Travel: Exploring Minnesota Food at St. Paul’s Famed Farmer’s Market

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On the day before Halloween, an array of pumpkins and squash.

I’ve just returned from a ten-day stay with family and friends in Minnesota, and I plan to write several posts about what’s happening in the gopher state, where I spent 25 years of my life. Yesterday, my friend Roger Haase took me on a tour of St. Paul’s justifiably famed downtown Farmer’s Market which dates back 150 years. In its present location at 290 East 5th Street since 1982, the market has 167 stalls and operates on weekends year around, with a smaller winter market open December through April. Because everything must be grown or made in Minnesota and nearby Wisconsin, the market is a good gauge of what Minnesotans are growing and eating.  I almost always feel uplifted when I visit a Farmer’s Market, and yesterday was no exception.  It’s invigorating to be in the company of people who work so hard to produce beautiful food. You don’t get rich doing this sort of work, so you know that they value something else. Minnesota’s once meat-and-potatoes cuisine has in the past few decades been enlivened by immigrants from many countries, but most notably Viet Nam, Mexico, Somalia, and by Hmong people from Southeast Asia, who, as truck farmers, play a large role in the market. It must be said also, that because of global warming, or for whatever reason, Minnesota’s climate is now not as harsh and unforgiving as I remember it to be.  Frankly, I was surprised to find as wide a variety of locally-grown produce (even tomatoes) so late in the season. See more photos of what I found at the market after the jump.

Lovely root vegetables, carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets, onions, you would expect to find this time of year....

Asian produce grown by Hmong immigrants is a relatively new addition to Minnesota cuisine.

Creative marketing was much in evidence, a basket of gourds and Indian corn.

Wisconsin cranberries. Tell me honestly, did you even imagine that they grew cranberries in Wisconsin? More photos of the market, after the jump...

Homemade dried pasta and samples of ravioli filled with butternut squash, cheese, beef or porcini mushrooms and provolone.

Hmong vendor with beautiful organic produce, including celery root, also, tiger eye beans, a variety of dried beans I'd never seen before.

Bouquets featuring ornamental kale--these were even more gorgeous than they appear to be in the photo.

Maple syrup, one of my favorites--there are more maple trees in Minnesota than you might imagine.

Cauliflower, young vendor texting...

Peppers for sale, vendor, still texting...

Tomatoes (not hothouse)? Are you kidding me? It's almost November!

Try some raspberry sorbetto.

My guide to the market, Roger Haase. He's been shopping here for decades, and we've been friends for 60 years.

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2 responses

  1. Thank you, Gary, for the wonderful photographs and blog from the heartland! I was born in Minnesota but have not been back since we left after I was born. Both of my parents grew up there. I am happy to see that the heartland harvest is both colorful and healthy!

  2. Great photos of our Farmer’s Market, Gary. It is the BEST Twin Citiies market because, as you said, everything must be grown or produced locally. The Minneapolis market is huge and has all kinds of unnecessary stuff – a lot of it commercially produced. And, it is overcrowded with day trippers .
    And, what a good looking tour guide you had.

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