Posted On: Sep 13, 2021
What does Ohio taste like? There are a million ways to answer that question. From sweet and tart blueberries to juicy and savory tomatoes reminiscent of the summer sun to hearty root vegetables and tender beef – the flavors produced in this Midwest state are endless. But you can do more than just taste Ohio food – you can meet the farmers who grow it, visit the lands that cultivate it and engage with the chefs who transform it.
While it's a well-known fact that Ohio produces lots of food, it's hard to comprehend the sheer volume and variety – that is until you're wandering the rows at your local farmer’s market. Farmer's markets are a great way to learn about local food and meet the people producing it.
Every Saturday, vendors line the sidewalks in quaint downtown Historic Worthington to sell delicious local food at The Worthington Farmers Market. In the winter, the market moves indoors to The Shops at Worthington Place.
Christine Hawks, certified farmer's market manager, loves the market's wide variety of food and the community atmosphere that makes the experience feel like more than just a shopping trip. After you finish shopping, Hawks recommends enjoying brunch at one of the restaurants within walking distance of the market or picnicking with your fresh goodies on the village green, in the center of Historic Worthington.
Hawks also loves meeting farmers. "You get to see directly where your money is going. Your purchase may help a small farmer add to their land or expand their crop varieties. You can also get cooking tips; for example, how do you serve a vegetable like kohlrabi? Rather than the experience just being transactional, there’s a personal interaction too."
From savory to sweet, The Worthington Farmers Market hosts many favorite vendors. At The Crazy Cucumber, you'll find gourmet pickles with mouthwatering flavors like hot garlic. The cucumber experts scoop so many juicy slices into each container, you'll feel certain the lid will never fit, but somehow it always does. Under the Franklinton Farms tent you'll find leafy greens, herbs and vegetables grown right in Columbus. Red Moon Ranch, run by Shelby Toops, a first-generation farmer in her early twenties, provides ethically raised beef, lamb, pork and chicken.
More Fresh Finds: While you can expect to find the same staples at markets across the state, you'll also find one-of-a-kind hyper-local products and memorable personalities wherever you go. So, get your baskets and reusable bags ready for visiting.
Pick It Yourself
Take your local food quest further and step into the fields yourself. Celebrate summer by collecting a bucketful of berries at Lynd's Fruit Farm in Pataskala. Once the leaves start to change color, return to pick pumpkins of all shapes and sizes and over 18 varieties of apples. Pixie Crunch apples are the perfect size for kids to grab, and fresh Honeycrisp are just begging to be baked into an apple pie.
Visiting orchards, fields and patches is about more than just harvesting food – it's a way to connect with the earth, learn about where and how food grows, and create lasting memories with your family.
More Fresh Finds: Visit Patterson Fruit Farm in Chesterland to pluck strawberries in the spring, then in the fall for apples and pumpkins. Martin Blueberries in Columbia Station has been in operation since 1970, so you're taking part in decades of tradition when you visit. When it comes time to carve a jack-o-lantern or toast pumpkin seeds, pick out a pumpkin at Garver Family Farm Market in Middletown.
Field To Table
While the phrase "farm to table" has become quite common, Jessi Iams' local food awakening was more of a "table to farm" journey. Despite hailing from multiple generations of Ohio farmers, Iams hated gardening.
"Then one day, when I was 18 or 19 years old, I was making spaghetti for my friends. The sauce just did not taste good, so I called my grandma for advice," Iams recalls. "When I told her I was using sauce from a can, she said, 'Well, there's your problem. You need to use real vegetables.'"
Iams took those words of wisdom to heart and went on to cultivate a small farm of her own, which would supply the ingredients for her restaurant in Powell, Local Roots.
Local Roots' main menu has two major shifts, one in spring and one in fall, reflecting seasonal harvests. Come summertime, look for citrus beet salad or sweet potato pasta, dishes as colorful as they are delicious. The feature menu, offering three main dishes, changes weekly, allowing the chef to draw inspiration straight from the garden. You can visit again and again and never order the same entrée twice.
More Fresh Finds: French and Italian cuisines inspire the seasonal dishes, like Strawberry + Snap Pea Salad, at Metropole in Cincinnati. Curious who's growing the food you're ordering? Athens' Casa Nueva, a favorite Mexican restaurant, lists their local and regional producers on their website. Adventurous local foodies should dine at Fowl & Fodder Downtown in Toledo. The menu has items like crispy goat cheese and jalapeño jam.
Go To The Market
If you find yourself getting bored with food, rejuvenate your excitement by taking a trip to Columbus' North Market. The 145-year-old public market located in downtown Columbus hosts over 30 vendors. Stock your kitchen with artisan cheeses from Black Radish Creamery; fresh fish from Coastal Local Seafood; lamb, goat, beef and pork from Penny's Meats; and your dream seasonings from North Market Spices.
Or spare yourself a night of cooking and order a meal from one of the restaurant vendors. From vegan Grab Cake sliders at Willowbeez SoulVeg to fresh dumplings from Momo Ghar to savory noodles from Satori Ramen Bar, there's something to excite every palate. And the best part? You get a front row seat to each kitchen – an experience you'll miss in most sit-down restaurants.
The new North Market at Bridge Park in Dublin also hosts vendors in a similar elevated food-court atmosphere. Bake Me Happy is ready to satisfy any sweet tooth with their gluten-free baked goods – including their own spin on childhood favorites like Little Debbie Zebra Cakes. Falafel Kitchen and Dos Hermanos Tacos are also patron favorites.
More Fresh Finds: West Side Market in Cleveland supplies everything from produce to poultry to pasta to pastries and more. In Cincinnati, Ohio's oldest continuously operating public market, Findlay Market, supplies produce, cheese, meat and seafood, ethnic food, flowers and more. On Saturdays, Dayton's Five Rivers MetroPark hosts an outdoor shopping area stocked to the brim with fresh food at the 2nd Street Market.
Wine & Spirits
What pairs best with local eats? A glass of Ohio wine or a cocktail mixed with local spirits, of course! Ohio's countryside is dotted with vineyards and more than 350 wineries. At Rockside Winery & Vineyards in Lancaster, you can enjoy a glass as you sit on the patio or take a stroll through the vineyard.
The state also boasts numerous craft distillers. Go behind the scenes at Watershed Distillery in Grandview to see how vodka, gin and bourbon are made. Afterwards, visit their Kitchen & Bar to learn (and taste) how experts transform spirits into inventive cocktails. Be sure to sample the nocino, a dark, chocolatey liqueur made from unripe Ohio black walnuts.
More Fresh Finds: Heart of Glass Strawberry Vodka and Maumee Moonshine are among the bottles you'll find at Toledo Spirits. West End Distillery in Athens makes its Spicebush Gin by harvesting spicebush and partnering with local farmers for other ingredients, right in southeastern Ohio. And of course, the vineyards await at Gervasi Vineyards and Spirits in Canton, Valley Vineyards in Morrow and Ferrante Winery & Ristorante in Geneva.
Be Ohio Proud
Ohio Proud stands for food, nursery items, crafts, agritourism sites, farmers' markets, state parks and many other products and destinations with roots in Ohio soil. Ohio Proud foods are raised, grown or processed in Ohio by Buckeyes. You can serve Ohio Proud foods to your family with the confidence that they came from your friends and neighbors just down the road — not from thousands of miles away. Visit ohioproud.com for a full list of local offerings close to home.