I get a warm tingly feeling when I think back to the days of early morning sunrises and Saturday Farmers Markets. Strolling through the farmers market on a Saturday morning, seeing what fresh harvest the farmers have pulled for the week, is really such a treasure. A treasure that unfortunately only lasts a couple of months for us here in Canada.
Wouldn't it be so amazing to have access to all the local fruits and vegetables all year round?!
Well...you actually can! They may just not be available in the same way that they would be during the spring and summer months.
What am I talking about? Preserves! Not just jams and jellies but fermented and pickled vegetables! This is a great way for Ontario produce to not only live all year round but increase its nutritional value as well.
During the summer season you can pick up extra vegetables (that way they are in season and a) taste better and b) are at a good price) and then pickle them yourself to last you through the winter. Another great option is to support local fermenters and producers by buying their preserves.
I also rely a lot of local food co-ops and farm stores who sell local vegetables and natural products. like micro greens, milks, cheeses, and meats. After trying and talking to many different vendors, I have grown to have a few favourites and go-to's. So for you guys who are wondering what and where to shop, I've compiled a list of all the spots I shop at regularly and trust!
Fermented Products & Preserves
MicroGreens, Sprouts & Seeds
Talk about #plantpower! Greens, sprouts, and seeds are a great source of protein, fiber, and nutrients. Plus the best thing about them? They are available ALL year long!
Micro Greens for example can have up to 30 times more concentrated nutrients than their mature counterparts. They are great to add to salads, smoothies, and sandwiches!
Flaxseeds add a pleasant and nutty taste to food and they are also highly nutritious. They contain the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), fiber, and plant lignans. Thus, incorporating flaxseeds into your diet can help lower blood cholesterol levels, moderate blood sugar, and improves laxation (bowel movements).
Sprouts are beans, seeds, and grains which have been soaked in water and then rinsed twice daily for three to five days. As a result of this process, sprouting releases the seed’s stored energy and make it more available for digestion. Sprouts are higher in protein, fiber, and contain more available minerals, vitamins, and amino acids than non-sprouted beans, seeds, and grains and often more nutrients than mature plants!
Fun-Gi Mushrooms - sources only locally grown and certified organic mushrooms. They offer White buttons, Cremini (brown buttons), Portobello, Oyster, Shiitake and Enoki varieties. Try one of their free recipes offered to bring these healthy and versatile mushrooms into your kitchen. Locations: Winter Terra Farmers Market - Milton & Hamilton
Forbes Wild Foods - The have a variety of locations across Ontario. I found them at the Dufferin Grove Farmers Market. They are purveyors of Canada's largest selection of high quality wild foods. At their locations you will find unique wild edible foods that are harvested by expert foragers in remote regions across the country, from the coast of Labrador to the islands of British Columbia. You can visit their website to find what vegetables, mushrooms, fruits, berries, and other products they may have: http://wildfoods.ca/
A great option for us during the winter months. Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers (OGVG) have a selection of Beefsteak tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers to choose from!
Though I am generally on a plant based diet, I do incorporate some meat about 2-3 times a week. When I do eat meat I make sure it is locally raised meat. Knowing the farmer and their raising methods puts me at ease because I know my meat is hormone or antibiotic free. Here are a few farmers i trust:
Eggs are my main source of protein in the summer and winter months. Thankfully they are still available throughout the winter from some local farmers in the area.
Murray's Farm - Offers Heritage Eggs and regular brown eggs. Their eggs come from happy hens so they look better, taste better and are better for you! Murray really cares for his animals so naturally him and his team raise happy, healthy, truly-pastured heritage hens and other poultry. Find them at: Terra Milton & Hamilton Farmers Market and Evergreen Brickworks Market
Stores like Top Market Family Farms, West End Food Co-op, and The Mustard Seed Co-op also sell local farm fresh eggs.
Cheese & Non-Dairy Cheese
Other great producers: The Udder Way, Goats In Motion, Best Baa Dairy, Fifth Town Cheese
Milk & Dairy Products
Have you ever tasted ice cream that actually tasted like its actual flavour? Not “kind of like strawberry,” I mean like “real strawberry.” Well this is what these producers are doing, creating ice cream with real ingredients for real flavour!
So I make my own almond milk. Some people think wonder why I go through the trouble of making my own when I can just buy almond milk from the store. The truth is that commercial almond milk is NOT anything like the real stuff. Store almond and nut milks are just a health scam; there really isn’t much nutritional or health benefit from these products as they are heavily diluted with water and have added preservatives to make it last longer.
Now, not everyone has the time or the patience to make their own almond milk but that is why there are some great local producers that can make it for you!
Yes, there is a difference from the bread you get at the store and the bread you get at the Farmer’s Market! And I will highly encourage you to start ditching commercial bread.
Package/Store Bread is made using refined flour or fortified flours and 20+ other ingredients that have no business being in bread. So, if you haven’t heard of sourdough then let me introduce you to the bread that is going to change the way you see and eat bread!
Sourdough bread is made with wild yeast. It’s dough goes through a period of natural fermentation where the occurring lactobacilli and yeast work together giving sourdough it’s sour and rich taste. Also, the fermentation of Sourdough bread actually makes it more digestible for us! Yay!
After I tried my first sourdough loaf from Park Road Bread, I literally never went back. I even now bake my own loaves! You are most welcomed to dive into a sourdough bread baking journey of your own but if that’s too much for you not to worry, there are some pretty amazing bakers in the area. They will bake you one delicious and fresh REAL loaf of bread:
Winter Farmers Markets, Farm Stores and Co-ops
I frequent these markets during the winter months and I have a few reliable vendors I support (listed above), however I still advise you all to ASK. Ask your vendor what they are about, where their farm is, what are their methods, and anything you would like to know about their products. Real farmers and producers are so proud of what they sell that they will not only answer all your questions but probably talk to you for more than just a couple of minutes. So shop with discretion, don’t think that just because this is a “market,” absolutely everything is “local” or “organic.”
Co-ops & Farm Stores
Happy local shopping & eating! Remember ASK questions! #knowyourfarmer