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Daley Plaza opens Chicago farmers market season

PHOTO: Working in the Loop? Then head over to the opening of the Daley Plaza Farmers Market on Thursday. | AL PODGORSKI~SUN-TIMES MEDIA

It’s time to grab that canvas shopping bag and head to the farmers market.

The first of the City of Chicago-managed farmers market opens Thursday (May 14) on Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington. It will be open from 7 a.m until 3 p.m., although there will be grand opening activities beginning at 11:30 a.m.

Also opening in May is the Division Street market, at Division and Dearborn, which opens on Friday (May 16). The farmers market that operates on the Federal Plaza, Adams and Dearborn, will be brimming with fresh goodies next Tuesday (May 19).

Two new locations are being added this season, bringing the number of city-managed markets to 20. There will be one debuting in Bronzeville at King Drive and 26th Street as well as another in Pilsen at 18th Street and Blue Island Avenue.

The farmers markets, which operate through October, have fruits, vegetables, flowers and plants. Depending on the location, some have live entertainment, prepared foods and a variety of other vendors.

When it comes to produce, right about now asparagus, lettuce and radishes should be in plentiful supply. Probably spinach, too. (Here’s a guide to what’s usually in season when.)

But don’t go to these or any farmers markets with a written-in-stone list of what you must buy. You’ll only end up disappointed.

I really think that using farmers markets helps a person learn to be a better cook. When you buy what’s fresh, you then have to look at it and figure out fairly quickly what you will do with it. That’s when creativity in the kitchen is born.

And by all means, talk to the farmers. Ask what they like to do with whatever it is you’re purchasing. Don’t be surprised if the instructions are simple; when you have fresh food you don’t need to cover it up with a lot of ingredients. You WANT to be able to taste its flavor.

It’s the start of a great time in Chicago. Besides the city-managed markets there are 30-plus independently run markets. To find one near you, visit here.