September is the month of market bounty. Now is the time you can really go a little crazy at our farmers’ markets — there’s just so much produce that looks and tastes amazing. Tuesday afternoons in Downtown Champaign and Saturday mornings in Urbana are no longer boiling hot and humid, making the shopping experience much more enjoyable. With cooler, dry weather, there’s more incentive to linger, to walk up and down the market aisles, to have a meal from a food truck.

Even though Labor Day is behind us, the produce available now, coupled with the much improved weather, makes me want to host cookouts at my house every Friday and Saturday from now until winter. On my last visit to the market, I picked up some figs. If you see some around, do spend the money. They’re so delicious, and perfect for snacking, on cheese plates, and for putting on pizza. I also grabbed some watermelon because I’m not quite ready to let go of summer.

Lately I’ve been making a delicious bean dish I adapted from America’s Test Kitchen's vegetarian cookbook, and it calls for red bell peppers and basil, but I’ve been throwing in more peppers because they look so darn beautiful. You can get all the produce you’ll need for it at the market. It’s super cheap, healthy, really flavorful, versatile, and filling. Here’s how to make it:

  • Put on a pot of water for your pasta or grain of choice
  • Sauté onion, bell pepper, and garlic (hot peppers optional)
  • Once softened, add in one or two cans of chickpeas
  • Add in some veggie or chicken broth
  • Bring to simmer
  • Squeeze in juice of half a lemon
  • Slice up some scallions and basil
  • Toss beans and broth into bowl with scallions and basil
  • Stir in grains
  • Enjoy!

Speaking of peppers…don’t sleep on some spicy ones. Sure, some might be too hot to handle (seriously, I always wear gloves), so if you’re not sure, as the vendor selling them. You can always de-seed the pepper to mitigate the heat. I recommend stocking up and drying them out so you can use them later this fall and winter in soups and stews.

I know I talked about tomatoes in last month’s column, but they are worth mentioning again this month, because they are also so darn tasty and beautiful. Aren’t you in need of a BLT or a BALT or ALT or some other tomato sandwich? (That’s bacon, avocado, lettuce tomato.) Probably. There are a handful of meat vendors at Urbana’s Market at the Square that sell some locally sourced bacon. Grab a loaf of bread from Central Illinois Bakehouse, and you are all set.

Have you tried other non-produce goods at the markets? You’ll not be at a loss for sweets and baked goods. I fully support acquiring any and all sweet treats that make you happy. If you’re visiting The Land Connection’s Downtown Champaign Tuesday market, check out Two Million Blooms. The local company makes raw honey and will likely have some baked goods available, too. 

Don’t forget to check out the various programming at both of our markets. On the last Tuesday of the month (September 24th), The Land Connection hosts Market Seedlings for the kiddos, and the Carle Mobile Clinic (for non-emergency services). Follow The Land Connection on Facebook for weekly specifics. Urbana’s Market at the Square’s kid-friendly programming schedule is listed below.

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