Toronto's Best Produce Sellers

We relish the trek to these great green grocers

By Toronto Life| Photography by Carmen Cheung
| November 15, 2021

Having a nearby greengrocer does wonders for the village-within-a-city vibe we all want for our neighbourhoods. But when that’s not an option, or we just have a hankering for some seasonal veg and a few still-life-worthy treats for the fruit bowl, we relish the trek to these best-in-the-city purveyors of produce.

1. The Big Carrot

Sitting at the centre of the Carrot Common—a collective of health-and-wellness-oriented shops at Danforth and Broadview—this sprawling employee-owned natural foods market has been a Greektown community staple since 1983 (and recently added a second location in the Beaches). The Carrot carries only organic or wild-grown foods, which are as fresh and varied as you’ll find anywhere, from big carrots (how could they not?) and blushing local peaches to tangles of spinach, dandelion and chard so sprightly you’d think they were picked minutes before landing on the shelves. The maximalist selection is paired with a suitably minimalist approach toward packaging (no individually shrink-wrapped bananas here). This year, the Danforth location opened a zero-waste department called “Unpacked,” with packaging-free groceries, body care products and other goods. More than just a stellar destination for produce, the Carrot is a fully fledged grocer, with an in-house kitchen for prepared foods, a juice and smoothie bar, and even a stand-alone beauty and wellness boutique that sells only natural products. It’s one-stop shopping for those who want to shop both salubriously and sustainably. 348 Danforth Ave., 125 Southwood Dr., 416-466-2129, thebigcarrot.ca


2. Carload

At the junction of maximally fresh and well-priced, there’s Carload, a locally beloved greengrocer that first came to Bloor West Village in 2003, and has since added locations in the Beaches and midtown. Behind its unassuming yellow signage is an abundance of reliably high-quality fruit and veg, with the friendly feel and attentive service of a small-town market. Convenient pre-cut produce like mango and watermelon, as well as pre-seeded pomegranate and packaged greens, are as fresh and tasty as everything else on the shelves, thanks to a combination of stringent quality control and wicked-high turnover. There’s a solid selection of local, seasonal fare, and a fairly comprehensive grocery section—including spices, grains and nuts—that’ll save a trip to a big-box store. 2334 Bloor St. W., 416-767-8661, and two other locations, carload.ca


3. Urban Fresh Produce

This St. Lawrence Market greengrocer specializes in organic fruit and veg, sourcing locally where possible and pointedly seeking out cool options from across Ontario. (It was the first vendor in the market to carry what is arguably the tastiest corn in the city: an old-school, non-GMO variety called Chocolate Sunshine that looks and tastes like something out of a nostalgic pastoral daydream.) House-made flavoured salts—like thyme, savoury and lemon chili—as well as hot sauces and guacamole are a nice touch, and there’s a small fridge full of organic dairy products at the back. The super-friendly service is another reason to visit: if you need someone to hand-pick a good watermelon or help you mull over recipe ideas, the helpful staff have you covered. 93 Front St. E., 416-504-3774, urbanfreshproduce.ca


Toronto's best produce sellers
Photo by Daniel Neuhaus

4. Bloor Fruit Market

There’s nothing fancy going on under these charming green awnings, and there doesn’t need to be. Between head-scratchingly low prices and a rotating stock of fruits, vegetables and flowers, this cash-only Koreatown gem has a devoted local following for a reason. There’s seasonal and organic produce, convenient bundles of fresh herbs (at a small fraction of the cost at the big-box stores), a selection of staples like eggs and tofu, and a bevy of beautiful bouquets great for last-minute gifting. Regular specials on seasonal, local fare make navigating the narrow aisles well worth your trouble. The friendly cashiers work at a dizzying pace, so you’d be well-advised to be quick on the draw with your cash to keep the line flowing. 662 Bloor St. W., 416-588-1898, bloor-fruit-market.business.site


5. Kensington Fruit Market

At the bustling corner of Kensington and St. Andrew, this 40-something-year-old family business is going strong despite not only the pandemic but a fire that forced them to close for nearly six months last January. After extensive repairs, the market returned with the same focus on fresh, affordable produce they built their reputation on. There’s always a good selection of locally grown offerings, the greens are remarkably fresh—think crisp bok choy and cheerful-looking bunches of kale—and while the store is not entirely plastic-free, there’s a notable lack of excessive packaging. And at the start of garden season, there’s a solid selection of plantables. 36 St. Andrew St., no phone, @kensingonfruitmarket


6. Imperial Fruit Market

When the recipe calls for nopales or yuca, St. Clair West’s Imperial Fruit Market probably has what you’re looking for. In addition to all the garden-variety essentials, this greengrocer has a wide selection of Latin American produce—think plantain, tomatillo, jicama, poblano peppers and among the city’s most reliable avocados—a true blessing for all discerning guacamole or fancy toast enthusiasts. Sandy Chu, who owns the 20-year-old family business, says she tries to carry a bit of everything to cater to the neighbourhood. Besides some hard-to-find produce, there’s a great selection of dried chili peppers, dried and canned beans, hot sauces and spices, as well as fresh bread from Dundas Portuguese Bakery. Flowers and plants are another attraction here—there’s an expansive wall of them on one side of the store, including hydrated, happy-looking fresh aloe. 1110 St. Clair Ave. W., 647-436-5053


Toronto's best produce sellers
Photo by Daniel Neuhaus

7. Harvest Wagon

With 43 years in the neighbourhood, this Rosedale mainstay has a charming, warm, neatly laid out aesthetic and a serious focus on high-grade fruit and veg. You may pay a bit of a premium for their pristine produce, but it’s seriously hard to find a bruised apple or mealy tomato on these shelves. And if you need an uncommon item for a recipe, there’s a good chance it’s here—the proprietors make a point of keeping unique varieties on hand for their culinarily inclined customers. This is the spot for your Rainier cherries, romanesco cauliflower and baby rainbow carrots, complete with stems and greens. Their prepared foods section benefits from a treasure trove of family recipes, like the ultra-tender veal meatballs with house-made tomato basil sauce and the layered, three-cheese eggplant parmigiana. Fresh cut flowers, a bakery and a cheese and deli section round out offerings, making it a one-stop artisanal shop that just happens to stock superb produce. 1103 Yonge St., 416-923-7542, harvestwagon.com


Toronto's best produce sellers
Photo by Daniel Neuhaus

8. Bare Market

Swapping plastic bags for reusable totes is one thing—nixing plastic (and most other packaging) altogether is a whole other ball game. Low-waste retail is Bare Market’s raison d’être, and besides the (increasingly urgent) environmental angle, it makes shopping for produce there oddly calming—like you’ve been transported to a better time entirely free of saran-wrapped cucumbers. Plus, they make a point of working with local food producers—you’ll find sugar melons and berries from Thames River Melons in Innerkip, and broccoli and squash from Pfenning’s Organic Farm in New Hamburg, among other Ontario partners. (The low-waste thing extends behind the scenes—Bare Market gets a lot of its produce from suppliers in reusable tubs.) For a store with mostly local and organic offerings, prices are very reasonable—especially in the summer, when the store drops its prices further to increase accessibility. There’s a bulk section for low-waste nuts, grains and dry goods, and eco-friendly home and body products, too. 1480 Danforth Ave., 647-668-1210, baremarket.ca


9. Sue’s Market

This Richmond Hill market may be out of the way for Toronto downtowners, but those in the neighbourhood know it for its vast and high-quality produce selection. There’s a bit of everything here, with an emphasis on local products and high-grade goods—you’ll find plump, perfect berries, bushels of Ontario apples and, in the summer, Ontario sweet peas available whole and conveniently shelled. One edge for greengrocers outside Toronto proper is having a little more room to spread out—with neatly laid out aisles and variety that can only be described as a cornucopia, not to mention its tempting bakery, on-site sushi department and premium meat counter. Sue’s is a good place for grocery nuts looking for respite from the downtown hustle. 205 Don Head Village Blvd.,Richmond Hill, 905-737-0520


10. YamChops

More plant-based proteins than straight-up produce, this Little Italy vendor nevertheless forces even the most avowed carnivore to consider the role of vegetables in the contemporary North American diet. College Street’s YamChops beat the meat-replacement rush, and since 2014 has supplied the city’s vegetarian and vegan eaters with ingenious plant-based alternatives. Hickory-smoked ribs, Montreal-seasoned steak, schnitzel cutlets, chicken souvlaki and pulled pork are made with various combinations of jackfruit, seitan, vital wheat gluten, chickpeas, mushrooms, beets and, increasingly, cutting-edge soy, pea and wheat protein products that replicate the taste, structure and satisfaction (seriously) of eating meat to a previously impossible degree. It’s a perfect first step for meat-eaters looking to move toward a more sustainable, plant-powered way of eating. 705 College St., 416-645-0117, yamchops.com


Toronto's best produce sellers

These listings (and many more) appear in Toronto Life’s 100 Best Food Shops special issue, which is available on newsstands now. To purchase your own copy, click here.

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