The downtown Saint Paul Farmers’ Market is nestled among the buildings of Lowertown. On weekends during the summer in Minnesota, the large covered structure fills up with tables. Farm trucks backed up to them form long aisles of fresh produce, bread, meat, eggs and, in the early part of the season, plants ranging from lilies to impatiens to tomatoes and herbs. The market is open Saturday and Sunday mornings, and even on cool, rainy days in early summer, the aisles are filled with eager shoppers.
Before I decide what I will buy, I usually stroll the aisles admiring the shapes and colors, flavors and aromas. In early June there is bright green asparagus and shockingly red rhubarb, lettuce and spinach, and round radishes tied up in bunches. There are familiar herbs and often greens or other vegetables that wouldn’t be common in the market if it weren’t for the Hmong farmers who sell them here. Many markets I’ve been to sell produce by weight, but here things are already bundled or placed in baskets and priced by the bunch.
Those of us with empty canvas bags waiting to be filled, see raw ingredients ready to be transformed into home cooked meals. We’ll spend time chopping, seasoning, sautéing and feeding family and friends. Before they reached our hands and kitchens they were planted, cultivated, harvested, washed and transported to this spot where all of that work is exchanged for a few dollars. At the market, the farmers’ labor reaches those who are eager to buy and eat fresh, locally grown ingredients. Shopping at the market also provides an opportunity to meet those who grow your food and to find out more about where it comes from, how it’s grown and whose work helps to make your dinner.
Although the Saint Paul Market specifies that all items must be locally grown, this doesn’t mean that you can only find vegetables and fruits. There are farms selling meat and eggs and also a variety of cheeses. There are several bakers to choose from, selling bread, gluten free baked goods and also sweets. Honey and maple syrup are sold next to producers of specialty salsas made from local ingredients.
Given the variety of locally grown, raised, and produced products at the market, it would be possible to shop for all of your groceries at this outdoor market during the season. After Minnesota’s long winter, we have to take advantage of the abundance of local foods and the farmers’ market provides a perfect opportunity to eat seasonally, try new things, and get to know the people who work so hard to bring us good food.
Saint Paul Farmers’ Market
290 East 5th St
Saint Paul Minnesota 55101