Register Thursday | March 22 | 2018

Jean-Talon Market

Montreal’s Four-Seasons Indoor–Outdoor Public Market

Located almost at the geographical heart of Montreal, close to the nexus of two metro lines and half a dozen bus routes, the Jean-Talon market is a magnet for immigrants, students and gourmands from across the métropole. Open every day of the week throughout the year, it's the star around which a cluster of densely populated neighbourhoods revolve. To the south is Little Italy, which, despite a liberal sprinkling of Italian restaurants, grocery stores and even a street named after Dante, you are more likely to hear Spanish and Vietnamese than Italian. To the east is the Petite Patrie, which gained its name-"the little homeland"-from the diversity of its residents' origins. North, the long, triplex-lined blocks of Villeray spill down toward the Metropolitan Expressway. Finally, to the west, past an old industrial area and just across some railroad tracks, is the immigrant haven of Park Extension, where Bollywood video stores are now de rigueur in a neighbourhood once so Greek its central square honours the goddess Athena.

This diversity is reflected in the Jean-Talon market itself, where figs and lychees can be found alongside Quebec-grown cerises de terre, blueberries and strawberries. Opened in 1933, the market consists of a long, utilitarian trunk with six branches, in which vendors selling fruits, vegetables, flowers and locally produced goods such as honey and maple syrup set up shop. The market is bordered north and south by two streets: on the north side, there is a large greengrocer, a cheese shop and café, a liquor store specializing in local wines, a restaurant and a halal butcher. The south side is a mix of cafés, fishmongers, greengrocers, butchers and bulk-food shops. Last December, the market nearly doubled in size when a spacious new covered hall containing nearly two dozen retail outlets and vending spaces replaced a parking lot. It has since been filled with a cookbook store, fishmongers, a wild-game butcher, a bistro and three bakeries, among other things.

The Jean-Talon market is an example of what a good public market should be: accessible, locally oriented, inexpensive and an anchor for the surrounding community.

  The north side of the market.   ALL PHOTOS BY CHRISTOPHER DEWOLF

  Inside the covered part of the market on a winter day.

  Shoppers on the market's north side.

  Buying a pineapple on a June weekend.

  Apples for sale: two dollars a bucket.

  The fruit ventures back outside in March, after a long winter.

  Maple taffy on snow, an early spring delicacy.

  Examining strawberries on an early spring day.

  The south side of the market in winter.

  Christmas trees are sold at the market in December, naturally.

  Inside the (well-heated) market hall on a cold winter day.

  An autumn selection of berries.

  A snowy winter day at the market in mid-December.

  Cafés on the market's south side, in March.

  On the weekend, Montrealers from across the city flock to the market.

  Navigating a forklift on the south side.

  Weighing it in your hand, holding it against your ear and knocking on it with your fist, staring at it intently: it's all part of choosing just the right watermelon.

  Lychees must be carefully selected as well.

  Lettuces, eggplants, peppers ...

  Conversation on the market's south side on a winter weekday.

  Loading up the bicycle with a day's groceries.

  Market shoppers on a June afternoon.
When not wandering our streets, Christopher DeWolf is the editor of The Urban Eye appears every second Wednesday.