“Here, try this,” was a familiar refrain heard during my visit to Montreal’s Jean-Talon Market. Vendors smiled widely and extended their arms to offer taste-tests of plump Peruvian figs, crisp Lobo apples, hunks of decadent Gruyère cheese, slices of juicy oranges and the promise of “The best tasting mangoes in the world.” They tasted as promised.
The market was opened to the public in 1933 and is the largest open-air market in North America. During the peak summer period, between May and October, its open-air stalls are occupied by about 300 vendors, mostly farmers from Montreal’s countryside. The market is open year-round and walls are placed around the central section of the market to keep Montreal’s brutally cold winters at bay.
Farmers’ markets are not a fad. They’ve existed since mankind has farmed the land. One of the oldest and purest forms of retail, these outdoor marchés are a place where hard-working farmers and food producers come together to support the community. As is the case with the Ottawa Farmers’ Market in Westboro, an artisinal-bougie-organic-antibiotic-and-gluten-free marketplace that’s a sight to behold.
Located along the walking path of the Byron Linear Park, between Golden, Richmond and Byron Avenues, this Saturday-only market has more than 65 appetite-inducing stalls. Among the fare being sold is a wide range of freshly-picked vegetables, organic meats (elk, anyone?), cheese, home-made soups, baked goods (try out the macaroons), breads and award-winning preserves (the pickled garlic scapes are my personal fave).
Shoppers can also find jewelry, wooden spoons and cutting boards, maple syrup, sauces and dressings and wooden furniture. While you shop, why not chow-down on samosas, pakoras or butter chicken from the Bombay Garden Indian Cuisine stall. The freebies are aplenty. I suggest the brownie samples from Carolina’s Box of Goodness, the kimchi from Raon Kitchen and the home-made gazpacho from Four Sisters (which I ultimately purchased and quickly devoured). Whatever you do, go early to get first dibs on fresh produce and avoid being trampled by the herd of designer baby carriages.
The Ottawa Farmers’ Market in Westboro is open Saturdays 9:30 am – 3:00 pm until October 26, 2013.