Country Meets City at Montreal’s Jean Talon Farmer’s Market

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Fall brings about the most beautiful color pallet as the leaves scintillate in shades of gold, orange, red and the harvest of the summer season comes to its final fruition. Fall is also the season of Thanksgiving, celebrated with a day of gratitude and feasting. And in Montreal, the Jean Talon Farmer’s Market is the best place to buy some of this savory bounty.

Inaugurated in May 1933, the Jean Talon Market is one of many Farmer’s Markets located on the island of Montreal, the mission being to offer access to the freshest produce and best products.

Grocery shopping at Farmer’s Markets is an efficient way to encourage the local agriculture industry and limit transportation costs (and fuel consumption). For example, most farmers and market garden producers at the Jean Talon Market have their land located within a 50/60 km radius around Montreal.

During summer, starting in spring, produce found at the Jean Talon Market is super fresh, even possibly picked the same day you bought it. The meat comes from surrounding farms all year long. The fish and seafood are brought in fresh from the Atlantic regions of the province of Quebec, like la Gaspésie.

It’s reassuring to know you can ask about the quality of life of the animals you eat or about the usage of pesticides and other questions you might have, to the people who are directly involved in the farming process. They’re happy to chat with us and friendly rapports are often established.

The egg man recognizes me now since I’ve asked him what the quality of life of his hens was. Granted, he amusingly grinned before answering, but he did confirm that his chickens walk around an indoors enclosure, aren’t confined to cages and are exclusively grain fed, as it should be! That’s a relief! Conscious consumption is something we should all engage in. We are what we eat, after all…

The Jean Talon Market Experience

First off, I’d like to say, I heart FOOD!! I love to shop, cook, eat, it! There’s something comforting in the idea that, no matter what kind of day you’ve had, you can go home and create a dish that will feed your body and nourish your soul. Nothing compares to a good home cooked meal. Cooking also connects us to the roots of our humanity…whenever I stir soup, for example, I’m mindful of the fact this is how it’s been done since the moment humans began stirring soup! Cooking is surely more grounding than texting!

Needless to say, going to the Jean Talon Farmer’s Market is one of my favorite weekly outings. I always feel relaxed and content when I leave the premises, usually loaded like a mule, with many bags of fresh fruits, veggies, meat, fish, eggs. And occasional pastry treat – a woman needs to indulge herself with fabulously rich Italian or French patisserie, once in a while. Men too!

Do go to Le Pain Doré and try a pear and cream of almond danish. It will mesmerize your taste buds! Seriously. I brought some over as dessert at a casual dinner with a friend a few weeks ago and at some point while eating it, he stopped talking and started observing the danish intensely. The next words out of his mouth were “Damn…this is really good!!!”

The ambiance of the market is also enlivening and worth a visit: tons of people from various nationalities, side-by-side, squeezing fruits and veggies to verify ripeness, tasting samples, chatting with the farmers and butchers to learn more about them and their products. Children playfully run around. Musical performances by live musicians fill the air with South American beats and other genres. Dog tails wag as they enthusiastically meet.

Delicious smells from restaurants and outdoor stands cooking meat for fresh hot sandwiches perfume the atmosphere. A few Cafés line the perimeter of the market, where you can sit outside and enjoy the sights. A few hours at the Jean Talon Market is like taking a little break from the city and an indulgence for all senses.

From April to October, part of the merchant kiosks are located outside, and for the other 6 months, walls are built and everybody moves inside – this is Canada, land of the arctic winter cold! There’s also a permanent set of shops that offer specialized products (olives, nuts, spices, health food stores, etc.).

If you live in Montreal and haven’t been yet, what are you waiting for? The Jean Talon Market is easily accessible by public transit. If you’re a tourist who likes to glimpse cities beyond the usual tourist attractions, take a few hours and experience this lovely space. You won’t be disappointed! You might even leave with a soft smile on your face and a can of maple syrup, made in Québec, in your bag…

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