I have a bone to pick with the so-called “farmer’s market” that pops up in the Macalester parking lot every Thursday afternoon. First off, it is not a farmer’s market, which implies multiple vendors, but a produce stand, sourced from one vendor without competition and (relatively) high prices. My vendetta against this unassuming stand stems from the fact that I am a religious attendant of the downtown St. Paul farmer’s market, rated as one of America’s best farmer’s markets by Travel and Leisure Magazine! The market is a cheap, local food source haven that far too few Mac students take advantage of. The following list has reasons to help make my case to get your butt out of bed (even if you’re hungover) on Saturday or Sunday morning and get downtown.
It’s free! If you go to their website (www.stpaulfarmersmarket.com) you can download a free MetroTransit pass good on any bus or rail line from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. on market days.
It’s cheap! Six zucchini for $2, three pounds of carrots or potatoes for $2, huge bundles of kale for $1, fresh stalk-on garlic cloves for 50 cents, baskets of fresh Zestar, Honeycrisp, and dozens of other local apple varieties ranging from $3-15.
It’s local! Farmers from around the Twin Cities are proud of their product and there is no better way to support local business than with your stomach and wallet. They are also friendly, so if you see something you don’t recognize (looking at you, Chinese Lantern tomatillos & Kabocha squash) just ask. They can likely tell you where it comes from, how to pick a fresh one and the best ways to cook it.
It’s fun! St. Paul is hopping on Saturday mornings, and the farmer’s market is right in the heart of it. Surrounded by brunch spots, parks, bookstores and the Saints stadium, it is a great spot to linger, people watch and meet new people.
There’s corn! Did I mention they sell hot buttered sweet corn ready to eat? There is also kettle corn, hot coffee (for the October chill), bagel sandwiches and more to keep your stomach happy as you feast your eyes on the colors, sounds and smells around you.
If you’re wondering what’s good right now there is an abundance of apples, (both for eating and for baking, making apple butter, sauce, etc.), juicy tomatoes of all shapes and sizes, bell peppers (ever seen a purple one? because they have ‘em!), loads of green leafy things, zucchini, okra, onions, potatoes, carrots, beets and even the beginnings of fall squashes and pumpkins!
Also, for all you meat eaters out there, there are also local vendors of grass fed, free range, sometimes organic local beef, chicken, fish and eggs.
To get you pumped and inspired about local produce, I will have a weekly recipe using ingredients you can get at the market that week, and this week’s is a country favorite of mine—fried okra! Crunchy, spiced and perfect for dipping, they make a great side dish or afternoon snack.
Pan Fried Okra
A few handfuls of okra
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp milk
Salt, sugar, paprika, garlic powder, cayenne (around 1/2 tsp each or to taste)
1/4 cup canola oil (or whatever oil you have)
Wash and trim ends off of okra, and then cut into 1/2 inch slices.
Whisk together egg and milk in a small bowl.
Mix cornmeal, flour and spices in another bowl.
Heat 1 or 2 tbsp of oil in a fry pan.
Working in batches, dip okra in egg mix, then cornmeal mix to coat, and add to hot oil.
Cook a couple minutes on each side, flipping halfway through, until the cornmeal coating is golden brown.
Set on paper towel or cooling rack to drain.
Serve with condiments for dipping (ketchup, mustard, mayo, sriracha, whatever!)