Get Fresh: Toronto Farmers’ Market Guide Summer 2013
Five years ago, there were 24 farmers’ markets in Toronto selling heirloom veggies, fresh-picked Ontario fruit and artisanal meats and cheeses. Today, it seems like there’s an ultra-local, exclusively organic market in every neighbourhood. As the city’s supermarkets swell into ever more lavish cathedrals of consumer convenience, more and more of us are turning our backs, opting for the market next door that sells line-caught Ontario perch and heirloom candy-cane beets by the bushel. It all costs a buck or two more, but we’re paying for freshness, more intense flavours and the chance to indulge, if only for an afternoon, in a quaint fantasy of passing cash into the very hands that sowed the seeds and picked the produce. All this at a leafy neighbourhood park. Or a concrete condo plaza. Or a suburban mall parking lot. Or a laneway bisecting the country’s largest social housing project. Toronto’s 40-odd markets occupy spaces that were decidedly unfertile only five or six years back. The people flocking to them have changed, too: joining the lentil casserole contingent are an increasingly diverse crowd of weekday home cooks picking up fresh produce for dinner, weekend excursionists looking for some laid-back downtime and suit-clad office workers in search of a midday snack. Here, our guide to the best and most bountiful Toronto farmers’ markets—no matter where you fit into the mix.
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The downtown green space has colourful Douglas Coupland installations and a new 10-stall market that gives condo-dwellers a quaint weekly alternative to mega-marts like nearby Sobeys.
Cream of the Crop: VanHart Greenhouses specializes in impossibly plump organic cherry, pear and Beefstake tomatoes.
Picnic Strategy: The Speers Farm Amaranth truck sells jumbo hotdogs with all the fixings. Take one up to the red Coupland war canoe for a view of Lake Ontario.
Tuesdays 3:30–7:30, Canoe Landing Park, Dan Leckie Way and Fort York Blvd., my-market.ca
Expect lots of be-scrubbed browsers at this tiny market in the middle of University Avenue’s hospital row.
Cream of the Crop: Crosswind Farm is all about goats: they sell goat cheese, goat milk and even goat soap.
Picnic Strategy: The Waffle Bar tops freshly made Belgian waffles with things like bacon and eggs or blackberries. Walk around the block to Elizabeth Street and savour your bounty at the pretty parkette behind the hospital.
Tuesdays 9–2, 555 University Ave., @MktAtSickKids
The sprawling concrete plaza gets festive on Wednesdays when suits from City Hall and nearby Bay Street roam among the food stalls and artists like songstress Layla Jane perform on stage.
Cream of the Crop: August is the best month for corn and Thames River Melons sells early-season peaches-and-cream.
Picnic Strategy: City Hall’s landscaped roof garden is an incredible urban oasis. Venture up with one of Grandpa Ken’s popular back-bacon sandwiches (his truck is by the fountain).
Wednesdays 8–2, Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen St. W., toronto.ca
A leafy churchyard market that gets even dreamier with occasional live harp performances. For culture hounds, market hours coincide with free Wednesday evenings at the nearby AGO.
Cream of the Crop: Babyleaf mixes from Big City Greens make for dainty summertime salads.
Picnic Strategy: Plum Bun bakery sells Caribbean vegan patties stuffed with fillings like potato, chickpeas and spinach. Snag a spot on the grass or follow the signs to the café tables set up in the cobbled courtyard.
Wednesdays 3:30–7, St. George the Martyr Anglican Church, 205 John St., facebook.com
Things that didn’t exist in Toronto when this market opened 200 years ago: running water, a population over 10,000 or anything north of Bloor.
Cream of the Crop: The Colwell Farms stand is known for its wide selection of Ontario potatoes, including creamy French fingerlings.
Picnic Strategy: Carousel Bakery’s signature stack of peameal on a white bun is a must-try. The picnic tables on the balcony in the South Market are the nicest spots for enjoying it.
Saturdays 5–5, 92 Front St. East, stlawrencemarket.com
In five years, this Parkdale market has spawned an onsite cannery, an organic grocery store called the Food Hub and pickling workshops, including a recent kombucha how-to.
Cream of the Crop: Fresh City, the urban farm at Downsview Park, sells Instagram-worthy candy-striped beets and tatsoi, a kind of Chinese spinach.
Picnic Strategy: Stretch out near the Community Tent with vegan snacks from Earth and City, like sprout and walnut–stuffed spring rolls.
Mondays 3–7, Sorauren Park, 40 Wabash Avenue, westendfood.coop
This South Etobicoke market has a bike clinic, gardening demos and a food-voucher system called “market money” that helps poorer residents afford local produce.
Cream of the Crop: Warner’s, a Niagara-based farm, sells baskets of sweet-tart scarlet cherries.
Picnic Strategy: Sandwich ingredients are abundant, like walnut-honey bread from De la Terre bakery and homemade ricotta from Monforte. Bell Manor Park just up the road has picnic benches and a jungle gym.
Tuesdays 4–7, Stonegate Plaza, 150 Berry Rd., stonegatechc.org
A small clutch of stalls under the trees in the far northwest corner of Trinity Bellwoods Park.
Cream of the Crop: Forbes Wild Foods trains its pickers to forage the Canadian wilderness for fiddleheads, leeks and other wild things.
Picnic Strategy: Snack on calzones and salad rolls from The Local Café’s stall.
Tuesdays 3–7, Trinity Bellwoods Park, Dundas St. and Shaw St., tbfm.ca
The Etobicoke market gets extra points for quaintness: it’s held next to a nineteenth century inn that’s been turned into a museum.
Cream of the Crop: The Bees Universe stall is best known for fancy honeys like buckwheat and wildflower. Its free-range duck and quail eggs are equally covetable.
Picnic Strategy: The inn’s grounds are full of grassy spots to spread a blanket. For snacking, the outdoor wood-fired oven churns out warm cinnamon rolls and chewy raisin-olive loaves.
Wednesdays 2–6, 4709 Dundas St. West, montgomerysinn.com
The weekday market attracts a motley crowd of students, artists, chilled-out earth mothers and other people free in the middle of the afternoon.
Cream of the Crop: Fun Guy Farms, masters of fungi and fermentation, sell plump shitakes, delicate oysters and funky, home-brewed kombucha.
Picnic Strategy: The park’s wood-fired oven bakes the freshest snacks around: pizzas, focaccia and gooey cinnamon buns.
Thursdays 3–7, Dufferin Grove Park, Dufferin St. and Sylvan Ave., dufferinpark.ca/market
The sprawling market operates from the parking lot of Sherway Gardens, just north of the QEW.
Cream of the Crop: Ontario strawberries at the Thorne Farms stall look just the way they should: small, misshapen and ruby-red.
Picnic Strategy: Green space is limited, but Quality Bakery’s sausage rolls make a good portable snack.
Fridays 8–2, Sherway Gardens Shopping Centre, 427 and The Queensway, sherwaymarket.com
The new addition to the Etobicoke market scene is held in Humber Bay Park, a grassy spit that juts into Lake Ontario.
Cream of the Crop: Daniels Farm’s lush pots of basil and rosemary are perfect for windowsill gardens.
Picnic Strategy: Prepared food options are slim, but Future Bakery sells pastries for snacking on in one of the park’s many scenic spots (there’s even a beach).
Saturdays 8–1, Humber Bay Park West, Lake Shore Blvd. West and Park Lawn Rd., hbsca.homestead.com/FarmersMarket.html
This year, the hipster-happy market is being held on the Junction Train Platform, a faux train station built for the Junction Centennial in 2008.
Cream of the Crop: Fans of the now-closed Hogtown Charcuterie deli in Kensington Market can find owner Pawel Grezlikowski’s artisanal sausages, terrines and fermented veggies on sale at the market.
Picnic Strategy: Perch on the edge of the gazebo-style train platform with shrimp tacos from El Perro Heffe, a Mexican street food stand, and plastic cups of Indie Alehouse beer.
Saturdays 9–1, The Junction Train Platform, 2960 Dundas St. West, junctionmarket.ca
The market takes place in the Green P lot across the street from Origin Liberty, Claudio Aprile’s west-end outpost.
Cream of the Crop: Thames River Melons’ delicate zucchini blossoms come with cooking instructions.
Picnic Strategy: Mexican restaurant Maizal’s stand sells tamales, quesadillas and cafecito, a traditional Mexican coffee.
Sundays 9–2, Hanna Ave and Liberty St., my-market.ca
The uptown market in Mel Lastman Square has a burbling fountain and a lively collection of stalls. Expect throngs of municipal workers from the nearby civic buildings.
Cream of the Crop: The Thiessen Farms stand sells overflowing pots of Vietnamese coriander, sweet woodruff and silver thyme.
Picnic Strategy: Cabbage rolls, fried potato pierogies and apple dumplings from Taste of Russia provide a stick-to-your-ribs lunch. Grassy spots and benches make for easy snacking.
Thursdays 8–2:30, Mel Lastman Square, 5100 Yonge St., toronto.ca
Toronto Botanical boasts 17 themed gardens with flowering trees, shrubs and ornamental grasses. The small weekly market is held in a paved courtyard outside the front entrance.
Cream of the Crop: Look for unusual heritage melons from P&H Farms, like the white-fleshed Saskatchewan watermelon.
Picnic Strategy: Claypot Catering serves veggie, vegan and gluten-free curries, as well as unconventional samosas filled with goat cheese and spinach. Full-fledged picnicking isn’t allowed in nearby Edwards Gardens, but there are plenty of spots to perch and snack on the sly.
Thursdays 3–7, 777 Lawrence Ave. East, torontobotanicalgarden.ca
The market takes place right off Yonge Street, in front of the post office. At lunchtime, cubicle-dwellers from nearby Yonge and Eg swarm the stalls for snacks and dinner ingredients.
Cream of the Crop: Meadow Sweet Farm’s babyleaf greens include lettuces, spinach, arugula, kale, mustards, beets, chard, endive and cabbage.
Picnic Strategy: The Pimenton stall cooks up massive vats of veggie paella. Seating is scarce, but Eglinton Park is just a ten-minute walk east.
Thursdays 11–7, Yonge St. and Montgomery Ave., appletreemarkets.ca
East-enders escape the city hubbub at the bucolic park and fully operational 19th-century farm. Now in its 13th season, the well-stocked farmers’ market is held just outside the west entrance.
Cream of the Crop: The Trillium Organics stall is popular for its vibrant produce, like red, yellow and orange cherry tomatoes.
Picnic Strategy: Market regulars go for pizza baked in the park’s wood-fired brick oven, followed by honey-vanilla sheep’s milk ice cream from Best Baa.
Tuesdays 3–7, Riverdale Park, 201 Winchester Ave., toronto.ca
This produce-focused market in Old East York is set up on the lawn outside the civic centre.
Cream of the Crop: Choose from six types of basil from Thiessen Farms (including lime basil and cinnamon basil), as well as baskets of early golden plums, known for tart skin and sweet flesh.
Picnic Strategy: Kountry King Foods is one of the few prepared options with hot dogs, steak sandwiches and flatbreads.
Tuesdays 8–2, East York Civic Centre, 850 Coxwell Ave., facebook.com
At the new Regent Park market, part of a $1-billion neighbourhood revitalization, stalls are clustered along a colourfully graffitied wall next door to the new Daniel Spectrum cultural centre.
Cream of the Crop: Footstep Organics sells garlic scapes and hearty greens like swiss chard.
Picnic Strategy: Stave off hunger pangs with barbecue corn from Arman’s, butterfish sandwiches from Fish Shack and crisp samosas from Fathima’s Kitchen. For a sit-down option, Paintbox Bistro is just around the corner.
Wednesdays 2–8, Regent Park Blvd., Dundas St. and Parliament St., regentparkfarmersmarket.ca
The Scarborough market transforms a barren U of T parking lot into a food destination with a new market theme each week (a recent one was Summer Salad Sensations).
Cream of the Crop: Danbrie Farms, a new addition to the market, sells baskets of wild blueberries and plums.
Picnic Strategy: Sunshine Shakes, the colourful stall with the tiki-style umbrella, makes refreshing, all-natural smoothies with strawberries, bananas and mangos.
Wednesdays 3–7, Parking Lot 4, 1265 Military Trail, Morningside Ave. and Ellesmere Rd., @UTSCfarmers
For parents with squirmy preschoolers, the Kids’ Corner at this East Danforth market has storytelling, sing-a-longs, crafts and a wading pool.
Cream of the Crop: High school students sell mesclun, arugula and French Breakfast radishes through an urban farming program called School Grown.
Picnic Strategy: The grassy slope behind the stalls provides a natural picnic perch. For an unconventional market snack, look for fresh fish ceviche from T.O. Ceviche Bar.
Thursdays 3–7, East Lynn Park, Danforth Ave. and Woodbine Ave., @EastLynnMarket
The massive market next to the historical brick-making factory has over 70 vendors. Also on-site: a retail garden market, an art gallery, a 60-foot rock-climbing tower and a DIY bike repair shop. A new Sunday market has a smaller selection of food stalls, as well as gifts, clothing and art.
Cream of the Crop: The Nature’s Way Organics stall might be the only place in the city to find certified organic popcorn.
Picnic Strategy: If you can snag a table on Café Belong’s 60-seat patio, its salads, charcuterie and green sangria make for delicious brunching.
Saturdays 8–1, Sundays 11–3, Evergreen Brick Works, 550 Bayview Ave., ebw.evergreen.ca/farmers-market, ebw.evergreen.ca/whats-on/sunday-marche
The market’s 20-something stalls circle a patch of green where local artists do their thing. Recent attractions included musical stylings on the dulcimer (a harp-style instrument that’s hit with a mallet) and actors performing scenes from Richard the Third.
Cream of the Crop: Cookstown Greens is known for their delicate squash flowers, heirloom cucumbers and other organic produce.
Picnic Strategy: Market-goers in-the-know line up for fresh fish tacos from the fishmongers at Hooked.
Saturdays 9–1, Withrow Park, 725 Logan Ave., withrowpark.ca
In August, the three-year-old market will host Baconfest, a daylong food fair dedicated entirely to the glorious, salty strips.
Cream of the Crop: Ying Ying Soy Food sells hand-made, GMO-free, organic tofu in flavours like curry, miso and black bean.
Picnic Strategy: Moms, dads and tots lunch on the grass with flaky Le Matin croissants and bacon-and-egg Belgian waffles from The Waffle Bar.
Sundays 9–2, Jonathan Ashbridge Park, Queen St. East and Woodward Ave., www.leslievillemarket.com
The market has been known to attract neighbourhood celebrities, like city councilor Karen Stintz and healthy cooking guru Bonnie Stern
, whose school is just around the corner.
Cream of the Crop: Rocket Handgrown stocks Asian veggies like Mizuna, a type of Japanese lettuce, and kobocha squash.
Picnic Strategy: The midtown park is a natural picnicking spot. Try kathi rolls from Spice Chef and pineapple lemonade from Plum Bun Bakery.
Tuesdays 3–7, June Rowlands Park, Mount Pleasant Rd. and Davisville Ave., appletreemarkets.ca
Over 30 vendors cluster around the historic Wychwood streetcar barns at St. Clair and Christie. An early start is key: goods often sell out before 11 a.m.
Cream of the Crop: A GTA-based farm, Footstep Organics, sells bushels of multicoloured carrots, yellow tomatoes and purple torpedo onions (an Italian heirloom).
Picnic Strategy: Retreat to the picnic tables with sandwiches from The Market Café, like a grilled cheese on multigrain with salty-sweet bacon jam.
Saturdays 8–12, The Green Arts Barn, 601 Christie Ave., thestop.org/green-barn-market