Posts Tagged ‘Organic’

The Story of Strawberry

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

There was an interesting article in the Toronto Star yesterday about the journey of California strawberry - from the genetics lab in California to the local grocery stores all over North America.  It’s incredible/scary all the processes involved from seeds to fruit.  

Some interesting facts from the article:

  • there are over 200 genetically unique seeds on each strawberry
  • the growing season for Ontario strawberries is 5 weeks; in California, 9 months
  • each strawberry plant is engineered from a seed, put through heat treatment, humidity chamber, and travelled to mountains in Northern California for cooling
  • California strawberry fields are first fumigated with methyl bromide to kill all weeds, bugs and fungus to a depth of 2.4 metres (is this practice common in all commercial farming, or unique to strawberries?)
  • once picked, strawberries are cooled to 2 degree Celcius to prolong the shelf life to 10 days
  • the farthest city the California strawberries travel to is Toronto
The story of the strawberry is a lot more complicated than I thought. I don’t think it’s the way nature intended.   Having read the article,  I now appreciate the Ontario strawberries even more.

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.


Forum

We have seeds.

Monday, March 17th, 2008

Tanny is finished her maternity leave and is busy writing lesson plans so I’m handling the blog tonight.

Seeds for sale Seedy Saturday

This weekend we all headed down to Seedy Saturday in Toronto. It was the first time for all of us and I was really blown away by how many people were there and the variety of vendors. We saw some familiar faces from the Dufferin Grove Market - the people from whom we buy our perogies and the sprouts guy and many other organic activists and entrepreneurs. We thought the stuff at the You Grow Girl booth was pretty clever and cute. She has a well written and established blog as well (as I write this I just noticed she also has a post about Seedy Saturday). Did I mention there were a lot of seeds for sale?

We talked to a guy from Seeds of Diversity. A very interesting project that is cataloguing, preserving and distributing heritage Canadian seeds. For a small donation we picked up a packet of Blanche Beaute tomatoes.

I had a very interesting chat with a women who was campaigning against terminator seeds. I must admit to being in the dark about the issue before and I’m determined to find out more information now. The quick summary from my conversation is that seed companies are creating GM seeds that will be sterile after one harvest. The upside for the seed companies is that people need to continue buying seeds year after year. You can imagine the effect of this on 3rd world farmers. For me the issue has similar ethics to big pharmaceutical companies patenting drugs. Yes, they need to be paid for their research, but at what cost? And seriously - didn’t they watch or read Jurassic Park? Those dinosaurs were supposed to be sterile as well! For more information (on terminator seeds, not Jurasic Park) see this link.

Tanny has ballet class on Saturday so we split our visit to the show into two (with lunch at Magic Oven in between). Unfortunately we didn’t get back until 2:30 and had only 30 minutes to dash around finding seeds we wanted to buy.

Here’s what we have:

  • Blanche Beaute tomatoes
  • McMullen tomatoes
  • Sweet basil
  • Black cherry tomatoes
  • Mammoth melting sugar peas
  • Mary Washington heirloom asparagus
    • Apparently you have to wait a year before you can eat the asparagus. :-(
  • Chanteny carrots
    • These carrots are 7″ long, 2″ wide. I grew really stubby carrots last year so I’m hoping for big ones now.
  • Harris model parsnips
  • Golden midget watermelon

As Tanny just mentioned to me, “we forgot we have a 5×5 plot”!

We also learned that “sweet peas” are not the same as “sugar peas” and are in fact toxic. My farmer roots are not showing here. No pun intended.


Overpackaged organics

Saturday, March 8th, 2008

Since Tanny and I began seeking out more organic food options I’ve noticed an alarming trend for overpackaging of those foods. In particular, eggs and bananas seem horrendously overpackaged. I’d like to know why organic bananas require a plastic bag over them and organic eggs typically come in a three-fold plastic container. Is it because they sell for more so some of the extra profit is put into more expensive packaging? A case of marketing the eggs better?

In the case of bananas I could see that the bag protects the organic bananas against the pesticides that remain on the outside of non-organic bananas during shipping. Or maybe they somehow grow the bananas in the bag and this is how they can avoid pesticide use. Google wasn’t able to justify it for me.

Luckily the locally-grown eggs we buy at Fresh From The Farm come in reused containers. Alas there are no locally-grown bananas so once the winter ends and we tighten up our local-eating I may not need to worry about overpackaged bananas.


Zero Footprint Toronto

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

This isn’t directly related to local eating, but the City of Toronto has teamed up with ZeroFootprint to provide the ZeroFootprint Toronto website. You can calculate your carbon footprint and make pledges to yourself to make small changes in your lifestyle that would have an impact on your carbon emissions. I found it pretty illuminating. I consider myself pretty environmentally responsible and I was happy to see I’m a below the Toronto average, but I’m really going to have to seal up the drafts in this house to keep our heating bill under control! Otherwise Tanny had better get used to sleeping in 10 degC! ;-)

Eating both organically and locally reduces your carbon footprint.

We’re doing well now and will be doing even better once our garden is producing. Tanny is already after me for a new greenhouse window for the kitchen.

Also, for those not in Toronto you can use their personal carbon manager to track your carbon usage. Looks like the same thing but without the Toronto specifics (like tips on how large a compost and garbage bin in the city are).


Forum

Visionary Farmers and Consumers

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

There’s a one day conference in Toronto on organic farming hosted by the Canadian Organic Growers.  It is on February 18, 2008.  Click here for more details.


Fresh From the Farm

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

I learned of Fresh From the Farm when I attended the Mom2Mom Holiday Show back in November. The timing was perfect since I was introducing my daughter to solid foods and have been looking for healthier alternatives for her. To be honest, I used to be a bit skeptical of organic foods. There wasn’t any official organic certification process and it seems that people label the food “organic” and charge you twice the price. Now that there are regulations in place and more information available, I’m all for organic food – when it’s affordable. Which brings me back to Fresh From the Farm.

Fresh from the Farm is a small store that’s only open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The owners Jacqui and Tim Schmucker bring in fresh meat from small farms in Mennonite communities near Kitchener-Waterloo every two weeks. All the animals are raised in humane conditions, drug-free and hormone-free. The prices are very affordable. The only catch is that you have to order in advance.

Last week I put in my first order: 2 rib eye steaks, a whole chicken and some eggs. I picked up my order on Saturday and also bought a jar of Pinehedge yogurt. The steaks were at 1½ inched thick each and the chicken was huge. One steak was enough for both Josh and I for dinner. I just pan-fried the steak – flavourful, juicy and tender, even at “well done”. We had eggs for breakfast, roast chicken for supper, and yogurt for dessert. Everything was delicious. It felt good knowing that I was eating wholesome food.