Saturday, August 27, 2005

St Jacobs Market

We moved to Toronto 14 years ago (it doesn't seem possible). One of the first markets we visited was just outside of St Jacob about 1 hour west of Toronto. This area, in the heart of Ontario's fruit belt, is home to a large Old Order Mennonite community whose members still ride in horse drawn buggies and maintain a simple lifestyle. The main street of St Jacob was quaint with shops selling handmade exquisite Mennonite quilts, among other things and local restaurants like the Stone Crock serving hearty fare using local produce, and delicious pies, breads, tarts from their bakery next door. The Stone Crock and Benjamin restaurants are exactly the same, but the flavor of Main Street has become much more tourist focused. (You know it's happened when you a) don't see any horses and buggies in town; b) see chain stores like Tabi; c) follow long, slow traffic to the parking lot near souvenir shops.

The farmers' market is one of the largest I've ever been to. There is a huge building that houses permanent stalls for local butchers, cheesemakers, bakers, sellers of homemade fudge and preserves (and too many more things than I can mention) and artisans, just to name a few. Unfortunately it was so crowded this time (we got there on Saturday at about 10 a.m.) that we didn't get to spend too much time inside. Trying to maneuver through the crowd is like being a salmon trying to swim upstream. I didn't even get to check out the quilts!!! I did buy the most fabulous ground lamb (to make burgers for dinner) from Charles Butchers (I think - since it was too crazy buzy to actually get a business card or find my pen and paper to copy their sign).

Outside was even crazier. In fact, the only word I can think of to describe it- OVERWHELMING!!!

In order to get this shot, I held the camera over my head. Every row of vendors looked like this - swarms of people jostling for position. I can't imagine where they all come from. It was truly overwhelming and reminded me why we only make it out here once a year or so. It's really hard to enjoy a leisurely stroll through the market, impossible to talk to farmers (except to say "I'll take those please") and had us hurrying our purchases.

Okay, ranting over (but I really LOVE being able to stroll by stands, smell the fruit, envision the dinners I would create with everything, talk to farmers....). Now the rant is over and here are some shots that explain why we come back even if it is only once or twice a year.

The pepper vendor of this beautiful assortment could have been a Carnie at your local county fair, loudly hawking his stunning peppers in front of his equally colorful stand.

Did you ever see such gorgeous little plums? And they taste even better than they look, if that's possible.

Strawberries - just like the ones I thought I could only get in June!! Tasty and juicy - these are not just a pretty face.

Beautiful, delicious peaches, after all, Niagara Fruit Belt isn't called that for nothing!!!

The first apples of Fall - a bitter sweet event. I love Fall and really the only time I truly enjoy eating raw apples (their crunch, their tang....mmmh) but it also means that Summer is almost over. In fact I can't believe Labour Day is almost here - but I digress, yet again.

Gorgeous Roma tomatoes I had to leave behind because our arms were full and there was no way we were going to come back through the throngs to get more of anything like these eggplants, for instance.

To get back to the car, we took a different route (trying to avoid the crush of people and produce) and ended up wandering through the Flea Market area where you could buy everything from socks to CDs; clothes to linens to toys for kids and pets and everything else you can think of.

We took the scenic route home (helping to relieve the stress), driving through farmland and saw the first red leaves jumping out from the lush green foliage of the woodlands along the road, another sign that summer is almost over.


Joe said...

What a selection in that market. It looks like you have access to some very fresh and good food!

Skrat said...

Hi Ruth,
found your site thro J's. I LOVE going to markets more than the shopping malls...believe me im not hot on buying clothes as much as FOOD! I love the pic of the strawberries and the beautiful roman tomatoes! i love buying them when i was living in, we are starved of it here in Singapore. Awesome blog, will be back often!

Shauna said...


That market looks pell mell, but lovely. I adore the pictures you took of the bounty, especially the ones of the peppers and tomatoes. And yes, summer is almost over, which makes me a little melancholy. This evening, my friend and I looked out at the window to notice, startled, that the sky had grown dark at 8:30. Yikes.

But it's so lovely to have all these summer photos online, so we can go back and look when we're feeling a little too wintry.

p.s. I want your lamb burgers!

Ruth said...

Joe, Shauna, the market is pretty spectacular, but I have to figure out a way/time to go when there aren't such horrific crowds.

Skrat, I dropped by your site and it too will become a regular visit for me. Thanks for visiting mine.

MagicTofu said...

I visited St-Jacobs many times over the 3-4 years I spent in Toronto. Lots of great deals but I have to agree that it became somewhat of a weekend tourist destination. It is worth fighting the crowd just to be able to buy some of the amazing menonite summer sausages produced in the area... Delicious and cheap... what else would you ask for?

We're still trying to find someone to mail us summer sausage once in a while...

margaret said...

hi has any one tried going on thursdays a little bit slower same great vendors more enjoyable and great vendors upstairs in food building, great stuff great food