If you’re looking for something to do on your lunch hour, the Daley Plaza Farmer’s market makes for a great (and healthy) outing. Unless you work very close to Daley Plaza, you’ll get a walk and some exercise, and lots of fresh produce and artisan products for your dinner that night. I’ve been making the lunch-hour trip down to Daley Plaza every Thursday for several summers now.
While you’re at the Daley Plaza Farmer’s Market, check out my five favorite vendors.
Nichols Farm and Orchard always has a large produce stand with a wide selection at the plaza. Generally, they have a little bit of everything that’s in season. This Merengo-based business, started as a hobby farm, makes an appearance at most of the Chicago-area farmer’s markets. On its web site, the firm claims that they grow everything they sell, and that it is all locally produced.
The fruits and vegetables they offer vary seasonally, with peas, rhubarb, and asparagus in the spring. In June, there are strawberries and sugar snap peas, a sweet-tasting pea with an edible pod. Later, you’ll find peaches, raspberries, potatoes, and summer squash. You’ll also find new potatoes, melons, corn, and apples.
Lehman’s Orchard sells mainly fruits. Lehman’s generally carries a broad selection of whatever is in season. In summer, I particularly like to buy the sweet and sour cherries this Michigan family farm produces. Sour pie cherries, a seasonal Midwest treat, are available only for a short time in summer and particularly good for baking. Sour pie cherries are not usually found in the grocery store. In the fall, look for unusual and popular apple varieties, and apple cider.
Lehman’s Orchard also offers dried fruit and nut mixes. Try their dried apples and dried cranberries. Their honey-roasted almonds have an addictive sweet and salty flavor.
Rise ‘N Roll is an Amish bakery in Middlebury, IN. At their stand you’ll find desserts, baked goods, and sweets. I particularly like their homemade noodles and Amish butter cheese. The butter cheese has a rich but mild flavor similar to a good-quality havarti. If you can’t visit them at the farmer’s market, you can also visit their new shop at 233 N. Michigan Ave.
Since 1992, Misericordia’s Hearts and Flour Bakery has been providing jobs and vocational opportunitites to adults with developmental disabilities. Misericordia residents make, package, and help sell baked goods and other treats at the Daley Plaza Farmer’s Market. I usually buy their Irish soda bread. Hearts and Flour frequently offers samples, and it’s hard not to buy something after tasting.
Misericordia supports over 600 children and adults with developmental disabilities, without regard to racial, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds. It is affiliated with the Chicago Catholic church. Their stated goal is to enable individuals to live as independently as possible.
At Brunkow Cheese, there are samples of most of the items for sale. My favorites are the aged cheddars–the older the better. Also tasty is their grilling cheese, made to be cooked and served warm. Brunkow sells several types of raw-milk (unpasteurized) cheeses and cheese spreads.
The Darlington, WI-based dairy dates back to 1899, when a group of Wisconsin farmers formed a cooperative factory and hired a cheesemaker. Since 1929, the Brunkow Cheese Co-op has been run by the Geissbuhler family. Currently, Karl Geissbuhler and his partner, Greg Schulte are the cheesemakers.
The Daley Plaza Farmer’s Market is open from mid-May through the end of October. Market hours are from 7 AM to 3 PM, but many vendors start packing up their booths before 3:00.