Farmers Markets offer most delicious choices (includes recipe)

originally published summer, 2010

 I contacted Veronica Resa at the Mayor’s Office of Special Events public relations, to get the scoop on Chicago Farmers Markets. Are the foods at the Markets organic, I asked, and what foods were in season now.
As she answered, and gave more details about the Farmers Markets, I was impressed. And I slipped back in time.
When I was a kid, I lived in the country. Our family had a large garden. We planted vegetables including tomatoes, cucumbers and sweet corn.      We also had strawberry plants and rhubarb. All these we could pick once they ripened, and take straight to the kitchen for preparation.

     That way of life had breezed into my past quietly, and I became a city gal, who walked to the grocery store to get fresh produce.
I chose organic foods, to support the farmers who were sustainable. That’s why I asked Ms. Resa if the Farmers Markets foods were organic.
One reason I wanted to confirm what came into season: In May I was at the grocery store, and noticed ears of sweet corn for sale. Yet I recalled back, to our family waiting – mouths watering – till at least July before we could pull sweet corn from the stalks.
After talking with Ms. Resa, I am reminded to walk to the local Farmers Market this summer, to get my produce. Here’s what I learned.
Are the foods organic?
     The majority of the produce is sustainable. Getting certified as organic is an arduous and expensive process. A lot of the farmers cannot afford it. The farmers who participate in the markets have small farms. They’re independent growers, not commodity growers.
Throughout the Chicago Farmers Markets most vegetables are sustainable, Ms. Resa says. The fruits are likely sprayed, yet the farmers promise to spray as little as possible and with as few chemicals as possible.

What foods are in season?
Sweet corn is in season in July or August, Ms. Resa confirmed. It takes a lot of sun to grow corn. That’s why we Midwesterners get ours later in the season. The ears of corn I saw in the grocery store likely came from far away – perhaps California.
Produce we find in grocery stores, depending on the season, could travel up to 1,000 miles or more to get to us, she says.
That takes extra fuel, and extra time after picking, before we get it.
To me, it’s worth waiting for our own “ripe” seasons. And it’s worth the wait to many Chicago chefs. An increasing number of them support the “Slow Food” movement that emphasizes using local ingredients for recipes.
Visiting farmers markets, Chicagoans may anticipate strawberries at their best June-July. Blueberries harvest season is June-August. Asparagus May-June. Rhubarb May-June and again in August.
Just visit the markets, and the seasonal produce will be at your fingertips. Most of it was picked only 24 hours before.

Chicago Farmers Markets requests
“We ask people to bring their own bags to farmers markets,” Ms. Resa says, “and we ask them to plant something.”
Bring their own bags to collect the produce and items they purchase, toprevent excess use of disposable bags.
Plant something so they know what it’s like to grow and harvest something. What about me, highrise gal, I asked. I’d love to plant something, but what?
Any plants you can turn upside down, like tomatoes, would grow well on a balcony, she says. Or, many herbs grow like weeds and can be placed in a windowsill that draws natural light.

_____________________ Seasonal recipe
Chef Bruce Sherman from North Pond restaurant in Chicago offers a recipe for

Rhurbarb Tart & Buttermilk ice cream


For tart:
1 kg rhubarb (about 15 stalks), peeled and cut into 2” batons
1/4  c sugar
1 tbl butter
2/3  c sugar
1/3 c flour, sifted
1 ea orange, zested and juiced
½ tsp cardamom powder
¼ tsp nutmeg powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder

1 ea pastry shell, pre-baked

For ice cream
1 c heavy cream
½ c sugar
6 ea egg yolks
2 c buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract


  • In a sauté pan, cook the rhubarb sticks in the butter and tablespoon of sugar until they just begin to soften up.
  • Remove to a bowl, let cool and then combine with the other ingredients. 
  • Fill a pre-baked pie shell with the cooled mixture, and if desired, lay a lattice top over the tart.
  • Paint with a beaten egg and bake in pre-heated oven at 325 degrees, 40-50 minutes, or until done.
  • For the ice cream, heat cream to a boil. Combine yolks and sugar and whip until pale yellow ribbons form.
  • Temper yolks with a bit of heated cream and then reverse process back into pan.
  • Place back over moderate heat and stir constantly, until mixture thickens and coats spoon.
  • Remove from fire, strain, and cool down.
  • Add the buttermilk and vanilla.  Chill and freeze in machine according to manufacturer’s directions

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