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Two Great Places to Get Fresh

By Kim Ranegar, Midwest Living contributor

Drawing on the bounty of area fields and orchards farmers markets are weekend rituals across Northern Indiana. Midwest Living contributor Kim Ranegar visits two great ones in South Bend and Chesterton.

Though the outside of the South Bend Farmers Market looks like a simple pole barn, the inside is filled with local bounty that looks great, smells great and makes you feel great, because you’re buying local. Yet the South Bend Farmer’s Market is much more than a collection of tailgates and ice chests. Because it’s year-round and enclosed, the vendors work from established stalls, where you can purchase a variety of meats, cheeses, eggs, produce and more.

Expect some changes with the seasons. During our October visit, we found fresh flowers and bedding plants; corn- and grain-fed turkey, chicken, duck and rabbits; fresh lamb and seafood. Seasonal produce is a mainstay, as are pastries – Hungarian, traditional, diabetic and more, plus honeys, candy and roasted nuts. The nearby D’Avella Family Winery offers an assortment of local vintages. Some of the more unusual items include a complete stand dedicated to birds, with food, feeders and more. A specialty spice stand has many options, from cinnamon to fenugreek, which you can buy in small quantities (rather than grocery-store bulk). The outdoor courtyard, open in the summer, might be a good spot to find that unusual plant or posy.

Located in the center of the market, the Farmer’s Market Café serves delicious dishes prepared from seasonal produce and fresh market meats and cheeses, in a setting that looks like an old fashioned diner. Swiss steak and homemade cakes and pies are among the favorites.

The market is open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday (and Friday from May to September), and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Part marketplace, part festival, Chesterton’s European Market is an outdoor affair that’s as welcome as springtime when it opens each May. The event gathers up to 150 vendors each Saturday through October, offering fresh produce and plants, artisan breads and pastries, boutique cheeses, gourmet ingredients and one-of-a-kind art plus a few surprises.

While vendors remain fairly consistent, their offerings change as the weeks go by and different crops mature. Vendors assemble early and open at 8 a.m., so we get there early for our favorites from The Cheese People of Illinois – Gouda with mustard seed, and Brie layered with apricots and sliced almonds. Regulars also line up for specialty pastries from surrounding bakeries, as well as those from a group of Catholic nuns from Chicago who bring gorgeous baguettes and tarts. We also find locally harvested honey, the brightest and freshest locally grown produce, bedding plants, specialty teas, sea salts, and selected vintages from nearby Butler Winery.

Yet it’s not all about food and drink. We find original art, rare books, handmade jewelry and other original items like frilly vintage-looking aprons, unique handbags, clothing, beads and more. More than just a collection of tents, this marketplace is mixed among a canopy of trees and set to music by a rotating cast of live musicians, from steel drums to steely guitars.

We enjoyed fresh crepes cooked on the spot and wished we’d bought our dull kitchen knives to be sharpened on site. Before we head out, we stopp for jerk chicken, which we smell from nearly a full block away. There are a number of cool Chesterton stores just steps away, too. Check out Red Cup for coffee, The Flower Cart for unusual gifts, Whimsy and Indian Summer for one-of-a-kind clothes.