October is the final month of Champaign-Urbana’s outdoor market season, but it’s not over yet! We have four more Saturdays and five more Tuesdays (if we count today, and I definitely am) left to shop the goods by farmers, bakers, and makers. The Champaign Farmers’ Market runs Tuesday afternoons from 3 to 6 p.m., and the Urbana Market at the Square opens Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon — just until the end of October, people.
Summer seasonal produce has gone, but there are many fall finds at the market. This is a good month for pumpkins, potatoes, and mushrooms. We’ll still find tomatoes, peppers, garlic, and onions this October at the market, too. Go for bread and pastries by bakers, meat and eggs from local farms, apples and pears from Illinois orchards, and apple cider from a goat farm. What’s good this month? What’s a must before the season ends? Read on.
First of all, pumpkins are good this month. In October, porches must have pumpkins. It’s not a law or anything, but pumpkins on porches are pretty, so. Both C-U markets sell gourds in varying colors, shapes, and prices. Imagine coming home on a Saturday morning and being like, “Hey fam, I bought market croughnuts and all these cute pumpkins, too.” They’d have to be impressed.
These little pumpkins would be cute as a table centerpiece, but they’re not just harvest decor; they’re actually edible, too.
At the market, several vendors sell freshly picked pears and apples. These orchard picks are from Cary’s Garden of Eatin at the Urbana Market at the Square. I love these wooden boxes of pears and apples on the ground. Yeah, sure, orchards are fun, but I am short, so picking apples out of trees is hard — but this fruit is totally reachable for me.
Peppers are still thriving at the markets. Find lunch box peppers, jalapeños, habaneros, bell peppers, and more variety by many different farms throughout the markets. If you like hot peppers, there’s so many.
One fun pepper is the habanada pepper. I hadn’t heard of a habanada until Saturday, but I chatted with the Twin Acre Farms farmers about the pepper. Since habanadas look almost identical to spicy habanero peppers, she told me a little trick to telling them apart. Kind of like alligators and crocs, the key is the shape at one end. Most habanadas have a pointy tail like a carrot while habaneros have a rounded bottom. The sweet pepper (25 cents) was delicious, and it was fun for my kids to eat a “spicy” pepper without making a face. If you see habanadas at Twin Acre Farms’ stand, give it a try.
If you’re cooking with onions, add market onions to your dishes. I bought onions from Triple S Farms this week, but every onion I’ve bought at the market, no matter the vendor, was great. Same with market garlic. Sola Gratia Farm in Urbana has amazing garlic packed with so much flavor, and — I never thought I’d write this — it’s my favorite garlic in town. Find this very good garlic at the farm’s stand on both Tuesdays and Saturdays, and read more about Sola Gratia’s expansion in Julie’s article from her Urbana Amble garden tour.
For another fresh veggie at the market this month, go for potatoes. There’s all kinds of spuds: russet, yellow, red, speciality, and sweet potatoes.
Okay, first a favorite garlic, and now a favorite lettuce, oh dear; please stick with me. Koss Family Farms grows several kinds of lettuce in an aquaponic greenhouse in White Heath, Illinois. At the market, I like the sampler pack ($12) because it has four varieties: romaine, summer crisp, butter, and bibb. I just love how super fresh this lettuce tastes. I don’t even really like salads, but if I am going to make salad at home, it’s Koss Farm greens or bust.
October is also a good month for farm-fresh meat. This past Saturday, I bought a filet ($12), a ribeye ($27), and a pack of hamburger patties ($9) from Allison Centennial Farm. With their humongous metal rooster, this farm sells meat and eggs from pasture-raised animals at both markets. I cooked the steaks for Sunday supper, and the flavor was amazing. The filet was incredibly tender, and the ribeye’s marbling gave the steak such rich, beefy flavor. Both were super easy to prepare because all the steak needed to taste good was salt, pepper, oil, and a hot pan. I haven’t yet used the hamburger patties, but they’re thick pucks of 100% beef, ready for a backyard cook-out.
The person selling the beef is the guy who runs the farm, which has been in his family since 1875. In addition what I bought, the farm also sells Black Angus beef steak, NY strip, roasts, sausage, liver, oxtail, and “meaty dog bones by the pound.” Allison Centennial Farm has brown eggs, whole chickens, and Yorkshire pork chops, bacon, ribs, sausage, Bratwurst, and smoked pig ear, too.
If you like to cook at home, then swing by Alexander’s Seasonings & Rubs on a Tuesday afternoon. I wrote about this vendor three months ago, and I’ve been using the spices in my cooking ever since. The containers are a big portion, and the chicken seasoning in particular is really good. One shake sprinkles garlic powder, paprika, cilantro, oregano, black pepper, and seasoned salt. Since the holes in these shaker are big, two or three good shakes is like, ka-pow, seasoned.
Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery continues their cheese stand at the Saturday Urbana market this month. This October, try to snag a bottle of their organic apple cider ($6), which gets pressed the day before market. Since the cider comes from apples in the small orchard at the Champaign farm, cider quantities are limited, but the stand always sells the creamery’s delicious award-winning cheeses.
Central Illinois Bakehouse‘s bread aisle is so much fun. Used to be that you had to stand in line to wait to tell someone what pastry you wanted, but that’s over. Now, it’s like a tiny little bread shop outside, and it’s cute. CI Bakehouse is a must-visit for me, and my usual shopping list? Maple-bacon croughnuts and everything bagels — plus an impulse buy (or two) while browsing the bread. The bakery’s stand sells sliced bread (full and half loaves), baguettes, pretzels, cookies, pastries, and more at both C-U markets.
On Tuesday afternoons and Saturday mornings at the markets, Berries & Flour sells baked goods and has free samples. There’s always a fun (free) iced concoction that forager Heidi Leuszler makes for the market. It’s a little different each week, but it’s always refreshing. Check out Matt’s recent review of the cakes by Berries & Flour for what sweets he recommends.
Sugga Shaii’s Sweets dessert truck is at the Urbana Market at the Square on Saturdays with cake jars, cookies, and cheesecake. I bought a ruby birthday cake jar ($5), and it tasted like a sugar party. With two thick — I mean thick — layers of very red frosting, the spongy vanilla cake was very sweet. The bottom layer of sprinkles took it over the edge for me, but my kid totally loved it.
Lastly, if you want a hot meal, check out La Paloma food truck. The Mexican mobile eatery serves serving a menu of delicious tortas, tacos, burritos, and nachos at both the Urbana Market at the Square and The Land Connection’s Champaign Farmers’ Market. For what’s good to eat from the food truck, my summer review of the truck here.
The Land Connection Champaign Farmers’ Market
The Land Connection’s Champaign Farmers’ Market is on their seventh year. The Champaign Market is open on Tuesdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. starting on May 16th. The Champaign Farmers’ Market will take place in parking lot M in Downtown Champaign at Neil and Washington.
Forms of Payment: Pre-ordering, cash, credit cards, debit cards, or SNAP/EBT cards.
SNAP/LINK: All eligible vendors accept SNAP benefits through the LINK token program. Please visit The Land Connection website for specifics.
Parking: Metered parking is available in parking lot M or in the Hill Street Parking Deck.
Pets: Leashed doggies are welcome.
Urbana’s Market at the Square Info
The Urbana Market has been in continuous operation since 1979. The market runs from May 6th to October 28th, each Saturday morning from 7 a.m. to noon, rain or shine. It’s located at the corner of Illinois and Vine in Urbana.
Forms of payment: Cash, credit, debit, or SNAP.
SNAP/LINK: Vendors selling LINK-eligible foods accept LINK tokens. Please visit Urbana’s Market at the Square website for specifics, or the information tent on site.
Parking: Free parking is available in the parking lots surrounding Lincoln Square Mall and the lot south of Illinois Street. Bike parking is also available at the entrances to the mall and at the bike corral area past the entrance to the Market off of Illinois.
Pets: No pets allowed. Please respect the market’s rules and leave your doggo at home.