Photo by ssarah bellum.
Winter, as you may have noticed, has set in.
One of the things we miss most about summer is the abundance of farmers’ markets. Over the last year or two especially, a new market seems to have popped up on every other corner. Most farmers’ markets wind down in late autumn, and by February local, seasonal food can feel like a dim memory. At this latitude, the pickings can be pretty slim indeed. Lest you feel bereft, rest assured that we come bearing consolation. Toronto actually has several year-round farmers’ markets, and while they can’t quite compare to their overflowing summer counterparts, they are still happily stuffed with veggies, freshly-baked bread, cheeses, fish, game, honey, preserves, pies, maple syrup, apple cider, and—well, you get the idea. After the jump, Torontoist’s guide to a farmers’ market near you.
Photo of the Dufferin Grove oven by Hamutal Dotan/Torontoist.
Any market that has its own communal wood-burning ovens is not messing around. The market at Dufferin Grove wears its political heart on its sleeve, committed to culinary indulgence and environmental responsibility in equal measure. Run by the Friends of Dufferin Grove, the market is part of a broad network of park-based activities that include low-cost communal suppers, a community garden, and seasonal performance events. Dufferin Grove rates high on the hippie scale, which is sometimes exactly what you want in a farmers’ market.
What we love: Stringent guidelines ensure that vendors sell responsibly produced food (primarily local, organic, and grown or made by the sellers themselves) in a responsible way (there are anti-competition provisions). This market isn’t just for show—these people are very committed to sustainability, and it shows.
Watch out for: the laws of supply and demand. Dufferin Grove attracts a knowledgeable crowd, and some of the most interesting stuff goes faster than you’d expect. Show up within the first hour if you want any hope of snagging the farm-fresh eggs. Dufferin Grove Farmers’ Market (875 Dufferin Street), Thursdays, 3–7 p.m.
It’s the granddaddy. The mother ship. The one market even non-marketers know about. And it’s a grand old time. St. Lawrence Market, and the Saturday farmers’ market in particular, has been a staple of city life since 1803. That’s a rather remarkable pedigree given that the city itself wasn’t incorporated until 1834. The markets at St. Lawrence have survived fire and war and have lasted longer than many of the buildings in which they’ve been hosted.
What we love: the companion permanent market on the south side of Front makes this the ultimate twofer. Start with the north farmers’ market, then wander across the street to stock up on staples.
Watch out for: impostors. Because of its size and appealingly high traffic, St. Lawrence attracts a substantial number of resellers. These are shmucks who go to the Ontario Food Terminal, buy produce in quantity, and then try to pawn it off as their own. Foil these nefarious schemes by asking geeky questions about the offerings: if a vendor can’t tell you why they chose to grow the specific variety of potato you’re holding, they aren’t the real deal. St. Lawrence Market (92 Front Street East), Saturdays, 5 a.m.–12 p.m.
We’ve been trumpeting our love for the Barns since before they even opened, and the addition of the farmers’ market has only added to our excitement. The forty or so vendors include many stalwarts from the local food scene, cosily packed into the covered street that runs through the centre of the complex.
What we love: the space. This is the prettiest of the winter markets—the skylights, exposed brick, and historic reproductions conspire to very charming effect. If winter has you feeling glum, this is an excellent antidote.
Watch out for: the crowds. The newest kid on the block is also the busiest per square foot —it’s been packed every week since opening just a couple of months ago. Bring a mug of coffee, and take your time. Green Barn Farmers’ Market (79 Wychwood Avenue), Saturdays, 9 a.m.–12 p.m.