A world of freshness awaits you. [photo by Mike Lukich]


All of that—and a bag of potatoes—at Produce Depot

Have you resolved, in typical New Year’s fashion, to eat better? Do large quantities of lush, colorful fruits and vegetables lined up elicit a smile not just on your face but in your soul? Do you find the produce at large grocery chains humdrum?

Well, I’m about to take you on a journey into a secret world of astonishment for the discerning and health-conscious grocery shopper. Brace yourself for produce power!

OK, I got a little carried away. Seriously, though, the first time I shopped at Dyer’s Produce Depot was a revelation. It certainly has one of the finest selections of produce, both organic and otherwise, that I’ve come across in The Region.

Experienced produce maestros Mike and Rose Massaro opened the store in 2009 in a storefront on the north side of U.S. 30 across from Franciscan St. Margaret Health hospital. It’s just west of Hart Street.

The store is sunny and cheerful, with large windows and a friendly atmosphere perhaps best embodied by the helpful staff. Entering the store, you will find the organic produce generally in the left aisle and the nonorganic (aka “conventional”) produce to the right. As much as I applaud the availability of organic produce, I have to say the nonorganic stuff here is equally good in quality—and less expensive.

If you arrive there in the late morning, you will discover that is usually when the freshly baked bread comes out. The bread is good, hearty stuff, made simply with a handful of ingredients that do not include high fructose corn syrup or anything unpronounceable. There are even homemade desserts sometimes, such as apple crisps and muffins, also made in the same simple, relatively healthy fashion.

Speaking of homemade, I highly recommend checking out the refrigerated items near the entrance. You will find a selection of homemade soups, which includes classics such as cream of potato, lemon rice and minestrone but also delicious variations such as collard green medley, tomato kale and sweet potato and butternut squash. I generally dislike prepared soups from cans and jars, but the Produce Depot’s soups are quite fresh and, like the breads, are made with relatively simple ingredients and contain nothing resembling monosodium glutamate or the like. (The ingredients are listed on each container.)

If you’d like some soup right away, there is usually hot soup simmering away by the smoothie bar, available to buy and eat right there.

These little touches of the homemade really give the store its unique and alluring character. There are also little “health shots” of juice located right next to the fresh salads and the containers of already-chopped veggie mix-ins for your own homemade chicken or tuna salads. My personal favorite feature: the spice rack. With a vast array of individually packaged small bags of spices and seasonings, you don’t have to splurge on an expensive bottle of an exotic spice that you may only use once or twice. Plus, they have prepared combinations that are quite tasty. My recommendation: the “organic no-salt seasoning,” which works wonderfully for any kind of meat or sauce.

Speaking of meat, a recently added feature of the store is its selection of organic meats, including cold cuts of ham and turkey for all your lunchbox needs, 100 percent grass-fed beef steaks and stew meat, organic chicken breasts and even whole organic turkeys for holiday feasts.

Checking out The Green Room is also a must. Aptly named, this is a climate-controlled (cold) room for basic greens such as lettuce, spinach, and broccoli as well as less common greens such as Swiss chard and kale and nongreens such as carrots and mushrooms. Most of these are available in organic and lower-priced nonorganic. The Green Room also contains a wide variety of fresh herbs such as cilantro, basil, mint and a few others.

Besides the fresh produce, Produce Depot also functions as a boutique for locally produced food items, such as honey, homemade jams — and even hot sauce! They also stock whole-wheat noodles, various flours, agave sweeteners (for the glycemic-conscious), almond butter, and good old-fashioned Nutella. There are also little snack bags containing unusual items such as organic raw cacao nibs and superfoods like goji berries and spirulina.

Last but certainly not least, hit the smoothie bar on your way out. The store offers an array of smoothies and usually has something on special. My recommendation: the Minty Detoxifier, made of mint leaves, cucumber, freshly squeezed lime juice, honeydew and ice.

And let me repeat: The staff members at Produce Depot are very friendly and helpful. They even allowed my 5-year-old to use the bathroom in the back office when emergency struck. Also, I can’t stress how astoundingly affordable the prices are. I usually fill up a whole crate for about $20 to $30.

The store’s motto is “Eat fresh. Stay healthy.” If you think that motto sounds like a good mantra to live by, then Produce Depot is your mecca. Your body and mind will thank you for it.

Produce Depot is at 101 Joliet St. in Dyer. Visit the store on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Produce-Depot/165442960825