Author Archive

Happy New Year!

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

Happy New Year

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2009!  We’re happy to be celebrating our first anniversary at LocalEating.

We rang in our New Year with some local rib eye steaks, maple glazed carrots and roasted sweet potatoes.

 

Off the wagon?

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

We’ve enjoyed our summer of local and organic farm fresh vegetables, thanks to our weekly csa share from Plan B.  It made eating locally so easy.  When it ended a couple of weeks ago, we decided to sign up for their fall/winter share as well.  While they have a “local only” option, we decided against it.  I was getting a bit tired eating apples and pears only for fruits, and could not fathom the idea of eating only apples, pears and root vegetables all winter.  I figured by participating in a csa, I’m still supporting the local growers, which is one of the main reasons we’re eating local.  When I picked up my first fall share, I was very excited to see bananas and oranges.  I haven’t had them since our trip to Hawaii.  They were so good (not as good as the fresh off the tree ones in Hawaii, but pretty good).  I hadn’t realized how much I missed my citrus fruits and bananas.  Ella and I thoroughly enjoyed our oranges this week.  

Does it mean that we’re off  “local eating”? No, not really.  We’re still supporting the local farms by buying a fall/winter share at a local CSA, and we’re still buying our meats from Fresh from the Farm.  Tonight, we had a very seasonal and mostly local meal of Lemon and Garlic Roast Chicken with Butternut Squash Apple Cranberry Bake.  We’re changing our rules for local eating in winter make it work for us, so that when Spring comes, we’re ready to embrace the next growing season. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 13th, 2008

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends. Over the course of the weekend, I’ve made two interesting food discoveries – about chestnuts and pumpkins.

Josh’s parents have a great big chestnut tree in their front yard. This year, they managed to collect a few handfuls of chestnuts before the squirrels got to them. With the instructions on how to roast chestnuts in hand, freshly printed from a google search, the experiment began. While waiting for the chestnuts, I raved about the roasted chestnuts I used to eat in Hong Kong, freshly roasted in hot sand. They were delicious. When the chestnuts were finally ready, we all had a taste – the chestnuts were bitter and awful. Nothing like what I remembered. As it turns out, we had horse chestnuts, not the edible chestnuts. After a quick search on the internet, we learned that: horse chestnuts are slightly poisonous to humans, best left for the squirrels; the chestnuts with much spikier shells are the edible kind.

horse chestnut

Horse chestnuts. source: wikipedia

chestnut

Chestnuts. source: wikipedia

As part of our CSA share last week, we got a pie pumpkin. I’ve never made pumpkin pie with fresh pumpkin before, so I looked it up on the internet. Did you know that canned pumpkin puree is not made from pumpkins? It’s Dickenson Field squash, a squash that’s cross pollinated with the butternut squash. It has tan colour skin and bright orange flesh. It tastes just like pumpkin to me, but then again, I’ve never tasted “real” pumpkin.

Dickinson squash

Dickenson squash. source: Long Island Seed Project

Aphids!

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

Despite our slow start to the garden this year, everything has been growing really well. We’ve been eating fresh peas almost everyday for about a month now, the tomatoes are looking really promising, the carrots are just about ready, we’ve been harvesting the basil and even our one cornstalk has defied all odds and is producing one corn! Yesterday, while I was checking the tomatoes, I found aphids on the flowering branches!!! The aphids nearly destroyed our snowball trees earlier this year and they are not getting my heirloom tomatoes. Luckily there were only a few clusters of them and I began picking them off with my hands. Then I felt weird squishing the bugs and so I blasted them off with the garden hose. When I checked today, there were a few left on the branches still so I blasted them again with the water. Hopefully that’s enough to keep them off. Does anyone know of any other organic ways to keep them off my tomatoes?

Aside from that, our local eating has been going really well in the summer. We go to Fresh from the Farm to stock up on meats every few weeks and we have our CSA from Plan B . We only got a half share and we find it challenging to finish all the veggies each week. We’re not salad people and we just can’t keep up with all the lettuce we’re getting! We tried purple beans for the first time last week. Did you know that they’re green inside and that they turn green when cooked?They taste similar to green beans with a stronger bean taste.

Since we were away for a few weeks in July, we traded those weeks for fruit shares. I decided to get the fruit shares in August thinking of all the peaches and plums that are in season. Imagine my surprise and disappointment when I didn’t get any local fruits in the fruit share. There were bananas, oranges, grapes and plums, mostly from California. Apparently, it’s risky to grow peaches and plums organically in Southern Ontario, due the high risk of fungal disease in the fruit. Most farmers can’t afford a crop failure. Here’s an except from an email from Melanie ofPlan B Organics explaining the situation:

Why is there so little fruit being grown organically in Ontario?

While the climate in Southern Ontario is warm enough to grow tender fruit crops, the high humidity in summer leads to a high incidence and spreading of fungal diseases on tender fruit crops. To combat these fungal diseases on conventional farms tender fruit crops are sprayed with chemical fungicides as many as 15 times or more each season to keep these diseases at bay and ensure a crop for the farmer. These sprays are why we at Plan B feel the need to provide an organic alternative, but for that alternative to also be local is a bigger challenge. Most of the certified organic tender fruits you have been getting in your fruit share are grown in arid, semi-desert zones in California where disease pressures are much lower and it is more conducive to organic growing. The cooler and drier weather in more northern parts of the province where we get our organic apples from is also helps lower disease and pest pressures for the farmers there. We also feel that very few local growers are in the position to risk losing their crops as there is little or no financial security in making significant changes to the food system, unless people are guaranteeing their costs and a a living wage. Things most of us take for granted, but that’s not how it is for farmers in our society.

Why can’t we get more farmers in Ontario to grow their fruit organically?

We at Plan B Organic Farm began offering the fruit share with hopes that having a good market for local organic fruit would help convince some local growers to convert to organic production. So far we have only been able to find a few farmers who have taken this step, we hope to find more in the future. Our goal is to have everything we handle be local and organic, but this is a goal for us when it comes to fruit, not the reality of where organic agriculture is at right now in Ontario. We want to build this system for the future, if you know of anyone with a fruit farm that’s not being used or is retiring please let us know and we will contact them with info about organic production.

So, if you know of anyone interested in organic fruit production, drop them a line at info@planborganicfarms.ca.

p.s. We’ve been getting some local organic melons in our fruit shares in the past two weeks.  Yay for melons!

Sweet Corn Sweet Peas Carrot tops Black Cherry Tomatoes Blanche Beaute Tomatoes McMullen Tomatoes Red Zebra Tomatoes

 

Garden Update – July

Monday, July 28th, 2008

It’s been too long since I’ve written an update of our garden.  We were lucky to have lots of rain while we were away, the garden was just thriving when we got back.  Everything got huge!  Our peas, basil and tomatoes have grown so tall.  The carrots are looking more promising.  The parsnips are officially dead – well, I don’t think they sprouted.  We planted two corns for fun, and they’re about a foot and a half tall, I don’t think we’ll get any corn, though.  We were very happy to find the raspberries just about ready for picking.

We’ve been picking the sweet peas and raspberries daily, I don’t think any of them made their way back to the kitchen.  I’ve never had fresh sweet peas before – it’s fun to pick them and eat the peas right out of the pod.  I had plans to make some raspberry tarts, but we haven’t been able to save them from Ella yet.

Here are some pictures from our garden.

The tomatoes plants are looking wild.  They are starting to flower.  I can’t wait for fresh tomatoes.

Sweet Basil

We’ve harvested some basil for pesto already.  

The peas look so overgrown. 

Sweet Corn

Our two stalks of corn.

Carrots

The carrot patch.

Raspberries

Raspberries


Local Eating Hawaii style

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

Local fruits


It’s been a few weeks since we’ve updated the website since we were vacationing on the beautiful island of Kauai in Hawaii. It’s the furthest accessible island (the furthest is off-limits) and the least developed. Lots of hiking, kayaking, beaches, etc. Surprising there are a lot of chickens! They’re as populous as squirrels are here (but at least squirrels don’t crow at 3am!).

We rented a cottage in the midst of farmland and plantations and a long walk to the beach. It was blissful.

Ok, so what does this have to do with local eating? Well, we maintained (and probably improved) our local eating habits on this vacation. The property we were on had mango, papaya, banana, orange and breadfruit trees. There is at least one farmer’s market on the island every day which rounded out our kitchen with pineapples, lettuce, corn, cucumbers, eggs and more. Local meat was a little harder to confirm. We ate pork chops, chicken and fish. The fish was definitely local but the poultry and pork was origin-unknown. The oddest thing we saw was a tomato from Canada!!! How can that be economical?

Papaya Trees

We were fortunate to be given access to a local organic fruit farm for a quick tour and saw pineapple bushes. We learned that it takes 20 months to grow a pineapple and you only get a single fruit from each plant. It’s no wonder we don’t see Hawaiian pineapples in Canada – they would be ridiculously expensive given American labour rates and the cost of shipping from Hawaii. It’s too bad because they have a special variety (Sugarloaf) which is exceptional! Low in acid and very sweet.

Sugarloaf Pineapple Bushes

We really wanted to bring a pineapple home with us but expected to need to purchase it from an inspected market (for export). We just missed the location from which we planned to buy them and ended up buying them from the airport for far too much money. Unfortunately they were from Maui! Again, why fly them from Maui when they grow on Kauai? Regardless, once we bought the pineapple I realised there was no “export approved” type label on the package. Since every piece of luggage leaving Kauai for the mainland is inspected by the US Dept of Agriculture we asked them if there was anything special about these “airport pineapples”…. no! So, for anyone flying to Hawaii, pick up pineapples anywhere and bring them home! We were cautioned that pineapple is the only fruit allowed back.

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.

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.

 

 

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  🙁