Alez Rogals/Staff Photographer

The Oak Park Farmers Market’s 45th season is underway from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday through October. Vendor stalls are moved from the usual Pilgrim Church parking lot site on Lake Street to nearby streets to allow room for safe social distancing and preorders offered via an online app as part of a pilot program.

As we approach the last few weeks of the market, I like to take stock of prepared and packaged goods that I can stock my pantry with. There’s something so satisfying about a full fall pantry, and this year, more than ever, a packed-full pantry is a reassuring thing. Also, the end of the farmers market season heralds the start of the holiday season, and many artisanal farmers market foods make great gift basket items. Keep in mind that I am shopping online with the WhatsGood app, so if you are shopping the live market there may be different offerings as well. Here are some of the items that caught my eye this week!

Fantastic Ferments with Bushel & Peck’s

If you haven’t yet, check out Bushel and Peck’s. Not only are their jams, jellies, sauces, and ferments the perfect accompaniment to many dishes, but they have nifty “3 packs” like their Fiestas Favorite Trio that would make a great addition to a gift basket. This week, I opened a jar of their fermented dill pickles for my son who loves dill pickles. Not only are these fermented dill pickles chock full of healthy probiotics, but full of that classic dill pickle flavor. This is great because no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to get homemade dill pickles right.

The other jar I opened this week from Bushel & Peck was the Curtido, an El Salvadoran or Central American lightly fermented cabbage slaw, kind of like sauerkraut. I have never heard of Curtido prior to this, but it sounded delicious and it did not disappoint. It is typically served alongside Pupusa, a type of thick griddle cake that I’d also never heard of before buying the Curtido from Bushel & Peck. I do make my own yummy sauerkraut but was craving some fermented cabbage in between batches of my homemade kraut, which is why the Curtido caught my eye. This purchase is a perfect example of how shopping at the farmers market can expand your cultural and culinary horizons; now I want to learn how to make pupusa and learn a bit about the food tradition it comes from. But I digress. The ingredients of the Curtido are listed as Cabbage, carrot, jalapeno, and kale, and the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.

Herbally Yours…will be there closing day!

If you haven’t yet purchased your fine flavored vinegar or meat rub/spice mixes, Herbally Yours will be back at the market one more time on closing day. The BlackJack Balsamic vinegar is a necessary staple in my kitchen, but all of the flavors are great.

Tomato Mountain certified organic salsas

I’ve been enjoying the Tomato Mountain salsas for several years but did you know that they are certified organic? That’s just one more reason to love their tasty tomato-based creations. I usually buy the chipotle and tomatillo salsas, but they have a bloody Mary mix that probably needs to make its way to my pantry…and yours.

Three Bees…more than honey

Buying honey from Three Bees is a no-brainer, but they also sell many other wonderful products. As we go into cold and flu season, especially this year, it seems like a good idea to pick up some Elderberry syrup to have in the pantry. Elderberry is a potent immune booster, and the Three Bees syrup has organic ingredients such as ginger, lemon, cinnamon, and clove. Three Bees also has lots of other products that make great holiday gifts.

Holiday Baking with Severson Organic Grains

Freshly milled grains store best in the freezer, so my freezer currently has some different oatmeals as well as popcorn from Severson Farms. If you do a lot of holiday baking, however, it would be good to stock up on various different kinds of local organic flours.

Lastly, dried fruits are good to have in the pantry for snacking and baking. This week online, Hardin Farms has dried blueberries and cherries. They would be a good starting point for trail mix.

There are so many other great products that deserve a spot in my pantry. Many of the vendors who sell vegetables and fruit also sell shelf-stable foods that can stock your pantry this winter. It pays to shop around all of the vendors to see what’s available. I’m sure each household has its own set of farmers market pantry favorites!

*Guest blogger Laura Lencioni is the chair of the Oak Park Farmers Market Commission.

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