Today, Show Me Chicago visits Chicago’s Green City Market for the third installment in its Chicago Farmers Market series. Although virtually all Chicago Farmers Markets have some organic products, Chicago’s Green City Market has the reputation of being the greenest of the green.
The market is a magnet for serious cooks, foodies and chefs from many of Chicago’s finest restaurants who shop side by side with regular folks, kids in strollers and those who may just be looking to get a healthy, tasty, local and seasonable bite to eat.
I’ve shopped the market many times always enjoying the treed Lincoln Park setting and wonderful selection of offerings from 60 plus vendors (Saturdays) and 45 vendors (Wednesdays). What I hadn’t done in the past was to take a deeper look at the vendors and their stories.
On Wednesday, Green City Market executive director Melissa Flynn took me on the Grand Tour, a kind of Tour de force of the marketplace showing me how to navigate it, pointing out products that I had overlooked in the past including purple snap peas, black garlic, green garlic roots (I thought you were suppose to throw those away) and some “Amazing Shrimp.”
For me, a self-proclaimed foodie, obsessed with buying local, buying healthful, and always on the search for something a little different, this tour of the market was an eye-opener.
For starters, who knew that you could grow/raise shrimp in Indiana? That’s amazing and how “AMAZING SHRIMP” got its name. After years of development, the project took off two years ago and is now delivering up to 8,000 lbs. of shrimp per week. Marek Wolanowski who’s the head honcho for Amazing Shrimp wants market-goers to know that the shrimp are chemical, antibiotic and hormone free. They can be bought head-on as shown here or prepared.
Green Garlic Roots.
Green garlic is available at several of the Green City Market stands but oftentimes the roots are an after-thought–normally discarded. Dave and Denise Dyrek of Leaning Shed Farm thought outside of the box turning these roots into a sought after product–now used at many of Chicago’s trendiest spots. The Dyrek’s make sure their roots are clean by standing them in jars of water to remove any excess dirt. The roots can be eaten raw–I tried some–they have a mild garlic flavor. They can also be sauteed or fried. Denise and Dave also sell a variety of seasonal vegetables, fruits, herbs and are full of ideas and inspiration.
It is not uncommon to see Chicago’s top chefs shopping the market early in the day to get the best of the best for their restaurants. Here, Chef Sean Sanders, owner and operator of Browntrout (4111 N. Lincoln) is buying some of those green garlic roots from Leaning Shed Farm. Sanders, typically, ferments the roots for a day or two before using them as garnishes on salads and other dishes.
Patty McPhillips, farmer/owner and chief greens washer at Earth & Skye Farm, pulls together some amazing green smoothies with ingredients from her 2 acre farm just outside of Manhattan, IL. McPhillips uses all natural growing methods and includes the use of Bio-Dynamic Preparations on her land four times a year to encourage vibrant, healthy, energetic food. She grows a variety of cooking and salad greens as the primary ingredients in her Garden Nectar green drinks, which she blends and sells at the market.
Best Ever Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.
Gayle’s Best Ever Grilled Cheese uses fresh market ingredients from other Green City Market vendors and then adds toppings inspired by restaurants that buy Prairie Pure Cheese–naming the sandwich after the restaurant. Stop by the Prairie Pure Cheese booth and see if you agree that these grilled cheese sandwiches are the “best ever.” Gayle also sells baskets with her cheese and bread from Bennison’s Bakery so you can make your own grilled cheese sandwiches.
Second generation mushroom grower, Eric Rose of River Valley Ranch grows some of the largest portabella mushrooms that I have seen. He also has a large variety of other mushrooms along with sauces, salsas and a cherry bomb hot sauce that promises to wake up your taste buds. River Valley Ranch, the oldest mushroom farm in the Midwest, also grows other produce, including 20 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, 10 varieties of potatoes, a dozen types of peppers, 10 varieties of onions, asparagus, spinach, Winter squash and more. All crops are grown without pesticides or chemicals.
Radishes for Breakfasts.
Think beyond bacon and eggs. Breakfast radishes are a delicious spring treat. Milder than other radishes they can be sliced thin and eaten for breakfast with a traditional French recipe using salt, herbed-butter and toast. The breakfast radishes are available from several vendors at the market.
The Wandering Wood Fired Oven
Jared Batson, founder of the Nomad Food Company and a ‘Nomad’ in his own right, has cooked and traveled across the country and worldwide. His stand at Green City Market offers seasonally inspired brick-oven pizzas made to order, wood fired sandwiches, and more. Batson can bring his mobile wood-fired oven anywhere in the city, suburbs and beyond for events.
Craig Dunek, founder of Wisconsin Fermentation Company, sells a ton of the popular/trending black garlic under the brand Black Garlic North America. His stand offers black garlic and maple syrup both of which he produces on his farm in southwest Wisconsin.
Chicago Cows…a rare breed.
1871 Dairy, which got its name from Mrs. O’Leary’s legendary cow who some claimed was responsible for the Chicago Fire of 1871, offers local hormone-free whole milk and yogurt. Back in 1910, Chicago was home to over 200 milk bottlers. Since then, Chicago cows and bottlers have had to moo-ve over to make way for the growing people population. Now 1871 Dairy is Chicago’s lone milk bottler.
Green City Market’s Rock Star.
Nichols Farm & Orchard has been part of the Green City Market since its humble beginnings in 1998 when the market was located in a parking lot next to the Chicago Theater with 9 farmers. The Nichols family farm, on 250 acres in Marengo, IL., grows more than 1000 cultivars of fruits and vegetables including dozens of varieties of potatoes, tomatoes, apples and little Turkish eggplants that, it seems, nobody else grows. Their stand is a popular stop for many of Chicago’s Rock Star chefs…and wannabes.
The Green City Outdoor Market is open Wednesdays and Saturdays (7 a.m. to 1 p.m.) May through October in the South end of Lincoln Park at 1871 N. Clark. New this year is Green City Fulton Market which opened in June and runs through October on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is located in a lot at the SE corner of N. Halsted and W. Fulton Streets at 799 W. Fulton Market.
Winter Market: An indoor Green City Market takes place on Saturdays from November through April at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum at 2430 N. Cannon Drive.
Green City Market BBQ and other events…
The Green City Market offers chef demos, children’s activities and some very special events including the Green City Market Chefs BBQ. The BBQ is a benefit for the market that features over 100 Chicago celebrity chefs on Thursday, July 16th. Click here for more information and to purchase general admission tickets for $125 ($130.37 w/service fee)…or VIP tickets that offer many extras including early admission, exclusive seating areas and more for $250 plus service fee.
Farmer’s Market Series…Next up…Oak Park
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