Carin Makuz is a farmers' market enthusiast. In this edition of To Market she looks beyond the carrots and corn to show us some of the more interesting finds from farmers' markets across Durham.
If you haven’t yet managed to visit a farmers’ market this year, don’t despair. True, you’ve missed the apricots and asparagus but harvest time is upon us and the stands are bursting with the best of summer’s offerings. And we’re lucky here in Durham—as well as an incredible variety of local fruits and veggies, we have the benefit of Niagara fruit from farmers who drive during the wee dark hours to get it to us as fresh-off-the-tree as possible (which is a very different thing than re-sellers who pick it up at the Ontario Food Terminal).
But guess what? There’s more than fruit and veggies in them there stands! (Scroll down or click here to jump to a round-up of market highlights from around the region.)
While you are, no doubt, a devoted market-goer and wouldn’t dream of buying an onion anywhere else, there’s still a pretty good chance you go to markets mainly to get fresh produce. Maybe you buy tomatoes and kale, chat about leeks, stock up on zucchini for soup, or maybe you prefer the flowers (stuffed with goat cheese) ; maybe you look for your favourite dirty potatoes (because you know they’re best and last longer if the dirt is left on them; same with carrots); maybe you grab some shiitakes, a basket of plums, and head home.
Because this is what you do at a market, right?
Then one day you see the pen guy.
Normally, you’d walk right past. You’re there for onions and zucchini. But you decide to stop, take thirty seconds and see what his pens are about. You like pens. You know how to write by hand. Cursive even. So, fine, you think, you’ll mosey on over, talk pens for a lark. But what happens is you and the pen guy don’t talk about pens at all, you talk about craft, about the veining in acrylic blocks and burled wood; you talk lathes and Japanese paper and the art of woodworking. Turns out he makes hand-turned pens that come in beautiful handmade wooden boxes. And every pen comes with a refill.
Well, knock you over with a feather.
And then you look around, see stands and tables that offer things other than produce, all of which you’ve passed by before, and you wonder what else you’re missing and so you begin to roam about and explore and ask questions and what you discover is that our divine Durham markets are not only filled with gorgeous produce, but a few hundred other quite amazing things made by some pretty incredible people.
Moral of the story: life is more than onions.
To prove it—a small sample of happy finds:
Where: Vandermeer Nursery, parking lot (Bayly and Lakeridge)
When: Thursdays, 1p.m. – 6p.m.
What: A lovely surprise. This seemingly small market in a large space actually has a good variety of vendors; take your time, stroll through, stop often and ask questions. A chatty crowd.
Ian, the Bee Man “extraordinaire” for unpasteurized honey, fresh bee pollen and more. Also much bee wisdom.
Kahlua Cakes. Word to the wise: do NOT leave without ‘cake on a stick’.
The Soap Boss, a 5th generation ‘soaper’ who makes colourful, lush, lathery bars in the form of cupcakes and chocolates and (get this) soap.
The apple cake from Crown Valley Bakery (the baker claims it’s magnificent and he’s right).
Where: East parking lot
When: Fridays, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
What: It’s the granddaddy of Durham markets, that’s what! Busy and bustly.
The perogies at A Taste of Russia (worth standing in line for).
The shiitakes at Waymac Farms (also portobellos, cromini, oyster and occasional chanterelles and other varieties). Be prepared for recipes! (Ask for the salsa/Portobello one.)
Toasted garlic goat cheese at Crosswind Farm.
Handmade catnip pillows and doggie treats at Sav-On-Seeds (who also do bird feed, honey, beeswax candles, maple syrup, honey butter, healthy snacks and more).
The meat pies at Snowden Farms where happy cows are fed non-GMO grain and the pastry is out of this world.
The infused vinegars (including lemon grass!), vinaigrettes, oils, chutney, rose petal jelly and other homemade edibles at Norma’s Edible Flowers & Herbs.
Where: Pedestrian Walkway, Victoria Street, beside Regent Theatre (between Bond and King)
When: Tuesdays, 11 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
What: Lovely intimate vibe. Durham’s newest market and still growing. Only a handful of vendors but quality stuff. And don’t worry, you can get all you need for dinner: veggies, fruit, dessert, and some nifty gifty things while you’re at it.
Steak rubs and ‘HOT’ sauces from Joy in Your Kitchen (plus her recipe for BBQ’d corn on the cob).
Beautifully made organic soaps, lip balm, bath bombs and more by Aide Luxury Bodycare (I dare you to buy one of the handmade lavender eye-bags as a gift and not keep it for yourself.)
Where: Legends (parking lot), 1661 Harmony Rd. N.
When: Saturdays, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.
What: The kind of market where (if you go a couple of times) everybody knows your name. And the parking is great!
Sweet or sparkling apple cider at Geissberger Farm. Also apple cider vinegar and freshly made apple fritters.
Homemade preserves (from hand-picked produce) at F&M Farm and Marie’s Jams and Jellies.
Snowden Farms (if you forgot to pick up a magical meat pie on Friday, here’s another chance!)
Where: East parking lot, Pickering Town Centre
When: Tuesdays, Noon – 7 p.m.
What: Bigger and busier than you might think and the vendors love to chat!
The spicy cheese loaf at Well Healed Pantry (all red fife, cheddar and jalapenos). Warning: addictive.
Kefir made from organic coconut milk, sprouts, seeds, beans, kale chips, dairy and all manner of gluten free goodies at Healing Spirit Nutrition.
The butter tarts at Hy Hope Farm.
Where: Mary & Water Streets
When: Saturdays, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.
What: Probably the prettiest market setting in all of Durham, on the shore of Lake Scugog. (Buy a peameal bacon sandwich, eat at the park and be glad you live in this part of the world…)
The happy meat at Lunar Rhythm Gardens. (This alone is worth the drive up there.)Julie Jamieson’s photographs. Angels, India, Cuba, more. Gorgeous.
The Pumpkin Seed’s Mint Chip Lip Balm. It looks like chocolate and will make you happy all the minutes you wear it.
Blueberry ‘ade’ (like lemonade but blue), at Your Backyard Bounty.
Where: Uxbridge Arena, parking lot (291 Brock St. N.)
When: Sundays, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
What: A not-so-tiny but quite perfect market with a (sometimes) Gordon Lightfoot lookalike busker.
The dim sum. (Worth the drive from wherever you’re driving.)
Hand woven Alpaca scarves (and many other alpaca products) at Arriba Linea.
Happy free range chicken from Willo Wind Farm.
Where: Old Firehall, Brock St. South
When: Wednesdays, 11 a.m. – 4p.m.
What: Nice mix of food and craft, very strollable and (recently) Ecuadorian buskers, ‘Farrucas’ made for a lively atmosphere.
Custom made pens by Mack A. Cameron.
West Indian cakes, curries, sauces and seasonings at Shirley’s Baked Goods.
Kenny Bob “the hot sauce specialist.”
Handmade wooden bowls, vases, trays and bracelets, and the stories that go with each, by Tony Banas.
Also, Meredith at Bruni & Sons Farms almost always has a few zucchini flowers.