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Jun 7, 2009 07:53 AM

Farmer's markets

Hooray! It's farmer's market time again! I spent the better part of last summer shopping around the markets and had THE best fruit and veggies I have ever had. They actually had taste!! I'm so tired of the bland, almost tasteless stuff you get at regular grocery stores. I buy mostly organic and even this can't compare to what I get at the markets in the summer.

So - my questions is...does anyone know what the schedule is for what comes in when? What can you find at Farmer's markets during each month?

I ask because I went to the Bloor Borden market last Wednesday and was surprised to see that they only had strawberries and various lettuces. I know this all depends on what's in my question is....what's in season when so I know when to plan my visits.

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  1. Foodland Ontario has a guide
    Some foods like apples, potatoes , cabbage, and roots are stored all year long, and older stock can be sold at markets, so it pays to ask.

    There is a similar thread on your topic here:

    Gio's post should be helpful if you use N.Y. State or Michigan as a template.

    14 Replies
    1. re: jayt90

      As jayt90 recommends, check the foodland listing to check what's seasonal--and what ain't. Most suburban "farmers'" markets are awash in non-seasonal produce fresh from the Food Terminal or local produce that's identical to what the supermarkets offer. I'd really like to see some disclosure enforced on what's what in these markets. High fuel prices kept many growers out of the western GTA markets last year. Hoping they come back with the real deal this summer.

      1. re: Kagemusha

        There was supposed to be signage made available only to real farmers. Do you know if there's any progress on that? Right now it's "buyer beware" and bring your crib notes on what's in season. It's really ridiculous to think you may not do any better than a grocery store unless you're truly vigilant. The onus is once again on the consumer. I love my country, but oh for better consumer protection.

        1. re: Googs

          If you go to a MyMarket, then you should be dealing directly with the farmers. At other markets, you need to be diligent and ask questions.

          1. re: RYP

            MyMarket has a website that provides info on what's in season so you have an idea of what to expect at their markets.

            Kind of related, yesterday was the first day of the St. Andrews market, which is run by MyMarket. I liked how they have a Twitter account and they would provide updates the day before letting people know what exactly one could expect. Very modest amount of stalls were there yesterday, but after talking with the organizers it was all very last minute. Hopefully as the summer goes on they'll have up to 20 vendors, including meat and game farms.

          2. re: Googs

            Agreed. AFAIK there's no regulatory grid covering this stuff as yet. Caveat emptor aside, I find it's usually easy to sort growers from resellers if you take the time to get to know them. "Farm" license plates on trucks say a lot.. I've seen the Square One market in Miss. gradually fill up with phonies--certainly the case last summer. I generally only buy from 4-6 sellers who I've gotten to know and trust. Can't wait for Ontario pineapple crop to come in 8^)

            1. re: Kagemusha

              My local is St Lawrence. Not quite as easy to scope parking lots. Hopefully the real farmers will be flying MyMarket flags soon. Is signage too much to ask for?

              1. re: Googs

                If you know your fruits and vegetables (and what the locally grown versions look like) and what's in season, it's easy to spot a reseller from a mile away. Consumer education is key here; not signage.

                And make a point of getting to know the farmers, many of whom sell at a number of markets. They're great to speak with, and you can develop a relationship and sense of trust at the same time.

                1. re: Tatai

                  I am an educated consumer.

                  A) Not everyone is.
                  B) This shouldn't be some exclusive club.
                  C) Canadian consumers are generally unprotected while businesses generally are.
                  D) Signage would direct consumers to the little guy and away from resellers. I'm gonna guess this would be considered a good thing, giving real farmers an advantage and all.
                  D) Even knowing what's in season how can I be expected to both shop AND think at 7am? I mean c'MON.

                  Make it easy for eve-ry-one. Bring on the signage. Who's with me here?

                  1. re: Googs

                    One more layer on the bureaucratic onion?

                    I hope not: it's already way over-sized.

                    1. re: DockPotato

                      Why is it bureaucracy is always a one way street in Canada? Anyway, I wasn't trying to get anyone into a tizzy. Just thought giving real farmers a marketing egde at point of sale might be a nice thing to do. For them and for us.

                    2. re: Googs

                      If they so choose, local farmers can get free signage from Foodland Ontario.

                      1. re: Googs

                        The MyMarket schtick will likely be too pricey for little guys. My local markets are full of bargain hunters who'll buy utter crap if it's cheap enough--that's their only aim. I try to support guys who sweat to raise the stuff--not cube van jockeys who "farm" the Food Terminal. Have another coffee, Googs, to get more than the old brain stem workin' on those early shopping trips...

                        1. re: Kagemusha

                          Many of the markets are vetting the vendors to see what's under their nails, and what they claim to be real. And they're also trying to make the market experience more of an event than simply spuds or no.

                          The Brickworks is attracting a number of folks who are doing pure local products, foraged products and good local prepared goods. No parking charge this year, and the elk sirloins from free range farms are less than the chi chi butchers are charging for designer beef. Try it.

            2. I was at the Green Barn Farmers' Market yesterday, where everything being sold was locally grown; I didn't see a single imported vegetable or fruit.

              During the earlier part of June, you'll see lots of lettuces and baby greens, Asian vegetables, radishes, spinach, rapini, chard, collards, kale, mushrooms and asparagus. Strawberries are just coming out now, and you'll see peas and cherries later on in the month.

              You shouldn't have been surprised at what you saw at Bloor-Borden the other day. We're only about a month into the growing season in Ontario.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Tatai

                There is farmer's market at 200 Eglinton West on Thursdays.
                It's not very bid, there is bread from St John's French bakery, produce, honey, eggs. But the prices...A bunch of radishes $3, $5+ for a loaf...
                However much I would like to support the local producers, I cannot afford those prices.
                I don't think the local products have to be that expensive.

              2. i was at the liberty village market today (this is a MyMarket venue) and here's what we found in produce: several types of lettuce, cucumber, wild garlic, onion, spinach, potatoes, yams, carrots. i was disappointed that there were no strawberries, since i heard they were spotted elsewhere, but was overall very happy.

                in addition, there were 4 meat vendors selling beef, pork, lamb and buffalo, plus a bread stand (i got a delicious honey oat loaf), honey stand, herbs stand and a couple of others that escape now. all the vendors had little cards on the tables that identified their farm, methods of production, and products.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Kasia

                  Were some of them greenhouse operations? How else would they have cucumbers, yams? Some other items are questionable: onions, spinach, carrots and potatoes, at this time.

                  1. re: jayt90

                    i guess some of the produce could be from greenhouses. i don't think mymarket forbids it, as long as they come from the same farm. many farmers do both, as it's difficult to make a living on seasonal product, as we all know. i don't think there were any exclusively greenhouse farmers there though. at any rate, all the vendors we visited were more than happy to talk about what they do.

                    i assumed the yams were still from last year's storage.

                    1. re: jayt90

                      About all that we now see from local fields would be green onions, spinach, leaf lettuce and asparagus - peas furher south perhaps. A lot of early crops may be delayed because of a late, cold spring. Immediately south of the lakes in states such as Ohio their season is about 2 weeks earlier - we're only talking a few hours' so we have even local truck farmers doing the drive to US farms.

                      New potatoes, carrots and onions would be southern US produce. As to Canadian hot-house produce I only know of cucumbers (English), sweet peppers and lettuce being produced.

                      We should see fresh radishes, peas and strawberries any day now. It is possible that some very few farms are producing now but I haven't heard of any.

                      The other items not mentioned and now going strong are fresh herbs. I'm enjoying oregano, thyme, sage and fennel weed from my lazy garden. My chives are almost past but new ones are sprouting.

                      1. re: jayt90

                        Spinach is definitely out there, locally grown (it's growing like crazy in my own garden in the city). Cucumbers, sweet peppers and tomatoes would be greenhouse at this time of year. Carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes and onions would have to be last year's crop; stored properly, these vegetables should still be edible.

                    2. I've seen tons of rhubarb, as well as strawberries, at my local markets.

                      15 Replies
                      1. re: JamieK

                        I haven't seen any of the bursting-with-flavour little Ontario strawberries yet; only the local greenhouse strawberries so far. They are really good, though.

                        1. re: Tatai

                          Everything is way behind this year.


                          1. re: Davwud

                            Just like last summer, it's been way too cold in April and May. Strawberries unfortunately weren't great last year, I see that repeating itself due to similar lackluster weather.

                            Things like carrots and onions are often stored year round in temperature controlled rooms. They can hold a long time if stored properly, hence the year round availability.

                          2. re: Tatai

                            thought I saw some labelled "field strawberries" at the St Lawrence Market on Saturday.

                            1. re: JamieK

                              From California, maybe. Was it the vendor just outside the front door?

                              1. re: Tatai

                                sorry, I cannot for the life of me remember now. I was on a mission for a few items for a dinner party, in a hurry, and just noticed the sign in passing. However, I'm appalled that someone would mislead consumers that way.

                                California!!!! I guess I'm naive but hey, I'm in a so-called farmers' market and a sign says "field" I assume they mean Ontario. I'm wondering now, with my faulty memory, whether it said "Ontario" as well.

                                One thing I did buy that day that I'm still enjoying now, which was grown in a greenhouse somewhere in Ontario, is a couple of bunches of sweet pea flowers that are absolutely delightful.

                                1. re: JamieK

                                  The pea shoots are not necessarily from a greenhouse; my pea plants are growing extremely well outdoors.

                                  As for the California strawberries, I was speaking half in jest. It might be possible that in more temperate areas of Ontario (Niagara, SW), the field strawberry crop is already out. It's just that I know that the vendor just outside the front door sells fat New Jersey blueberries during local blueberry season.

                                  1. re: Tatai

                                    A CH thread last year had local strawberries out around June 11th/12th.

                            2. re: Tatai

                              I wouldn't expect strawberries to be grown in greenhouses. The vines spread, and the yield is not nearly as plentiful as lettuce, cucumbers or tomatoes.
                              However there may be Ohio vegetables and fruits sent here. DockPotato mentioned this above.

                              1. re: jayt90

                                I don't know a whole lot about berry growing, but there do seem to be farms in Ontario growing greenhouse strawberries -- and raspberries. Here are some notes from the journal of Balsillie Fruit Farm in Harrow:

                                1. re: Tatai

                                  Balsillie has been growing strawberry and raspberry plants in their greenhouse for propagation. In their entries, May 19, 2000, and May 20, 2001, they state their intention: To grow runners to transplant outside when the weather is warmer. Dirt strawberries, in a field.
                                  They mention an experiment in May, 2004, picking strawberries inside as a test,and there is a follow-up, May, 2005, but no evidence of greenhouse berries hitting the market.

                                  1. re: jayt90

                                    "May 23, 2005: This year is starting off cool and dry, with some beautiful sunny days through bloom that should help pollination. We are still pruning, and have started chasing weeds downs. We are picking greenhouse strawberries, greenhouse raspberries, and field rhubarb...."

                                    To me, this means they're picking fruit from their greenhouse plants. As I said, I'm no berry expert, and who knows what's been happening at Balsillie in the past four years.

                                    Perhaps I'm using the wrong terminology; I know that strawberries can be "helped along." Does this refer to actually growing them in greenhouses or covering field berries with plastic to force them along? Or both? I think the latter does take place, in which case the term "field berries" at this time of year might be accurate.

                                    1. re: Tatai

                                      My wife picked some up the other day from Rvierdale Farmer's market. I was surprised that they were from Ontario, and she said the grower produced them in greenhouses.

                                      As an aside, I know last year there were some really early tomatoes from greenhouses operated by Cookstown greens. Obviously, that happens all year. But the ones from these guys were really good.

                                      1. re: grandgourmand

                                        Last summer, local greenhouse tomatoes were far better tasting than field tomatoes. All that rain washed out all the flavour.

                                        1. re: Tatai

                                          This year is looking better from a rain perspective, but the cool weather will certainly put a damper on things. At least, that's the view in my garden.