Markets of Canada | Montreal’s Marché Jean-Talon

Visiting the Marché Jean-Talon in Montreal’s Little Italy district, I felt like a kid in a sweet shop; overwhelmed by stall after stall piled with beautiful, fresh, brightly-coloured produce, I didn’t know where to look next.

Punnets of tiny physalis, known locally as cerise de terre (ground cherries) sat next to the last of the season’s blueberries. Bowls of aubergines ranged in colour from the almost-black of a midnight sky through day glow purple to white; the latter a reminder of why Americans call them eggplants. Peppers glistened in traffic light colours of red, orange, yellow and green. Cabbages, leeks and all manner of greens sat next to red and white onions as big as a baby’s head. Teetering piles of plump cantaloupe melons released a heady scent, as did sun-warmed figs. More exotic fruits such as prickly pears, mangoes and papaya vied for attention with grapes, plums and luscious peaches. There were boxes, buckets and baskets of brussels sprouts, green and yellow beans and multi-coloured carrots. Courgette flowers with no hint of a wilt must have been picked just hours before. Ropes of garlic and chilli hung like garlands above the rest. Stall-holders invited shoppers to taste the season’s tomatoes, finally ripened much later in the year than usual.

The majority of the produce was locally grown either in Quebec or neighbouring Ontario, with just a few of the more exotic items sourced from further afield.

Marche Jean Talon in Montreal - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-1328 Marche Jean Talon in Montreal - Kavey Eats (c) Kavita Favelle-1334
Marche Jean Talon in Montreal - Kavey Eats (c) Kavita Favelle-1352 Marche Jean Talon in Montreal - Kavey Eats (c) Kavita Favelle-1338
Marche Jean Talon in Montreal - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-9553 Marche Jean Talon in Montreal - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-1313
Marche Jean Talon in Montreal - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-1344 Marche Jean Talon in Montreal - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-1311

Jean-Talon Market, originally known as the Marché du Nord, opened to the public in May 1933. It soon took on the name Jean-Talon after Jean-Talon Street along its northern boundary. The street commemorates Jean Talon, Count d’Orsainville, the first Intendant of New France in 1626 – the French colony that comprised a swathe of modern-day Canada and the United States.

In 2004, renovations provided parking beneath the market and created a semi-enclosed structure to one end of the market space; this now houses speciality food shops. Here you can find a fishmonger, a bakery and various patisseries, a number of butchers and charcuteries, a juice bar and an oyster bar, a maple syrup specialist, a marvellous stall specialising in foraged foods such as wild mushrooms, a fresh pasta maker, a dairy shop, a cheese deli, a sandwich bar (known locally as a brûlerie), an artisan ice cream maker and many, many other delightful delis and shops.

I had a lovely meeting with Arik de Vienne at his family shop, Épices de cru, during which I learned all about how his parents came to source spices from around the world to sell in Montreal. He and his sister have now joined the business, expanded to include her specialist teas and his hand-made ceramics. I’ll be sharing more on Épices de cru soon.

Unlike many farmers markets, Jean-Talon is open year round, albeit vastly smaller in size during the coldest months – in winter the newer permanent area is fully enclosed against the elements and the outdoor fresh produce stalls sit vacant.

Marche Jean Talon in Montreal - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-1305 Marche Jean Talon in Montreal - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-1385
Marche Jean Talon in Montreal - Kavey Eats (c) Kavita Favelle-1376 Marche Jean Talon in Montreal - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-1309
Marche Jean Talon in Montreal - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-1345 Marche Jean Talon in Montreal - Kavey Eats © Kavita Favelle-1306

During my visit, local shoppers are busy buying groceries, eyeing up produce from different stores to pick the best quality or most keenly priced. In amongst them, foodie tourists like me gawp in utter envy.

Marche Jean Talon Collage - Kavey Eats

Kavey Eats visited Montreal courtesy of Destination Canada, with the assistance of Tourisme Quebec. I was shown the foodie delights of Montreal by Mélissa Simard, founder of Round Table Tours; Mélissa offers a range of guided culinary tours of Montreal.

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22 Comments to "Markets of Canada | Montreal’s Marché Jean-Talon"

  1. Jeanne Horak-Druiff

    Oooooh how you make me long to go back… I loved how this was not a chi-chi tourist destination but a real, proper market where everyday people were doing their food shopping alongside the gawping visitors like us. And those tomatoes… Swoon!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Yes, absolutely. The vast majority of people were there with their shopping bags, though there were a few others like me, just looking and taking photos, but trying hard not to get in the way of shoppers. 🙂

    Reply
  2. Nim Singh

    I’m not due back there until next summer but the markets (jean Talon and Atwater) are always favourites of mine to visit. The courgette flowers are just asking for a recipe – What am I Saying ? they are all asking for recipes!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    I definitely want to return to Canada, next time with Pete, so shall make sure we visit Atwater then too!

    Reply
  3. Janie

    I LOVE reading about food markets around the world Kavey, so thank you for that! Am extra envious as Canada steals the top spot on my bucket list.
    Janie x
    PS “…gawp in utter envy”. Yup! I’m like that whenever I visit Borough Market in London. I figure I could just about live in the city so long as I was within walking distance of Borough Market 😀

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Janie, me too, and I want to visit them all! I have a few more wonderful food markets to share with you soon, so keep an eye out!
    Borough Market is lovely, and I do enjoy it, but the sheer range of locally grown produce here really blew me away. I had no idea this region of Canada was such a big agricultural producer and I loved the range of fruit and vegetables on sale, even in September!

    Reply
  4. Urvashi

    I have never been to that part of Canada but I already know I would love it. I judge places by their food markets and somewhere with this kind of produce MUST go on my bucket list.
    Look at those tomatoes for example. I wish we had punnets of veg like this at my local market. Stunners!
    I can’t wait to see more of your Canada adventures

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    I think that was my single most unexpected delight – the sheer agricultural productivity and variety of Ontario and Quebec!

    Reply
  5. Lisa

    Oh my goodness that looks amazing. I fear you would never get me out of there. They’d have to build me a kitchen in the market!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    I felt a robust regret that I had no kitchen and therefore no excuse to buy it all. We did buy and eat a tiny tub of ground cherries!

    Reply
  6. kaveyeats

    Bintu, yes both the food markets and the grocery stores, I find both fascinating! This trip was more about the fresh produce markets, I have a few more to share with you!

    Reply
  7. kellie@foodtoglow

    I know nothing about this place other than what you have written and photographed here, but on that basis alone I would LOVE to go. Any place I want to travel to, for the most part, needs a real food market just like this one. This summer the one in Spilt we visited almost daily and actually made friends with some very old Croatian grandmas who gave us stuff and chatted, even if we didn’t always buy from them. Markets are a real slice of life. Lovely post, Kavey xx

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Thank you, that’s all I could ask for, to be able to paint the picture such that you can see it in your mind and want to visit! I really want to go back to Croatia after our visit to Dubrovnik for my sister’s wedding.

    Reply
  8. Sarah (@tamingtwins)

    Oh Kavey, those photos of all of that fresh produce are amazing. They make me want to go and book a flight right now to be in such a foodie haven! I have never known anything about Montreal before so it’s super interesting to read about your experiences there.

    Reply

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