It’s the last month for outdoor markets in C-U, so now’s the time to stock up. You don’t need to have fancy equipment to save fresh produce for the winter. You just need your stove and oven, a knife, and some freezer-safe vessels. If you have a bunch of mason jars and know how to jar things, that’s awesome. If you have a dehydrator, that is also awesome. But you don’t need those things.

With this warm weather lingering, you’ll still find plenty of summery produce as well as some fall and winter squash. Squash, onions, garlic, and potatoes will last a while if stored in a cool, dark location. As for saving the summery produce, do a little Googling (or visit the library for books on preserving food). Tomatoes are easy to prepare for the freezer. (Clearly I've been into tomatoes this market season.) Get some going on the stovetop with tiny bit of olive oil, salt, and garlic. Once you have some bubbling happening, lower the heat and reduce the mixture until you have a decently thick consistency. Once that cools, puree the tomatoes and garlic, pop that into some mason jars or a couple of freezer bags, and put in the freezer. (Make sure you label and date your contents!) Other veggies, like greens beans and peppers, should probably be blanched before freezing, but honestly, sometimes that is too much of a hassle and I just chop ‘em up and throw them into a bag that goes in the freezer. It’s fine. Really.

If you’re feeling particularly froggy and motivated, jarring stuff is a great idea. Jams, sauces, pickled things—all of those will stay for a very long time. I have a dehydrator and often use it to dry fruit (apples and pears are particularly delicious), but you can do the same in your oven. You can even slice up peppers, onions, and garlic and dehydrate them, too. I also make soups and stocks to keep in the freezer for busy/lazy evenings.

And how does your freezer look for meat? Grab your favorite cuts from your favorite vendors. Sadly, the markets do not sell chest freezers, so you may have to play a game of freezer tetris when you get home.

Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention pumpkins. People love pumpkins. You can buy them at the markets.

And also buy some apples.

The last chef demo at Urbana’s Market at the Square is this Saturday, October 5th. Janie Maxwell, Executive Director of the Illinois Farmers Market Association, will show you how to make a roasted vegetable salad with produce from the market.

October is might be the most fun and festive month at our markets, as each offers some sort of Halloween programming. Urbana’s Market at the Square will host Market at the Scare, a family-friendly lineup of programs on October 26th, the last day of the market. From 8 a.m. to noon, you and yours can check out a photo booth with fall-themed props, see a puppet show, make some fall crafts, and attend a spooky story time. There will also be a music workshop with the IDEA Store.  From 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. the Urbana Pops Orchestra will give a “haunted concert.” Market visitors are encouraged to wear costumes, and there will be trick or treating for the kiddos.

The last day for The Land Connection’s Downtown Champaign market is October 29th. Though formal Halloween plans are not public at this time, The Land Connection is sure to revive the Monster Market, which has featured costume contests and trick or treating, and spooky games and treats. Bonus points to family costumes and doggie costumes. Follow along on Facebook for specifics.

The Land Connection Champaign Farmers’ Market

The Champaign Market is in its 5th year, and runs every Tuesday from May 14th to October 29th from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., rain or shine. It’s located in the parking lot at Neil and Washington in Downtown Champaign.

Forms of Payment: Vendors mostly take cash, but some do take credit. If you run out of cash, there is an ATM at First Mid Bank on Church Street.

SNAP/LINK: All eligible vendors accept SNAP benefits through the LINK token program. Please visit The Land Connection website for specifics and for matching information.

Parking: Metered parking is available in parking lot M off of Neil Street, or in the Hill Street Parking Deck.

Pets: Leashed dogs are welcome.

Social Media: Follow The Land Connection on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or check the website for more information.

Urbana’s Market at the Square Info

The Urbana Market has been in continuous operation since 1979. The market runs from May 4th to October 26th, each Saturday morning from 7 a.m. to noon, rain or shine. It’s located at the corner of Illinois and Vine in Urbana.

Programming Schedule: First Saturday: Chef Demos Second Saturday: Art at the Market Third Saturday: Sprouts at the Market Fourth Saturday: Read at the Market

Forms of payment: All vendors accept cash, and a few may take checks. Many accept credit. If you run out of cash at the Market, there is an ATM at Busey Bank on Main and Race.

SNAP/LINK: Vendors selling LINK-eligible foods accept LINK tokens. Please visit Urbana’s Market at the Square website for specifics, or the information tent on site. 

Parking: Free parking is available in the parking lots surrounding Lincoln Square Mall and the lot south of Illinois Street. Bike parking is also available at the entrances to the mall and at the bike corral area past the entrance to the Market off of Illinois.

Pets: No pets allowed. Please respect the market’s rules and leave Fido at home.

Social Media: You can follow the Market on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Sign up for weekly Market emails here.

Photos by Jessica Hammie