By Jamie Leventhal
During the week, the parking lot between University Place and East Railroad Avenue in Evanston is a dingy and dull place, but on Saturdays it is transformed into the lush and vibrant Evanston Farmers’ Market. And on the first opening of this season’s market this past Saturday, one type of produce reigned supreme: asparagus.
“The one thing right now that people are looking for is asparagus,” said Mark Dolnick, owner of the Green Acres produce stand. “The people who come here looking for tomatoes and artichokes and stuff like that this time of year, it’s the wrong time.”
Dolnick wasn’t kidding. Almost every stand showcased an ample supply of thin or thick asparagus stalks in green or purple. Even bakeries, preserve shops, and potted plant stands followed customer demand and sold different variations of the stick-like vegetable. Some products actually combined asparagus into their products, like a pasta that was made using bits of asparagus.
Customers took full advantage of the large variety of asparagus and other greens on their weekly shopping excursions.
“We’re looking for some asparagus and also maybe some bakery goods. It’s the season for asparagus,” said shopper Margaret Cunningham. “The weather is perfect right now because it’s cool, and asparagus likes cool and wet weather.”
Margaret and her husband Michael moved around from stand to stand, inspecting the different produce and comparing prices. In addition to their eggs, lettuce and spinach, they searched for some fresh asparagus stalks for a delicious dinner.
“I’m going to sauté [the asparagus] with some onions and garlic in some olive oil, and then serve it probably with baked chicken,” Ms. Cunningham said.
People gathered in stands, carefully selecting their asparagus and other produce. Little by little, the products disappeared from their shelves in another successful Farmers’ Market opening.
“I mean this is a big, ugly parking lot, and every week… a mall pops up and then gets put down at the end of the day and I think that’s kind of remarkable.” Dolnick said. “It’s like a circus, but the food is better.”