Season Openers – Farmers Market

Farmers market season is finally here. The one I frequent the most is Nathan Phillips Square because it’s close to where I live; it’s no fun lugging a ton of heavy groceries half way across the city. Setting-wise it’s not the prettiest market. Nathan Phillips Square is a big concrete square in the heart of downtown Toronto; in the middle of the day there’s no shade. There are greener and more relaxing markets like Brickworks, Dufferin Grove and Trinity Bellwoods to name a few, but proximity prevails for me.

farmers market posies
The most special aspect of farmers markets is usually the person behind the table is the person that actually grew/baked/prepared the food you are buying. Provided there isn’t a long line up behind you, the purveyors are usually happy to chat and answer your questions. Another great thing about farmers markets is most of them are outdoors. This means I can bring Oscar with me. However, having him with me also means I can only get half the amount of groceries I’d usually be able to carry because I have to make sure I have enough hands free to wrangle him. My tactic is to first do a survey tour of all the different stands to see what’s on offer, then I decide on a few choice items. I try not to go to the market with anything too specific in mind. I prefer to pick up whatever catches my eye and inspires me. Admittedly this can sometimes result in an incongruous collection of ingredients. Following is a selection of things that caught my eye this week.

The Apple Farmers – Brantview Apples and Cider

apple cider donuts
These guys
are my favorite part of the farmers market. This is not because I especially like apples, it’s actually because of the quiet, kind and gentle demeanor of the farmers. I’ve never asked their names, but this stand is always manned by the same two men, and one of them always comes around to give Oscar a free apple and a scratch on the head. Today was no exception, while I was choosing my apples, he came around to coo into Oscar’s ear what a good girl he was. Oscar politely did not correct him. I always get half of a half peck of apples and some apple cider donuts. The first ingredient in the donuts is apple cider. I downed half the package while writing this. I’m told macs (my husband’s favorite) won’t be ready till September.


farmers market posies
I just learned today that posies are not a kind of flower. A posy is a small bouquet. I never knew that. Although cut flowers are not the most practical thing to pick up when you’ve got limited room and muscles to carry things home, they are near impossible to resist. The bouquet pictured above cost just $5.


Can one ever have enough? There were also some cherry tomato plants that caught my eye, but I was too laden down with bags to grab them. I’m very much coveting an heirloom tomato plant, I love those delicious misshapen tomatoes.

Super Fresh Mushrooms

shitake mushrooms

Farmers market mushrooms are unbeatable. You can find all sorts of interesting varieties and they’re usually super fresh. Stroke a farmers market mushroom and you’ll see they’re the perfect texture, neither wet and slimy nor dry and withered. In the shitakes pictured above, note how clean and lily white the gills are. Mushrooms are fungus, so for me there can’t be any element of slime to them.

Pencil-Thin Asparagus


Pencil-thin asparagus is the more elegant cousin of regular asparagus. Although more slender, it’s actually a bit more fibrous than the regular kind. Be sure to keep cooking time minimal and serve with lemon.

For a list and schedule of Toronto farmers markets click here.

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