One of truths about summer in central Illinois is that the heat is a given, but it does vary slightly from mildly scorching to hotter than the surface of the sun. I hope you are enjoying this summer heat wave, which is slightly cooler than the surface of the sun.
While humans might not appreciate the heat, many of the summer vegetables and fruits are loving this weather, which means the market will be overflowing with produce like sweet corn, watermelon, and tomatoes in July. While June begins the more production heavy months for local produce, the additional heat of July means that summer favorites are in full swing. Be sure to check out the flat beds full of sweet corn that will be hitting the market this month. It’s always a fun experience to pick through corn that is straight from the fields, without having had to do any of the harvesting. Another perennial favorite will soon be making an appearance at the market as well: peaches. Peach season is not terribly long in Central Illinois, so you may want to snap up some good ones if you see them. One of my favorite parts of peach season is that the markets often have “seconds,” which are slightly irregular peaches that are great for making pie or jam. If you plan to make something out of your peaches, ask if the vendors has some “seconds” which are slightly cheaper, but just as delicious. Nothing better than canning some beautiful peach jam for a taste of summer once the weather cools off.
Some veggies don’t do as well with the heat, so if you have been picking up stuff for salads at the market, some of those staples might not be as available. But this is prime tomato season; tomatoes love heat and have a great flavor in July. I’ve already seen some beautiful heirloom tomatoes at the markets, especially last weekend.
The Urbana market has been seeing increased traffic as the summer has progressed. If you like to have a lot of variety to choose from and beat the crowds (and heat), at this market it is best to arrive early. By about 10 a.m., the crowd is already getting pretty big. Last weekend it was really hot, but people were still out and having a great time. We enjoyed some lovely music, including some jazz flute and perpetual favorite (and request taker) with the ukele! Also, we met the new balloon guy, Ryan, who had quite the line full of kiddos waiting for a balloon creation. Check out the turbo cooled cold brew to cool off, if that is your kind of thing; bonus points for looking like you are wandering through the market with some beer at 8 a.m.
One thing to keep in mind is you may be better off eating that chocolate frosted doughnut right away rather than taking it home, because it gets really hot on the asphalt as the day goes on. Art at the Market is scheduled for July 14th, featuring a musical act and usually a craft for market patrons to participate in. Sprouts at the Market will be on July 28th and will help kids to learn about how food is transported. This event is free for kids ages 3 to 8. This is the same weekend that Read at the Market will take place, so July 28th seems like a great family day at the Urbana Market.
Meanwhile, in Champaign, The Land Connection market is planning a great month of fun to beat the heat. There are chef demonstrations and the ever-popular sampling tent, along with the fun of seeking out some exceptional local produce. I really like the Pop Stop popsicles, if you need a sweet treat. Pizza from Dragon Fire Pizza is great for a dinner you can eat while you browse — no need to heat up your house. I did see some really nice flowers at this market as well. I feel like this market tends to get busier as people get off work, so if you can stop by earlier you may see a smaller crowd, but even later in the day it’s still manageable. Super shout out to The Land Connection staff for all the agriculture education at this market; I always learn something new when I am there.
If you plan to attend either market and buy items that need to be kept cool, plan ahead with a cooler or cooler bag to keep your purchases chilled until you get home. A cooler full of ice is a definite must for meat, eggs, dairy, or the aforementioned chocolate doughnuts. Keep it food safe this summer, people!
Urbana’s Market at the Square
The Urbana Market is one of the largest farmers’ markets and has been in continuous operation since 1979. The market runs from May 5th to October 27th, each Saturday morning from 7 a.m. to noon, rain or shine.
Forms of payment: All vendors accept cash, and a few may take checks. Some vendors have card readers on their smart phones. Vendors selling LINK-eligible foods will accept LINK tokens, and there are some vendors who accept SNAP. If you run out of cash at the Market, there is an ATM in the Lincoln Square Mall.
Parking: Free parking is available in the parking lots surrounding Lincoln Square Mall and the lot south of Illinois Street. Bike parking is also available at the entrances to the mall and at the bike corral area past the entrance to the Market off of Illinois.
Pets: No pets allowed. Please respect the market’s rules and leave Fido at home.
The Land Connection Champaign Farmers’ Market
The Champaign Market is Tuesday evenings from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the parking lot at Hill or Main and Neil Street in Downtown Champaign.
Forms of Payment: Vendors take mostly cash, but some do take cards on their smart phones. If you run out of cash, there are ATMs close by in the Busey building on University, or at the PNC location on Main and Walnut.
Parking: Parking is available in parking lot M off of Neil Street, or in the Hill Street Parking Deck.
Pets: Dogs are welcome at this market, but must be leashed.
Photos by Jessica Hammie