberries at any grocery store. Can’t say no to it.

Taste: Other than the cheese/sausage/honey/jam samples {to name a few} and iced coffee stand, most of the tasting happens in the kitchen once we get our loot home. Except when I buy raspberries. We’re lucky if they make it home. The tasting that does happen at home is rich, juicy, peppery, bitter, sweet, balsamic-y, garlicky, sometimes sour, usually sugary, and always more flavorful and satisfying than we could have imagined.

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Here’s a look at some of the dishes we’ve prepared using our STP Farmer’s Market goods this week:

Cherry Tomato Balsamic Chicken with Basil:

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Garden Salad with Snow Peas, Garlic Chives, and Fresh Mozzarella:

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Stuffed Peppers:

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Zucchini Spaghetti with Sauteed Mushrooms and Sweet Peas in a Basil Pesto Cream Sauce from {Top With Cinnamon},

Guacamole,

and Fresh Mint Mojitos!

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See you at the market!

xoxo

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