Come see the best show in town at your local Farmer’s Market

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Every year about this time Farmers’ Markets around the area begin to open offering the best in local products and a kind of outdoor fair-like atmosphere for shoppers. Each market has its own personality and each offers a wide variety of products at very reasonable prices. Right now look for freshly picked rhubarb, leafy greens, asparagus, and handmade crafts, some from our local Asian communities. Next month strawberries, beans, broccoli, lettuce and peas will be coming in. Then, throughout the summer, all of the area’s amazing array of products will be available in the markets direct from the farm to you.

One of my favorite markets, and one of the newest, is the Mill City Market nestled in the train shed behind Mill City Museum and spilling out into the street in front of Guthrie Theatre. The brainchild of restaurateur Brenda Langton, this market features only local organically grown, sustainable products. It also offers cooking demonstrations, hot-out-ofthe- fryer miniature doughnuts, handmade crafts, and a kind of European atmosphere. At 2nd Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, this market is open Saturday mornings through October. For more information visit their website at www.millcityfarmersmarket.org.

The area’s oldest Farmers’ Market in downtown St. Paul is now in its 155th year at Fifth and Wall Street. Filling one square block it offers only local products – nothing imported here. It has an open, happy feeling, crowded with booth after booth of beautiful food fresh from the farms along with locally made crafts, live entertainment, and special events for the kids. It is open Saturday and Sunday mornings until December then converts to its winter indoor/outdoor market ‘til spring. They also have a website at www.stpaulfarmersmarket.com with hours and locations for 18 more markets throughout St. Paul and its suburbs.

The Minneapolis market at Lyndale Avenue South near Olson Highway is the biggest around with three blocks of fresh vegetables, meats, breads, flowers, plants, honey, maple syrup – almost everything edible…and some things that are not, such as outdoor furniture, clothes, crafts, and more.

There are also a wide variety of stands featuring food for snacking while you shop, and live entertainment to make things even more festive. Where else can you have grilled bratwurst, pork chops, roasted corn-on-the-cob, and espresso for breakfast while listening to the happy sounds of a jazz guitar? This market is open seven mornings a week, but the busiest times are weekends when parking sometimes gets challenging. But with some patience you can usually find a spot close by. This market is open until December 24.

For more information visit www.mplsfarmersmarket.com. If you are looking to avoid crowds but still want fresh-from-the-farm (or oven) products look for the neighborhood markets such as the one at Seventh and University Avenue Northeast. Opening in June in a church parking lot, this Saturday morning market has plenty of free parking and about a dozen stalls for easy shopping. Everything is locally grown and fresh from the farm or bakery. Many Saturdays there is even live entertainment. There are also markets throughout the state with many already open. For a complete guide get the free Minnesota Grown Directory 2009- 2010 available by phone at 651-201-6539 or at www. minnesotagrown.com. Published by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the guide is more like a travel brochure with food than a simple listing of food resources throughout the state. Here you will find Bed and Breakfasts, opportunities for overnight stays at a farm, places to pick your own fruits and vegetables to help save money, private ponds for catching local trout, locations of the state’s 14 vineyards with opportunities for free tastings and wine making instructions, plus a number of farms offering whole sides of beef, whole pork, freshly dressed chickens, and other homegrown meats, fowl and fish.

Take advantage of this wonderful area and all its bounty. Put a Farmers’ Market on your weekly shopping list!

Phyllis Louise Harris is a cookbook author, food writer and cooking teacher specializing in Asian foods. She is founder of the Asian Culinary Arts Institutes Ltd. dedicated to the preservation, understanding and enjoyment of the culinary arts of the Asia Pacific Rim. For information about ACAI’s programs call 612-813-1757 or visit the website at www.asianculinaryarts.com.

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