The Tower Grove Farmers' Market (in Tower Grove Park at the intersection of Main Drive and Center Cross Drive, west of the wading pool; 314-771-4410) having been open for a few weeks now, we figure now is the time to head over for a Saturday-morning produce run.
In order to prep you, dear food lover, for what to expect when you're exploring on Saturday, Gut Check grabbed a few insulated grocery bags and sallied forth to the market last Saturday. Such foresight
is our hallmark not at all typical of us, but hey, even a blind squirrel nabs a nut now and then.
Vendors open for business at 8 a.m. and shut down at noon. That said, your best bet is to arrive early. Sleeping in means missing out on items that sell out before you have your pants on. (Let's just say Gut Check learned the hard way. Never again!)
The growing popularity of farmers' markets and local produce in general was immediately evident from the quantity of parked cars and the humanity massed around baskets of asparagus (currently in season).
In order to meet demand, the market already boasts more than 50 vendors offering everything from produce to flowers, seeds and handmade jewelry.
Oh, and food, because shopping for food makes you hungry. The Holy Crepe! was there Saturday, and one of the longest lines at the market was the one at the Companion table, where customers can choose from among a dozen kinds of bread. Or buy a cinnamon roll. (Just sayin'.)
Most of the produce vendors are farmers or community-garden folk. Right now they've got a lot of greens: spinach, the aforementioned asparagus, twists of basil, etc.
A sign advertising Butter Crunch caught our eye, so we headed over to Ivan's Fig Farm, where Ivan Stoilov grabbed a massive head of leafy lettuce and explained the virtues of Butter Crunch -- namely that it's delicious and cheap. Right on the first count, we're here to tell you. The lettuce is crunchy and slightly sweet. Cheap is as cheap does at a farmers' market; $3 per head probably qualifies.
Ivan also sells jams and salsa, and he confirmed there will be figs (many, many figs). To everything there is a season, turn, turn, turn.
We stopped by Windy Lake Farms, because they specialize in poultry and we had a hankering for gizzards. (Don't judge). Unfortunately, they were out. Like many purveyors, Windy Lake doesn't come every single week. (A vendor might alternate weeks because he or she doesn't have enough to sell otherwise, or because other markets beckon.) The long and short of it: Windy Lake Farms will not be back this week. But they'll return next week, and they promise to bring gizzards. (Save some for Gut Check!)
Thus reassured, we headed to the Big Cheese. They sell sandwiches, and by sandwiches we don't mean Kraft singles grilled between slices of Bunny bread. They make their sandwiches with ingredients procured from their fellow vendors at the market, and they list 'em on a board for all to see. On this particular day: cheese from Marcoot Jersey Creamery; bread from Companion; and pea shoots, fresh mint and honey from Hanley Fold and Claverach farms. For $5 you get a plain "Big Cheese"; for $6 you get "The Special," featuring the aforementioned pea shoots and such. Our motto being "Go big or go home," this brought on an existential crisis,
But only a brief one.