Archive for June, 2008

Our Local Eating Experience: a reflection

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

We’ve been trying to eat locally since the beginning of the year, and since June, our meals are mostly local.  We’ve been getting our meats from Fresh from the Farm and The Healthy Butcher, and our fruits and vegetables from farmers’ markets and our CSA share.  We’re not your hardcore locavores, but we try to eat locally when it’s affordable and convenient.  Let’s face it, we’re very busy with both of us working and taking care of a toddler.  Time and money are precious commodities around here.  With that in mind, I’ve compiled lists of our experience so far:

What’s local in our kitchen:

  • all meat
  • all fruits
  • all vegetables
  • eggs
  • most cheese
  • some spelt flour
  • yogurt
  • maple syrup
  • wines
  • most beer

What’s not local in our kitchen:

  • rice
  • pasta
  • cereals
  • olive oil
  • vinegars
  • milk
  • flour
  • spices
  • condiments
  • baking ingredients
  • dried herbs
  • bread

New foods we’ve made since we’ve gone local:

  • cream of asparagus soup
  • strawberry bread
  • roasted roots vegetables
  • homemade burgers
  • parsnip mash
  • maple syrup pork chops
  • rhubarb sauce
  • strawberry jam

New foods we’ve tried:

  • rhubarb
  • green garlic
  • garlic scapes
  • parsnip
  • kale
  • odd sprouts
  • rutabaga
  • and all the heirloom tomatoes that we’re growing
  • the best chocolate milk - Harmony chocolate milk

This is just the beginning.  I’m sure we’ll be trying lots more different fruits and veggies as they’re harvested.  I’m really looking forward to the harvest of our own little garden.


More Strawberries!

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Having tasted the local strawberries from my CSA share, I was eager to get more.  Lots more.  I searched the web for a local organic farm and found a small family organic farm not too far away.  So on Sunday, Josh, Ella and I went for a drive and went to Organics Family Farm, a small local organic farm for some fresh strawberries. 

Organics Family Farm

At the farm, there was a small farm stand with some ready-picked strawberries and organic strawberry and strawberry-rhubarb pies, freshly baked in the outdoor wood-fired oven.  We promptly picked up a strawberry-rhubarb pie (there were only a few left and we were NOT leaving without a pie!) and a basket for some strawberry picking fun.  They grow two varieties of strawberries: Veestar (a small and ugly but very sweet variety) and Honeoye (perfectly shaped but not as sweet).  We filled our basket with strawberries (mostly the veestar) while we sampled the berries.  They were so sweet and juicy, even better than the ones we got from our CSA share. 

Strawberry picking

Afterwards, we had a chance to talk to the owner/farmer.  We learned that you can only grow strawberries on a piece of  land for a maximum of two years before you have to rotate crops, and that the veestar variety of strawberry is losing its vigor and showing signs of being genetically drained.  The plants are not as strong as they used to be and this is probably the last year they’ll grow them.  That’s really too bad because they are the sweetest berries I’ve ever tasted. 

Our strawberries

We ended up with 6(!) quarts of strawberries - way more berries that we know what to do with.  Perhaps we (I) were a bit overzealous in our berry-picking.  We made strawberry loaf and muffins, strawberry smoothies and I think I’ll make some strawberry jam for the very first time.  I’ve never made jam before - we’ll see how that goes.

Strawberry Bread Recipe

My kitchen smelled heavenly while this was baking.  This bread tastes a lot better once it’s cooled.  The recipe originally called for 1 1/2 cups of sugar, I thought that was a bit much and since the berries were so sweet, I reduced it to 1 cup and it was just sweet enough for us.

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup salad oil
1 tbsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup quick oats
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 cups crushed strawberries

Beat eggs and sugar; add oil and vanilla. 

Mix in flour, oats, cinnamon, soda, salt and baking powder. Add strawberries and mix well.

Pour into two greased and floured 4 x 8 inch loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.  For muffins, bake for 15 minutes.


Garden activity

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

The peas are taking off like crazy this year and our heirloom tomatoes are getting bigger and stronger by the week. Not much sign of the parnsips. The carrots, while they started out strong, have had to contend with our 1 year old gardener. Still holding out hope that they bounce back! Our basil plants were thriving in the heat of last week but aren’t sure what to make of the cooler temperatures this week.

Some sights from around our gardens:

This year we pruned our pear tree to hopefully increase its yield and grow more pears than the squirrels can eat.

This year we pruned our pear tree to hopefully increase its yield and grow more pears than the squirrels can eat.

Here’s Ella checking up on the peas in the garden - can you see any carrots leaves on the bottom of her shoe?

One of our resident carpenter bees making a home in our fence. At least its not our porch again!

An unusual black butterfly. Anyone know what it is?

A snail chilling out on some clematis.


Forum

Strawberry!

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Today, Ella and I, with special guest star Josh, had our weekly stroll to pick up our CSA share.  In that green box, amongst all the green vegetables, sat our first (of many) pint of organic Ontario strawberries! Naturally we had to try them right away.  mmmm…they were so fresh, sweet and juicy. Ella had the most, she kept asking for more.  More than half the pint was gone by the time we got home. That prompted me to search for organic strawberry farms to visit  this weekend.  

Here’s what I’ve found so far:

The Pick Your Own website has a huge list of strawberry farms.  I’ll be adding them to our website, so that they’ll be included in our searchable database.  In the meantime, click here for more berry farms.

 

 


Rhubarb!

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Rhubarb on the stove

Tonight I cooked up a little rhubarb sauce for Tanny and I. Delicious! My Mom used to make it for us when I was a kid and I haven’t eaten it for a long time. I called her up for the "recipe". Based on what I made tonight, here it is:

  • five stalks rhubarb, chopped
  • 3 tbsp sugar

Heat the rhubarb in a saucepan on low heat with a tiny bit of water. Stir as the rhubarb cooks until the rhubarb gets to a stringy, saucy consistency (see picture). Stir in sugar. That’s it.

We eat it on toast.

Tanny made rhubarb-apple muffins with our first load of rhubarb and they were also excellent. Anyone have a good strawberry-rhubarb pie recipe they’d like to share?


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Garden Update

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Tonight, I transplanted all four of the tomatoes - the Red Zebra in the garden, and the rest (black cherry, blanche beaute, McMullen) in a large planter box on the back patio where it’s the sunniest. 

Here’s the status of all the plants:

  • black cherry tomato - only 2 inches tall, the smallest of all the tomato seedlings
  • blanche beaute tomato - 4 inches tall, transplanted into a large planter box
  • McMullen tomato - 6 inches tall, transplanted into a large planter box
  • sweet basil - 2 inches tall, still too small to transplant
  • carrot - many have sprouted from the ground
  • parsnip - still no signs of sprouts
  • pea - six have sprouted
  • golden midget watermelon - all died  :(

Our First CSA Share

Sunday, June 8th, 2008

Last Thursday we received our first CSA share of the season from Plan B Organics.  Ella and I walked over and picked up our veggies for the week.  It had started to rain but I was determined to walk there, besides, it was just spitting a bit and the pick up depot is only 5 minutes away. Luckily, we hadn’t bought the wagon yet (we have a new one for this week!) and I was able to shield Ella from the rain with the cover on the stroller. Ella didn’t mind the rain one bit. She stuck out her hand and was singing away. Yep, she was singing in the rain. In our half share this week: asparagus, rhubarb, baby spinach, basil, green onions, English cucumber, parsnip, and bok choy. 

So far, we’ve made steamed asparagus, baby spinach salad, pesto, and rhubarb loaf.  I need new ways to make asparagus, I’ve roasted them and steamed them so far.  I think I have a recipe for asparagus risotto somewhere.  Any easy & simple asparagus recipes out there?


Simpler Thyme Organic

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

This past weekend Tanny, Ella and I went to visit my family in Waterdown. We got to town a little early and decided to pay a visit to Simpler Thyme Organic Farm . We passed it the first time, seeing the brightly painted sign a little too late (crying baby in the back seat!) but when we turned around and drove into the farm we were happy to find a lovely little store and a very friendly and enthusiastic host Ann.

Ann and her husband play host to many visitors to Canada, letting them exchange their time in the “gardens” for room and board. Their gardens are expansive and very well organised from what we could see. The day we were there a young man from Japan, one from Korea and a young women from Waterdown had just returned from picking asparagus. We readily picked some from their baskets and ate it the next night - delicious! We also bought some mixed salad greens and spinach. Excellent taste and very crisp - even after a few days in our fridge they are still fresher than grocery store produce. Makes me think we should have planted some lettuce in our garden.

Simpler Thyme also carries produce from other farms, organic milk, grains and meats. They raise chickens for meat and eggs (about 200 and 100 respectively).

Anne publishes a weekly email newsletter detailing the activities on the farm and what produce is currently available. We received our first one on Tuesday.

If you’re in Waterdown be sure to check them out.


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More provinces included in seasonal food list

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Tonight I added seasonal food lists for Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. All provinces are now represented; I just have the territories remaining.


It’s Farmers’ Market Season Again!

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Brick Works Farmers Market

Since the start of the outdoor farmers’ market season, Josh, Ella and I have a new Saturday morning routine - we head down to Brick Works Farmers’ Market for some shopping and tasty treats.

Even though it’s still early in the season, the market was already bustling with activities. Farmers selling asparagus, rhubarb (you gotta get there early), wild leek and baby greens; vendors selling organic and heirloom seedlings, specialty cheese, baked goods, handmade chocolates and delicious prepared foods; there were also workshops, live music and activities for kids. It was so nice to be shopping in an open air market, visiting the different vendors and sampling all the goodies.

We had a late start last week and didn’t get to the market until 11. Unfortunately, most of the spring produce were sold out by then. So we just bought some bread from St John’s Bakery and a tomato seedling (red zebra, red with yellow stripes), just in case it doesn’t work out with our own seedlings.

To cure our rumbling tummies, we bought burritos from two different vendors for a taste test: the ultimate breakfast burrito vs. the chorizo burrito. They were both freshly made and stuffed with scrumptious toppings. Josh and I thought they were both delicious. The ultimate breakfast burrito was lighter and zestier; the chorizo burrito was hearty and more substantial. Ella preferred the chorizo burrito, she kept asking for more.

Starting next week, there’ll be a $5 charge for parking at the Brick Works , so I don’t think we’ll be visiting every week anymore. While they do offer a shuttle service from Davisville station and Broadview station, it’s too much trouble when you’re traveling with a one year old.

Here’s a list of farmers’ markets in Toronto (most of them are in our searchable database , we’ll be adding the search criteria “day of the week” soon):

Mondays

Sorauren Park Farmers Market

Sunshine Garden Market

Tuesdays

East York Farmers Market

MyMarket SickKids

Riverdale Farmers Market

Stonegate Farmers Market

Trinity Bellwoods Farmers Market

Wednesdays

MyMarket Bloor-Borden

Thursdays

Dufferin Grove Organic Farmers Market

Metro Hall Farmers Market

MyMarket East Lynn Park

Sunshine Garden Market

Fridays

Birchcliff Village Farmers Market

High Park Organic Farmers Market

Saturdays

Farmers Organic Market

Green Barn Farmers Market

St. Lawrence Farmers Market

The Village Market, Thorhhill

Brick Works Farmers Market

Etobicoke Farmers Market

High Park Organic Farmers Market

Weston Village Farmers Market

Withrow Park Farmers Market

Sundays

Distillery Farmers Market

High Park Organic Farmers Market

MyMarket Liberty Village