It’s August in Indiana, which means it’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, not because of the heat and humidity. It’s the bountiful season for locally grown produce at our area farmers markets.
Every summer, I rejoice as June turns into July, then August, and more and more fruit and vegetables start showing up for sale. Over the years, I’ve gotten intimately familiar with crop cycles from my favorite vendors for things like blueberries, raspberries, and watermelons.
Ft. Wayne’s Farmers Market
9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays through Sept. 30
3-7 p.m. Wednesdays
1690 Broadway, Fort Wayne
YLNI Farmers Market
9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays through Sept. 30
4-7 p.m. Wednesdays
302 E. Berry St., Fort Wayne
Southside Farmers Market
8 a.m.-1 p.m.
Saturdays through mid-December
South Side Market
3300 Warsaw St., Fort Wayne
Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana reinvented the Barr Street Market (now known as the YLNI Farmers Market) in 2005, and today it’s a vibrant year-round venture, indoor at Olde East End Building in the winter and covering several blocks around The History Center every Saturday during the warm months.
Ft. Wayne’s Farmers Market came on the scene in 2012 and is also open all year on Saturdays, going inside at Parkview Field in the winter and heading to Electric Works in the summer.
Both markets have also added a Wednesday market.
And I can’t leave out the original farmers market: Southside Farmers Market on Warsaw Street, which has been in existence since 1926! I remember my grandfather taking me there when I was little. Housed in an H-shaped barn-like building with a permanent meat counter, it’s open Saturdays from Easter through mid-December.
Producing fresh food
If you haven’t been shopping at our markets, you are missing out.
Obviously, they are vastly different than your routine trip to the supermarket, but it’s possible to find almost all the fresh food you could want, especially from mid-July through mid-September when the widest variety of produce is in season. A partial list of what you can find includes raspberries, blackberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, lettuce and other greens, carrots, onions, beets, radishes, cucumber, tomatoes, corn, peppers, green beans, potatoes, microgreens, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, and fresh herbs.
One vendor has a dozen or more kinds of potatoes, in various sizes and colors, and they label them with signs recommending best uses for each. My supermarket doesn’t do that, does yours?
Of course, the producers are also standing right there, so you can ask questions or simply engage in conversation with your friendly neighborhood farmer.
Naturally, everything is super fresh. I always thought I didn’t like blackberries; the ones from the grocery store were too tart. Then I tried the massive, sweet, juicy, freshly picked blackberries from Tanglewood Berry Farm — oh yum!
Above and beyond
Beyond the amazing produce you can get, some of the items you can find (most year ’round) are:
- BBQ sauces, hot sauces, spice blends, and meat rubs
- Honey and maple syrup
- Beef, pork, chicken, turkey, lamb, bacon, jerky, and cured meats
- Chicken and duck eggs
- Bread, doughnuts, cake, cookies, bagels, scones, macarons, specialty bakers offering gluten-free and vegan delicacies
- Dog treats
- Coffee and loose-leaf tea
- Craft soda and kombucha
- Soaps and laundry detergent (return your empty container after you use it)
- Jams and jellies
- Kettle corn
- Fresh flowers, houseplants, and outdoor/landscaping plants
- Non-food items like T-shirts, jewelry, custom greeting cards, candles, and crafts
If you go often enough, you start to learn the rhythm of who has what when. The vendors will start to know you — they enjoy their regulars.
Grabbing a bite
That was a too-long commercial for some of the benefits of shopping at our local farmers markets. But beyond ingredients to do your own cooking, the markets are also eating destinations.
The YLNI Farmers Market has Brunch on Barr where you can buy cocktails and check out a vast stretch of food trucks, which are so diverse and plentiful that we’re not even going to talk about them today (watch this space for future adventures in eating from food trucks).Instead, we’ll highlight some market-specific offerings.
One delightful feature is several vendors provide tasting samples. One recent Saturday, in addition to my weekly haul, I came home with a spontaneous lunch gathered from vendors at Ft. Wayne’s Farmers Market.
Kain Na serves up freshly cooked Filipino food, which was new to me. After sampling the lumpia (similar to a spring roll) and the pancit (a rice noodle dish with pork), I decided a full order of pancit was just what my Saturday needed. I washed it down with an oat milk bubble tea from Sweet Leaf Flavor Shop, something else I likely wouldn’t have purchased were it not for an array of tasting “shots” of their various flavors.
Sometimes we make a point to go hungry with the intention of eating at the market. A few Saturdays ago, after depositing our purchases from the YLNI market in the car, my boyfriend and I went back for an Eggster breakfast burrito. Made on the spot with hot, fresh food, it featured eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, and cheese, all wrapped up together in a tortilla with a side of salsa. Large enough to share, it felt like a steal at $10, and it lived up to the “YUM YUM” displayed on the Plexiglas shielding the food.
On another visit, we enjoyed an assortment of pupusas from La Pupuseria at the YLNI market. If you’re not familiar with this Salvadoran food, it’s sort of like a stuffed savory pancake. They were four for $15 and we had the queso (cheese only, one for each of us because yay cheese), frijol con queso (bean and cheese) and revueltas (pork, bean, and cheese).
One of our must-hit stops every week is Shop Two Sixty. They. Sell. Bagels. For real, legit, boiled and baked sourdough bagels. Fort Wayne is a bagel wasteland no more, people! Beyond that, they have other bread, baguettes, cookies, muffins, and rugelach that finally makes understand why people like rugelach. I always thought it was dry and flavorless. Ha ha, I was wrong! When it’s well-executed like Shop 260’s, it’s flaky and cinnamony and deeelicious. They also make their own flavored schmears and deli salads. If we aren’t eating at the markets, frequently we’re buying bagels and Sonoma chicken salad (chicken, grapes, celery, onions, pecans, fresh basil) and making sandwiches once we get home.
Ready for dessert? Sweets abound.
Jen from The Tattooed Cookie is known for her beautifully decorated cut-out cookies, but I’m currently having a love affair with her oatmeal raisin cookies. They’re thick, with a slightly crunchy exterior and a soft chewy inside, full of plump raisins. The first time I had one it immediately reminded me of the cookies from Levain Bakery in New York City, so it was no surprise when she told me that was her inspiration. They taste like the holidays, full of cinnamon and nutmeg and whatever makes things taste like Christmas. You’ll find her at the YLNI market. I’ve also recently discovered Rockstar Sweets ’n Treats at Ft. Wayne Farmers Market. She has these small jam-filled crumble cookies that are gone after two or three tasty bites that she sells for $1, which is perfect for a quick hit of sweet.
Again, most of these offerings are available all the time. But right now is the time to carpe the produce diem. All the markets and many of the vendors have websites and social media pages so you can verify hours, locations, and what’s available.