On any given Saturday, you can bet you will find most of South Bend’s farm-fresh lovers strolling the walkways of the South Bend Farmer’s Market. Incorporated in 1924, the Farmer’s Market is now the largest indoor market of its kind in the Midwest – and with good reason. Not only will shoppers find the expected variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and plant life, but they will also discover everything from homemade pet treats to jewelry and a cafe offering up some of South Bend’s most delicious and coveted recipes.
While visiting the Farmer’s Market for this blog post, I could not help myself, and ended up snatching up several freshly picked (and in one case, freshly shaved) food items that caught my eye. While it is impossible to talk about all 97 vendors that call the Farmer’s Market home, I can certainly outline my experience with the vendors I was able to interact with, and in some cases purchased some fresh treats from.
I first stopped to purchase a bundle of fresh asparagus from the Klug Family Farms table. The Klug Family has held their spot at the Market since 1970 and carry seasonal produce throughout the year. In the spring they feature asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries and flowers. In the summer raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, apricots, nectarines, peaches, plums and assorted vegetables can be found spread across their vendor station, and in the fall they sell apples, pears, Michigan grapes and fall vegetables.
As I strolled through the Market, a table full of fresh and very unique looking mushrooms caught my attention. This table has belonged to Hovenkamp’s Produce since 1952, and also features gourmet veggies, homemade dressings, and hydroponic tomoatoes, cucumbers and lettuces.
Large coolers full of meats and cheeses, plus another full of gelato were next to draw me in. Oh Mamma’s Italian Deli offers over 75 varieties of cheeses, 25 varieties of olives, plus rustic breads, sweets, antipasto trays and plenty more! I couldn’t help myself from sampling the goat cheese, made fresh at the family’s goat farm in Walkerton, Ind., along with some crusty bread and olives. YUM! All of the items found at Oh Mamma’s are hand picked, and most are imported from Italy, Holland, France and other European countries. However, the Deli also offers plenty of domestic and local options that work with every budget. The freshly shaved prosciutto I bought went perfectly with my Klug Family asparagus when wrapped in bundles and roasted in the oven!
A ten year staple at the Farmer’s Market is the Ali Oesch Jewelry table, which features handmade jewelry in every style and color imaginable. Ali’s station is one of the better known vendors at the Market, with South Benders who have never even set foot in the Market knowing her name and probably having been gifted one of her creations in the past.
As you round the corner in the U-shaped Farmer’s Market, the smell of roasting nuts and sweetness fills the air. Then you see the display case of Sweet Street, and you can’t help but stop and stare. First is a case full of various nuts, some still roasting on a spinning plate. The second display case is full of caramel apples, some with chocolate and nuts, as well as other sweet confections like Tiger Tails and Tiger Paws, Bear Claws, Turtles and much more.
The Farmer’s Market also boasts a cafe that has been there for over 85 years and serves breakfast and lunch, prepared daily from seasonal produce and fresh market meats and cheeses. Customer favorites include: swiss steak, beef and noodles, meatloaf and homemade cakes and pies.
Like I mentioned before, it is impossible to give every vendor at the South Bend Farmer’s Market the time and space they deserve in this blog post. However, making your way to this unique – and totally locally- grown - market is the best way to experience this truly great FRESH PICKS option in the heart of South Bend.
Not all vendors are present at the Farmer’s Market every day it is open, so make sure to visit the Vendor page of the South Bend Farmer’s Market website to find out when is the best time to catch your favorite vendor.