The Oak Park Farmers’ Market, offering high quality, locally-grown produce, is held in the Pilgrim Church Parking lot at 460 Lake St. from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday through October. 

Farmers Market Manager, Colleen McNichols , is delighted to share her insights and tips for the 9/29 Oak Park Farmers Market.

Sometimes the funkier a fruit or veggies looks, the better it tastes! Don’t turn away from odd looking celery root, ground cherries, tomatillos, patty pan squash and heirloom tomatoes at the market this week. The September market bounty is perfect for experimentation at home.

  • Ground cherries taste similar to pineapple and look ideal in their protective canopies
  • Celery root is a gratifying ingredient in seasonal soups. Cutting the root is a challenge (like rutabaga,) but worth all the effort.

Last week’s market was robust and successful, everyone left with a smile and a huge load of late summer produce and winter squashes like spaghetti, delicata, and acorn. Root vegetables galore will also be available. Look for the last of the sweet corn this week, maybe a few heirloom tomatoes and watermelons and super sweet cantaloupe. This is a good time to pick up all your salsa ingredients and load up for your satisfying homemade soups; complemented by the artisan bread from Breadman and Katic Breads and goat or cow cheese from J2K Capraio and Brunkow/LaFayette and cornbread from Brian Severson Farms.

And of course, enjoy the plethora of apple varieties and autumn fruit; Midwestern pears and grapes and plums will enhance any dish. The markets greens are lush and perfect now. It is the ideal time to try the mustard and collard greens. Top off your market meal with treats from the (guilt-free/fund raisers) bake sale and the famous church donuts.

VENDOR UPDATES:

The following photo, notes, and recipes are from Farmer Jen Miller at Prairie Wind Organic Family Farm in Grayslake IL. 

Kohlrabi, like broccoli and cabbage, is a member of the Brassica family and as such has a sweet and peppery flavor — sweet like cabbage and peppery like a turnip. It has a wonderful crisp and juicy texture that is comparable to jicama. The Miller family likes to peel it and eat it raw, sliced on its own or combined with other fresh vegetables in salads. Also, Farmer Jen Miller likes to puree and include it in warm winter soups. This week’s kohlrabi is a storage variety which means that you can remove the top leaves and place the bulb into a plastic bag, where it will store well for months. The greens are especially nice this year, and she likes to chop up and add into a warm soup, or cook like a collard green or kale. 

MARKET READY RECIPE: Concord Grape Cornmeal Cake

Get your grapes for this cake at any one of the SIX fruit vendors at the market this weekend.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly (Brunkow Cheese)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour; more for grapes (Brian Severson Farm)
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal (Brian Severson Farms)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs (Prairie Wind Farm)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons honey (Dennanne Apiaries)
  • 1/2 pound Concord or black grapes, stemmed, seeds removed, divided 

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8x8x2″ baking dish. Whisk 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Whisk eggs, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla in a large bowl to combine. Add oil and 2 tablespoons melted butter; whisk to blend. Whisk in flour mixture, then buttermilk. Stir in honey, being careful not to fully incorporate. Pour batter into prepared dish. Toss half of grapes with a large pinch of flour in a medium bowl until well coated. Scatter over cake batter. Bake until cake turns light golden brown around the edges and starts to set, 15-17 minutes. Remove from oven and scatter remaining grapes over cake. Continue to bake until top is golden brown and cake springs back when pressed, 20-25 minutes longer. Transfer to a wire rack. Let cool slightly in pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

MARKET READY RECIPE: Mel’s Farmers Market Inspired Soup

In lieu of using a chicken in this recipe try substituting cauliflower, turnips, collard greens, and leeks for the poultry. The resulting vegetable dumpling soup will be just as lovely as the chicken variation provided below.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Whole Chicken
  • 12 Cups of cold water
  • The leaves from 1 small bunch of celery
  • 1 Yellow onion quartered and pierced with 3 whole cloves
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • ½ Tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Sweet onions, diced
  • 6 bunch of small carrots peeled and sliced into ¼ “ coins
  • The stalks from one small bunch of celery , chopped
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 5 Garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Herbs de Provence
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 2 Cups of butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 4-6 Fingerling potatoes, sliced into ¼ “ coins
  • 2 Cups Cauliflower florets
  • 3 Swiss Chard Leaves, stems removed and chopped
  • 1 Egg, beaten
  • 1 Cup flour
  • ½ Cup milk

Place the chicken breast side up in at large stock pot and cover with the water. Add the celery leaves, studded yellow onion, garlic, bay leaves, salt and peppercorns. Bring chicken to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 1 hour or until chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken and set aside until cool enough to handle. Discard the skin and bones from the chicken and shred and reserve the meat. Strain the broth and discard the solids. Cool the broth and refrigerate until fat solidifies. Remove the fat and discard. Recipe can be completed to this point 1 day in advance.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed stock pot and add the chopped onion, carrot and celery. Reduce heat and allow the veggies to sweat without coloring for 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and add the minced garlic. Stir in the dried herbs and the reserved chicken stock. Bring soup to a boil and add the butternut squash and sliced potatoes. Reduce heat to medium-low and allow soup to simmer for 15 minutes or until vegetables are nearly tender. Add in the cauliflower and allow mixture to simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Mix in the Swiss chard and 1 ½ Cups of the shredded chicken and increase the heat to medium.

Meanwhile combine the egg, flour and milk in a small bowl. Drop dough, ½ teaspoon at a time, into the simmering soup and allow the dumplings to cook through for about 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning and serve.

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