via OPFM

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. Call for a free pickup and ride to the Market (Tel. 708. 383.4806). Please call before 2:00pm on Friday.


Laura Lencioni, Chair of OPFM Commission, is a guest writer on my behalf this week. – Colleen McNichols, Market Manager.

 Upcoming events:

All vendors will be giving out compostable bags in July as part of our Plastic Free July initiative. Single-use plastic bags are banned from the Market in July. We are accepting the plastic plant pots back, after shoppers go home and plant their gardens. The pots will be returned to the original vendors for reuse. We prefer everyone bring their own reusable bags or purchase one at the Info Tent. The compostable bags should be a last resort. Please ask us about the Village Compost curbside pickup program. Please remember to bring your yogurt containers or storage containers to bring your berries and cherries home. Keep your bag clean and berries safely protected.

  • Annual Corn Roast fundraiser on Aug. 10.
  • Pie Bake-Off on Sept. 7 (enter to compete, application available now on our website)
  • Stone Soup giveaway, closing day, Oct. 26
  • Sitka Salmon Chef Demos between 9:15am and 11:00am July 20 
  • Sweet Corn may arrive July 20–we will keep you posted on corn progress! 
  • Knives sharpened every week at American Pride Microgreens booth
  • Live Music, every week, starting at 9:00am
  • Church donuts, coffee (iced and hot), OJ, every week

Bake Sale: Promusica Youth Choir (at North East corner of lot near Tomato Mountain)

Children’s activities: U of Illinois Extension makes soil fun!

Vendor update: Sitka Salmon Share is back with fillets, sometimes smoked options, and Shares to be delivered to your doorstep monthly. Their culinary expert, Dara, will be offering salmon cooking tips and answering questions from 9:15 to about 11:00am and offering tasty samples across from their booth.

Severson Farms is featuring Breslin Organic red and black turtle beans.

Petals Farm is bringing more organic cut flowers, as the North Wichert Garden farmers have retired. Also, Farmer Scott of Geneva Lakes is going back to his Dutch roots and growing cut flowers this season including sunflowers this week. Look for all flowers in the South East corner of the Market. 

Oak Park Farmers’ Market is committed to equal access to high-quality fresh food. We believe that anyone who wants to eat locally grown and produced food should be able to, regardless of their income level. Therefore; we accept SNAP/LINK cards for payment. We match each dollar spent with a Link card with a one dollar coupon (up to $25.00 per Market day). In addition, we accept WIC and Senior vouchers, as well. To learn more about our equitable programs visit our website:


Towards the end of July I am typically inundated with scads of amazing produce and fruit from the farmers market as well as my own garden. In an effort to maximize the harvest, I typically buy up lots more than I can eat in one week. I also keep an eye open for special items that are difficult or impossible to find in grocery stores. In addition to the typical bounty of fruit you can find at the farmer’s market (think cherries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, black raspberries), you can find rare gems that you will want to stock up on for eating and cooking later.

Last week, I found gooseberries at Walt Skibbe Farms! This delectable greenish-purple fruit is kind of like a sour grape. I like to snack on them fresh, but they make amazing jams, jellies, sauces, and desserts. But what I usually use them for more than anything are my breakfast smoothies. There’s nothing like a quick and easy breakfast smoothie to give you a burst of energy and keep you full all morning.

I also found black currants and red currants at Nichols Family Farm and Orchard. Currants are closely related to Gooseberries, only smaller. The red currants are good for eating fresh, whereas the black currants have a deep, almost smoky flavor that lends them to use in a variety of teas, sauces and flavorings. These tiny berries pack a nutritional punch unrivaled by other local fare; the trio of gooseberries, black currants, and red currants will load you up on your vitamin C and antioxidants like nothing else can.

These rare fruits are aren’t as popular or well known as the other more familiar fruits. Consequently, farmers don’t bring them in the same quantities as the more popular fruit varieties. I generally snap them up when I see them, wash them, remove stems as necessary, let them drain and freeze in plastic bags overnight. I also wash, slice, de-stem or pit the sweet and sour cherries, raspberries, blueberries, etc. I wash and slice up some apricots, peaches, or whatever other fruits I can find at the market. For example, you can get a bushel basket of peaches at the peak of sweetness and freeze them to last for months.

For larger or juicer fruits, I lay them on cookie sheets on either parchment paper or aluminum foil and freeze overnight. I also chop up a bunch of ginger and freeze it overnight as well. Once all the fruits are frozen, I pour them into one huge bowl and mix them thoroughly. I then portion them into 1 quart or 1-pint Ziplock bags and store in the freezer.  Those are my “smoothie packets”.  I am still trying to come up with a good alternative way around the use of plastic zip lock bags, for now, I wash and dry them promptly after emptying the bag to reuse them for another smoothie packet.

 In the morning for breakfast, I throw some of the frozen fruit mixes in the blender with some fresh apple cider (usually Walt Skibbe’s), possibly some coconut milk, and occasionally some greens like spinach or kale. It’s a power breakfast to be sure.

Also this time of year I have an overabundance of greens from both the farmer’s market and my garden. For kale, collards and Swiss chard I blanch them for a minute or two in a dutch oven (just long enough for them to turn bright green and start to wilt) I remove from heat and rinse with cold water. I usually put them in bowls in the refrigerator overnight and then seal them up in Ziplock bags the next morning, pushing as much air as possible out of them, and laying flat in the freezer. They will last months or more at the peak of flavor that way.  By stocking my freezer this way I can enjoy Farmer’s Market produce almost year-round. 

 Another treat that can be found in abundance in the market this time of year is basil. One of my favorite items to make in bulk and freeze is pesto. While pesto is best made with pine nuts, did you know that many different kinds of nuts can be substituted for an almost as good pine-less pesto? Sometimes I can’t find pine nuts right when I have a ton of basil. Basil doesn’t keep super long in the fridge and you need to either dry it or cook with it fairly quickly. My pesto recipe below is a non-dairy version of the classic pesto that can be made with or without pine nuts. It is excellent on pasta, but can also be used as a base for other sauces and dressings. This recipe uses coconut oil as well as olive oil for a thicker end product and more “buttery” taste. actually, you could use real butter if you wanted to.

The thicker pesto can be used as a dip for pretzels, a spread on sandwiches, or any place you want a burst of flavor. It freezes well. I usually portion some into 2 oz souffle cups and freeze to pack in work lunches. Also, add some fresh basil for refreshing lemonade in the heat. 

Oftentimes at this point in the summer I’m so busy processing the produce that I don’t have as much time to cook an elaborate meal. It is a great time to throw some burgers, sausages or brats on the grill, chop up some cucumber, and crack open a jar of Bushel & Peck’s giardiniera.

I spoke to Jackie, the owner of Bushel & Peck’s and asked her why her giardiniera is so perfect. I make it myself, but it never turns out quite as delicious even though the ingredients are similar and very simple. Her secret is simply that she has made it so many times she just has a knack for it…and it is very important to get just the right amount of salt!

Bushel & Peck grows everything themselves  and also has delicious sauerkraut. I love making my own sauerkraut and experimenting with the flavors, but it does take about a month for my jars to ferment. If you try my sauerkraut recipe below, you can buy a jar from Bushel & Peck and enjoy it while yours is fermenting. 

If you are like me, this is the point in the season where you start wondering if the sweet corn is ever going to arrive. It is delicious so many ways….roasted on the grill, slathered in butter, coated in pesto, or dusted with cayenne pepper and paprika, nothing says summer like the sweet corn. Fear not! Even though the weather threw our farmers for a loop and delayed planting of the corn in the spring, the first sweet corn of the season will arrive on July 20th or 27th. And there will be corn for our annual August 10th Farmer’s Market Corn Roast!

I can’t wait.  


Spicy Sauerkraut 

This fermented sauerkraut is the perfect accompaniment to brats and sausages and is chock-full of healthy probiotics, similar to yogurt or kefir, only it is dairy-free. It does take a full month to develop the best flavor. I make them by half-gallon jars a few times per year. If you plan ahead you can eat the summer’s cabbage with your Oktoberfest bratwurst.  


Note-organic produce may be better for the fermentation process, but this works with conventional produce as well

  • 1 head white cabbage 
  • 1 head red cabbage
  • 1 large or 2 small carrots; it is fun to use purple carrots as well as orange and yellow
  • A couple of garlic cloves or garlic scapes
  • a couple of slices of jalapeno pepper, to taste, for a more spicy kraut
  • sprig of dill
  • pinch of caraway seeds
  • slice of ginger and/or turmeric
  • 1-2 tablespoons of Himalayan pink salt or natural sea salt dissolved per 1 quart of water


  • I use mason jars, preferably large 1/2 gallon
  • I use a “pickle pipe” silicone mason jar lid that with airlock that allows for fermentation gas to escape. I buy these at Make sure you buy them in either wide mouth or regular mouth to match the jars you will be using
  • Glass pickle pebbles for weighing down the cabbage. As above, they can be purchased at Cultures for Health and need to be the right size for your jar mouth. 
  • Mortar or similar tool for tamping down the cabbage


Shred your cabbages and lightly sprinkle with a pinch of salt every layer you shred. You can use a sharp knife or vegetable mandolin. Using a peeler, peel your carrots and chop them into fine pieces. Thoroughly mix the cabbages and carrots and set aside the bowl for several hours until the salt starts to draw the moisture out of the cabbage.

In the meantime, take 1-2 tablespoons of salt per quart you want to make and add to warm water, mix until it dissolves. Sterilize your mason jars and lids.  To your mason jar, add a sprig of fresh dill, pinch of caraway seeds, slice of ginger and/or turmeric and a couple of small slices of jalapeno pepper. Take the cabbage mixture and pack it tightly into the jars.

Fill with water and tamp down with a wooden mortar or similar tool. If you have another batch of live sauerkraut that you like the taste of, you can inoculate your new batch with a tablespoon or so of the brine from that. However, this works fine with probiotics naturally occurring on your produce, it may just take a day or two longer for it to get going.

Make sure you leave a little space at the top of the jar and make sure that the cabbage is completely submerged in the brine or you might get mold growth. take one whole cabbage leaf and fold it to hold down the rest of the cabbage, place a pickle pebble or two in the mouth of the jar to keep everything submerged, and place the airlock lid on the jar. Place the jar in a bowl, put the whole thing in a dark place at room temperature (think pantry shelf) and then WAIT.

Why put the jar in a bowl you ask? Because during the fermentation process bubbles will expand and some liquid might actually leak out the top. Check daily for signs of fermentation; you will see some bubbling and may need to clean the bowl if there have been spills. After about a week or two open the jar and with a sterile utensil tamp down the cabbage if it has floated up a bit too much. Check for mold growth and reseal. I personally would discard the batch if I see mold growth; some recommend simply skimming the mold off the top but I would rather not risk it.

If you’ve kept the cabbage under the brine mold growth won’t happen though! You can eat your sauerkraut after about 2 weeks, but it develops a better sour flavor if left to ferment 3-4 weeks. At the end of the 4 weeks store in the refrigerator. This lasts a long time, I’ve had batches that last almost 6 months but I usually eat it too fast for it to last that long! I use this sauerkraut as a side or condiment in many things besides brats: as a taco-topping, a salad ingredient, in soups and salads, and flavoring in other recipes.

Pineless Pesto

Truth be told, real pine nuts are best for pesto but they aren’t always available when you’ve got a large portion of fresh basil you need to use up. 


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of coconut oil OR a tablespoon or so of butter from J2K Capraio Dairy 
  • 3-4 garlic scapes or cloves of garlic
  • 2-3 packed cups of washed, drained basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup of any kind of plain, unsalted nuts; I used Simply Nature (Aldi brand) mixed raw almonds, pecans and pistachio kernels. Macadamia or walnuts would be good too. 
  • 1 1/2 tsp. of your favorite salt. I use pink salt. 

Pesto makes everything taste more fancy and it is so easy to make with fresh Basil from the Farmer’s Market. Simply add all of your ingredients to the blender, blend on high until it is a smooth paste, and voila! Pesto. I dole out the resulting sauce into small jelly jars and 2 oz souffle jars and freeze them until I’m ready to use them. 


Other great produce that can be found at the market this week includes: 


Asian greens

Beans (fresh / green)

Beans (dried, red and black)



Bok choy






Cherries, Sweet and Tart


Corn, sweet on the cob*


Currants, black and red


Garlic, fresh


Green onions




Lettuce (head)

Lettuce (salad mix)

Mustard Greens


Onions, sweet & sweet Spanish and more


Peas (snap / pods)







Squash (Summer)

Sweet potatoes




*New this week

Join the discussion on social media!