The farmers’ markets are the place to be right now on Saturday mornings and Tuesday afternoons. September produce includes so many favorites like tomatoes, peppers, onions, apples, and sweet corn. Plus, pumpkins and gourds make their entrance to the market this month.There are makers and bakers at the markets as well. Berries are harder to find, but there is so much to enjoy at our Urbana and Champaign farmers’ markets.
One difference I noticed at the markets this month was that I saw more masked people. At the Urbana market, I noticed that more than half of the shoppers were masked. I always carry a mask with me wherever I go, and I had mine in my hand upon arrival, ready to mask if required or if it feels like everyone else is masking. It felt like everyone else was masked at the market, so I masked up as well.
Masks were common at the Champaign Market as well. The markets’ mask guidelines ask that those who are not fully vaccinated wear a mask at the markets. While the policy has not changed since May, it did seem like the culture of our community may have adjusted.
Enough of the masks. Let me walk you through the markets with a little photo essay. One fun surprise is that I found three great, spicy things at the market this month. Scroll to the end to see what spicy Saturday market finds I used for that night’s pizza toppings.
If you’re at the Champaign Farmers’ Market, you have to stop by Britt’s House of Sweets. She bakes some of the most amazing desserts. I was a fan of her peach cobbler, and this week, I picked up two of her rice krispie treats and an apple pie.
The rice krispie treats ($3 each) were thick bricks of dessert. They were the tallest krisipie treats I’ve ever had, and they were amazing tasting as well. Rich and buttery, these krisipie treats were full of mini marshmallows and had added white chocolate which was heavenly. I should have bought more than two, and I will next time.
At the Urbana Market in the Square, I stopped by a minimal tent to talk with a friendly bearded man about his paprika peppers. He asked me, “Do you like spicy?” I said I did. He got very excited and started talking about his peppers. The red peppers on the table were paprika peppers, and the bags were paprika (the spice) which he made himself by drying the peppers.
The man offered me a sample of his paprika spice. He had prepared a water bottle (“It’s spicy, ma’am. You’ll feel it sparkle,” he said) and a slice of cheese covered in paprika. He even had hand sanitizer and napkins “so everyone can feel safe,” he said. I sampled it; “Just a nibble! It’s spicy,” he warned. It was spicy, but it was not painfully spicy. It was pretty damn spicy, though, so spicy lovers only. It did have the slow build to the sparkle of spiciness, and I loved it so much — and the joy this man had about paprika — that I had to buy a bag of his paprika spice ($10) and a paprika pepper.
The pepper I ate raw, and it was very similar to a bell pepper: sweet garden freshness and a crisp veggie bite. The seeds seem to be where the spiciness is, but if you cut it up and remove most of the seeds, it makes a delicious, mild addition to a salad or pizza.
The same friendly man also sells heirloom tomatoes at his stand at the Urbana Market in the Square.
I stopped by Diamond’s Homestead to see what microgreens they have, and they have a lot. The vendor had a lot to say about the flavors and textures of each one, so ask questions, and he’ll help you find the right microgreen for you.
I left with a pack of wasabi microgreens ($8). He promised a little wasabi spice to it, and the microgreens delivered. How can one little microgreen have such a flavor? I was so impressed. Moreover, at the market, he told me how to wash and store the greens, and they are still going, six days later. I’m topping everything I make with microgreens: salads, tacos, sandwiches, omlettes, pizza, whatever.
I also bought some sauces from Weird Meat Boyz as mine had run out. I bought the chipotles in adobo + apple cider vinegar + black strap molasses + coffee barbecue sauce ($12) and their newest sauce ghost pepper + strawberry and rhubarb + bourbon ($12). These sauces were unlike anything I can find at the grocery, and the flavors were just incredible. The barbecue sauce was a thin, hot sauce that started sweet and ended with a peppery finish that lingered. The ghost pepper sauce needed only a bit to give a firey, fruity flavor. Both of these were spicy, but the barbecue was a more sweet-spicy and the pink hot sauce was very, very spicy. I’m obsessed with both of these sauces.
I took all my Saturday purchases home, washed the produce, and decided to make a pizza with as many of the ingredients as I could.
I landed on a barbecue pork pizza made with Weird Meat Boyz sauce, paprika pepper slices and red onion slivers, topped with microgreens and cherry tomatoes grown in my backyard from a seedling I purchased back in May from Meyer Produce. This was a good pizza. I used Weird Meat Boyz’s pizza sauce, and it gave the whole pizza a deep spiciness. The onions and peppers were sweet when baked, and I put sliced tomatoes from my garden on top after baking which gave a bright, fresh flavor. The microgreens topping took this pizza to the nevel level. The texture of the greens was a great contrast, but the flavor! The wasabi flavor came through, and it went so well with the spicy sauce. This pizza was a wonderful celebration of amazing local food we have in C-U.
There is so much to find at both markets, and I certainly can’t cover everything. We only have September and October to enjoy our farmers’ markets, so get out there and see what you can find.
Urbana’s Market at the Square Info
The Urbana Market has been in continuous operation since 1979. The market runs from May 1st to October 30th, 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: Credit, debit, or SNAP is preferred. Cash is accepted, but vendors may not provide change to reduce the spread of the virus.
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.
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 18th. The Champaign Farmers’ Market will take place in parking lot M in Downtown Champaign at Neil and Washington.
Forms of Payment: Pre-ordering, credit cards, debit cards, or SNAP/EBT cards are preferred. Cash will be accepted, but vendors will be instructed not to provide change.
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 dogs are welcome.