Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Parkdale Market in Ottawa


As we were zipping around Ottawa last Thursday, we also stopped by the Parkdale Market. This is a little market of about 20 vendors. Apparently it's been there for 75 years and is Ottawa's second-largest open market.



My cousin shops here regularly, as it's convenient for her. I have to say though, that it is very heavily weighted towards ornamental plants. Locally grown, yes. There are also some booths with fruits and vegetables which appear to be a mixture of locally grown and imported items.


It certainly was very colourful!


Wow!


A lot of produce appears to come from Quebec, which is after all very local to Ottawa. However, a lot was also plainly imported from farther away... much farther away. I suspect - or at least I hope - that once more is available locally, more of it will be local.

There is parking on the street, both beside and behind the market. Apparently it is open from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm 7 days a week, from April to Christmas. Holy cow! That's pretty amazing.




Last year at this time I made Asparagus & Mushroom Kugel. Hmm, things were a lot later last year, weren't they?

Monday, 28 June 2010

A Visit to the Ottawa Farmers Market


Last time I was in Ottawa I went to the well-known Byward Market. Even though I visited it at a very bad time of year last time, this time I wanted to go somewhere else. Conveniently, there is now an Ottawa Farmers Market open on Thursday afternoons from1:00 pm to 7:00 pm, next to the Lansdowne stadium, near the Bank Street bridge. Parking is free.



At first glance, it looked very small. This is a fairly new market, and the day had been miserable right up to the point we arrived. Fortunately, the rain stopped just as we got there.



However, as soon as we started looking around we realized that they have a wide range of products, all of them local in one way or another. In addition to game meats, this vendor had some very nice looking sausages, including poultry sausages, which can be hard to find.



Because we were heading home the next day, we couldn't buy much. But we did get a couple of samosas for lunch the next day. At $2 each, they were a good price. I didn't even ask what was in them, because I expected the usual potato and pea mixture but they turned out to be meat (beef, I think). Very good, too.



There were a couple of booths with baked goods, both sweet and... savoury.



As good a selection of local vegetables as could be found this early in the summer, at a number of different booths. The Ottawa Farmers Market only permits local producers and their selectivity means that every booth is worth checking out.



Upper Canada Cranberries is the only cranberry producer in eastern Ontario that I know of, and one of only three in Ontario (again, that I know of). At this time of year they are in the form of dried, juice or jelly. Nothing wrong with that! Ottawaians, you lucky dogs.



More produce. My one disappointment with the market is that everyone in the area seems to be growing the huge, tasteless "shipper" type berries now. Only one vendor had the smaller Veestars, which aren't even the best of the small berries to my mind. At least they were all fresh and ripe, but it was a real disappointment.



More produce... for a small market it had a lot.



Peas! We didn't buy any; we were heading home to bushels of our own, we hoped.



I had quite a long talk with this vendor, who makes St. Lucia style hot sauces. I bought one of his "medium" sauces (first ingredients, habanero and cayenne peppers, yikes). I'll let you know once I try it. He makes about a dozen kinds, mostly named for Canadian places and people.



One of the points he made is that Canadians don't eat enough local produce... it may be more expensive but it's better. He particularly mentioned the Ottawa valley garlic as being "frighten(ing)... You know why I was frightened? Because it has so much more flavour! I thought I used too much..." What can I say? He took the words right out of my mouth.

This is definitely a market worth visiting. If I lived in Ottawa, I'd be regular, for sure.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Roasted Garlic Scapes

I'm baaa-ack!

You didn't even know I was gone, did you? We went to Ottawa last week to visit relatives, and I have a bunch of posts to put up from that trip.

I'm feeling a little frazzled though; not only is the garden a week deep in new weeds, but my computer died a horrible death as soon as I got home and Mr. Ferdzy has been working heroically all day to resuscitate it, when he really should have been building more deer fencing. I'll be trying to get things posted, find stuff on my computer (it's mostly all here somewhere, I think - just in new and exciting places, and I haven't a bookmark to my name anymore) and of course weed the garden. Although the deer have kind of discovered it so weeding may soon become moot. Goodbye chard, just when I was about to start picking it. They do like that stuff.

These were ridiculously simple, and very good. Roasting gives them a mild, almost leek-like flavour. Serve them with steak, fish or chicken, or over mashed potatoes.

depends how many you roast
about 15 to 20 minutes - 5 to 10 minutes prep time

Roasted Garlic Scapes
garlic scapes... however many you want to roast
olive oil, sunflower oil, or other light-flavoured oil
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Wash the garlic scapes. Trim off and discard the long, thin points of each scape where they start getting tough. Probably this will be 2 to 3 inches. Toss the scapes with just enough oil to coat them lightly. Arrange them in a single layer (mostly) on a baking tray, and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper (if you like).

Roast the scapes for 8 to 10 minutes until lightly browned in spots. Watch them; they can go from perfect to burnt and tough in a matter of seconds.



Last year at this time I made Stir-Fried Beed & Kohlrabi.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Strawberry-Mango Preserves

Yeah, I know. Mangos aren't exactly local. However, there are lots of lovely mangoes in season right when strawberries are ready, and they combine really well - if you don't want to do preserves, they make a nice fruit salad together.

Like a lot of strawberry jams this doesn't really set that well, but the mangos should make it thick enough to at least stay on your toast long enough for you to get it to your mouth.

7 250-ml jars
about 1 hour prep time

Strawberry Mango Preserves

2 quarts strawberries
4 medium mangos, not over ripe
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 cups sugar

Wash and hull the berries. Drain well. Meanwhile, peel, pit and chop the mangos.

Put the jars into a canner with water to cover them by an inch. Bring them to a boil and boil for 10 minutes.

Put the mangos in a large kettle with the lemon juice and the sugar. Bring to a boil and boil for about 10 minutes. Add the strawberries and cook until thickened, probably another 10 minutes.

Pack in hot sterilized jars. Seal with lids boiled for 5 minutes, and boiling water process for 5 minutes.




Last year at this time I made Strawberry Cream Pie and Strawberry Streusel Muffins... yeah, I guess it was strawberry season then too.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Major Construction in the Garden


Major construction has been happening in the garden. We've built trellises for the tomatoes, the asparagus and a whole bunch of peas and beans.


Then I sat there and wound little strings around large numbers of unco-operative little plants.


Most of them are now climbing under their own steam, although I have an uneasy feeling that some of them are supposed to be bush beans. Oh well. Can't hurt. Now we just have to wait and see if all this construction has proper structural engineering. If it all collapses under the weight of tons of peas, we will know the answer was "no".


But hopefully not. These peas are growing up on nothing sturdier than a bunch of sticks stuck in the ground. They are "Dual" peas, and we expect them to be ready next week.


Stupice, our earliest tomato, is forming little baby tomatoes which puts it on schedule... to be our earliest tomato.


The celery, on the other hand is struggling. Somehow it ended up in the driest, sandiest bed in the garden. Naturally, what it wants is muck and mud. Drat.


And finally, our zucchini look like they will be zuke-ing sometime in the next couple of weeks. It seems like only yesterday that they were all just pairs of tiny cotyledons. How quickly they grow up! *sniff* The melons, however, are not doing so well.

However, when I consider what the garden looked like last year, the difference is astounding. We are learning lots, doing lots of work, and getting results!

Monday, 21 June 2010

Guatamalan Radish Salad

This is as simple a salad as you can make, but it's pretty intense in flavour. Serve it in small portions, or use it as a topping on tacos or tostadas. Next time I think I would chop the radishes more finely than I did this time.

8 servings
20 minutes prep time - plus chill time

Guatamalan Radish Salad
450 grams (1 pound) radishes
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup orange juice (the juice of 1 orange)
1/4 cup lemon juice (the juice of 1 lemon)
salt and pepper to taste

Wash and trim the radishes, and cut them into thin slices or slivers. Mix them with the remaining ingredients and chill well.



Last year at this time I made Cranberry, Orange & Almond Salad with Orange-Fennel Dressing and Ginger-Peanut Sauce, good with all kinds of vegatables.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Norli Snow Peas



There are at least 2 snow peas out there being sold as "Norli", so it seems. The only one I have ever gotten is this one; a short (2 to 3 foot) bush pea with white flowers tinged with green. There's quite a number of gardeners though who think Norli ought to be a tall vine with purple flowers.

Our seed came from William Dam, and they describe it as a very early Dutch variety. Indeed it is; or at least I can attest to the very early part. Two feet is the advertised height, but ours are rather taller, although that was their height to the inch when they first started producing peas. We are supporting them with some otherwise rather useless foot-high wire edging fence left by the previous owners of the property and it seems to be (barely) sufficient. An assortment of tallish sticks stuck in the ground would probably have been better. We also planted them too close together - we're not getting too many peas forming in the middle of that mass.

As with all snow peas, they are picked when the pods are still flat but have achieved a reasonable size; about 3" in length. Do not let the peas fill out; they will get tough and if you leave them unpicked too long the plants will assume their reproductive duty is done and stop producing any more peas.

Next year I would like to try starting them in a cold frame to see if we can get even earlier peas. Because they are so short, I would think we could have planted them a good three weeks earlier then when we did. We planted them on April 5th and we have been picking them for about a week now.

So, how are they as peas? They are nice peas, mild and sweet. We find them a tad bland perhaps; there are better tasting snow peas in my opinion. However they are good enough! Especially when we can see we won't have any other snow peas producing for at least three weeks yet. And if we can get them to grow those extra three weeks earlier, I will be more than ecstatic to have them.

To prepare snow peas, pinch off the stem end with the sepals , using your thumbnail. Leave the pinched-off bit attached at the top (concave) side of the pea. Pull off the sepal end, which will either come right off, or which will pull along the top of the pea where it was still attached, removing a tough stringy bit from the pea, if there is a tough stringy bit to be removed. Norli really shouldn't really have much of this; they are a nicely tender pea. Older varieties may very well have that tough string though.

If your peas are young and tender you can eat them raw. They are always delicious steamed or stir fried, hot or cold. However you cook them, do it very briefly. Two or three minutes of cooking will suffice.





Snow Peas on Foodista

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Cheesecake, with Strawberries In This Case

I have two recipes for cheesecake; one for a decadent creation with loads of rich cream cheese and full-fat sour cream, and this one, which is a fair bit less decadent and which I actually make once every few years. I use a low-fat cheese for this, and the one time I used a non-fat cheese it ended up with a rather gritty texture, so better to use the low-fat cheese although I don't doubt that full-fat cheese would work just fine. I also use my own home-made graham crackers for the crust.

Chilling the cheesecake will let it cut nicely. I made mine at the last moment so it didn't cut as smoothly as I would have liked, but nobody but me really notices these things. Still, if you can, it's best to make it a bit in advance of when you need it.

I've been making this as the plain recipe for years, but I decided to try it with strawberries added this time. They're actually the last of last years frozen berries. Got to make room for this years! We had a few fresh ones from our garden to garnish it with as well. They're starting to show up, hurray! Almost time to do my annual strawberry rant. (Or you could just go read the last three years. This years is gonna be the same.)

It is quite easy to cut this in half. (Half of 3/4 cup is 6 tablespoons.) Just use an 8" pan, and it should be baked in an hour. I'm also vague about what kind of flour to use here. I've used wheat (pastry) flour in the past. This time I used half rice flour and half arrowroot, which worked fine, and which means that if you could fine a gluten-free biscuit to use for the crumbs, this could be gluten-free. I imagine this would also work well with other berries. Raspberries (mmm, raspberries) come to mind, for example.

12 servings
2 hours - 45 minutes prep time


Make the Crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 11" springform pan bottom with parchment paper, and butter the sides.

Mix the graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter, and press them evenly over the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for about 10 minutes, until firm. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.


Make the Filling:
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
the zest of 1 lemon
4 large eggs
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 kg (2.2 pounds) pressed cottage or ricotta cheese
1 cup buttermilk

Put the sugar, flour and salt into a large mixing bowl, and grate in the lemon zest. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the lemon juice, a few tablespoons at a time, until well amalgamated. (Don't dump it in all at once - the acid in the lemon juice may curdle the eggs otherwise.)

If your cheese tends to be gritty or lumpy in texture, whizz it through the food processor with the buttermilk until it is smooth. Best to do this in 2 or 3 batches! Mix the cheese and buttermilk into the sugar and egg mixture until smooth.

Pour the filling over the baked crust, and smooth it out. Bake for about 1 hour, 15 minutes, until just set in the middle. Let the cheesecake cool, then chill for 4 hours to overnight until well set.

Berry Variation:
OMIT the buttermilk
2 cups crushed, hulled strawberries (or other berries)
4 tablespoons arrowroot

Mix the filling as described above, omitting the buttermilk. Whizz the strawberries and arrowroot in the food processor until you have small chunks of strawberries in an otherwise smooth sauce free of arrowroot lumps. You can fold this into the entire filling before putting it over the crust, or you can put in half the plain filling then mix the strawberries with the remaining filling. Swirl this second, strawberried half of the filling with the plain half to create a marblized effect. Again, bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes until firm and cool and chill, as above.

Make the Sauce:
2 cups hulled strawberries
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons arrowroot

Very easy. Mix the above in a pot and heat over medium heat. Stir regularly. Stop once the strawberries are soft and the sauce is thick and clear. Let cool, and spoon over the cheesecake slices as you serve them.




Last year at this time Bacon & Mushroom Warm Asparagus Salad and Goat Cheese, Spinach & Lentil Lasagne.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Quick Question

Has anyone out there ever read my other blog? I'm running out of photo-allowance, and I'm thinking if I blew it away, I'd be good for the better part of another year. And without a hit-counter I have no idea if it will be missed or not. I'm particularly thinking about the bits to do with our pilgrimage to Santiago (where almost all the picture-space-hogging happens.)

Flesherton Farmers Market


We haven't been to a farmers market in while, so on Saturday we headed of to Flesherton. Their market is in a nice covered space next to the Flesherton Arena, on the south end of town just off Highway 10.



The market was fairly small, but popular. A steady stream of shoppers came in and out while we were there.


Local honeys, plain and flavoured, for sale.


Lettuce, green onions, asparagus and garlic scapes. It's early summer, all right.


The market overall was fairly weak on vegetables, but there was a lot of baking. There was also lamb and beef available from several vendors.


See? More baking, as well as beautiful spun wools. There were also blankets made from the wool, from Spirit Walk Farm in Maxwell. The blankets are made in P.E.I., at one of the very few mills in Canada still processing and weaving Canadian wool. I thought the prices were quite reasonable and the colours were lovely. Notes taken!


Several people had hardshell gourds, either "raw" or transformed into birdhouses. They're quite fascinating plants. I can see they are going to have to go on to the evergrowing "to grow" list.

Overall, this was a pleasant little market, but if it wasn't fairly close I don't think I'd go out of my way to visit it. Perhaps it will have more of a veggie selection a little later in the season.


And finally, I just had to post this picture, which has nothing to do with the Flesherton Farmers Market. It's a spinach plant - yes, one - from our garden; one of the fall-planted ones. That stuff positively frightens me.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Ostergruss Rosa Radishes


Whoa, baby! Look at those radishes!

I did a double take when I pulled out the first one of these, which happened to be the largest of the four. This is the first time I've grown these; I must have had a craving for radishes when we were ordering seeds because I bought all kinds of unusual radish seeds. Mind you, if we were in Germany, this would have been a usual radish seed. Ostergruss Rosa is a standard market radish there. I got the seed from William Dam.

They are crisp, juicy and tasty; spicy but not too hot. Very much like most red radishes, in other words, just bigger. Much bigger. I was afraid their size might make them woody but no, they've been perfectly tender. I don't know why they aren't grown more here. Four or five times the radish per seed? Sounds like a good deal to me, although you will need a nice loose soil to grow them. They took only about a week longer than the early Cherry Belle radishes; well worth the wait I would say.

It's popular to serve radishes sliced on brown bread with butter, and these would be good for that. You could slice them lengthwise and they'd look very pretty. They often have red streaks inside them.



Radishes on Foodista

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Snow Peas & Garlic Scapes

I only made about half a recipe of this as it was our first picking of snow peas and didn't amount to much. However, there are a gazillion little white blossoms and forming snow peas on the plants, so we expect to be inundated in them very soon. This is a simple and quick way to serve them, and they go so well with the garlic scapes which are available right now too.

15 minutes prep time
2 to 4 servings

Snow Peas and Garlic Scapes
Make the Sauce:
1 teaspoon arrowroot or corn starch
1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
1/2 teaspoon finely grated ginger
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons water

Mix the above in a small bowl and set it aside until you are ready to cook.

Cook the Peas & Garlic Scapes:
2 cups snow peas, topped and tailed
1 cup sliced garlic scapes (10 to 12 scapes)
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil

Wash the peas and pinch off the stems. Wash the scapes and cut them diagonally in pieces about the same size as the snow peas.

Just before you are ready to eat the rest of the meal, heat the oil in a skillet. Add the garlic scapes and sauté them, stirring constantly, until they turn bright green; about one minute. Add the snow peas, with a tablespoon of water and cook them, stirring constantly, until bright green; about one or two minutes. Stir up the sauce and add it, mixing it in well until it thickens.

Serve at once. Total cooking time is only about 3 or 4 minutes, so don't start cooking until everything else is basically standing by.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Bacon, Egg & Asparagus Salad

Not very inspired perhaps, but a typical meal-salad in this household; bacon, eggs and mushrooms are all familiar and delicious companions to asparagus. Eat up that asparagus! It won't be around much longer. Never mind though; peas are on the way!

Today is the third anniversary of having started this blog! Lots more great things to do with Ontario food; I've barely scratched the surface.

2 or more servings
30 minutes prep time

Bacon Egg and Asparagus Salad
Make the Dressing:
1/4 cup sunflower or olive oil
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt & pepper to taste

Whisk together or shake in a jar.

Make the Salad:
4 large eggs
500 grams (1 pound) asparagus
200 grams (1/2 pound) bacon

4 cups baby lettuce/salad greens
1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)

Put the eggs in a pot with water to cover and a teaspoon of salt, and bring them to a boil. Boil them for one minute, then turn off the water and leave them in it, covered, for 10 minutes. Rinse them in cold water and peel them.

Wash and trim the asparagus and boil or steam it for about 5 minutes, until just tender. Rinse it well in cold water to prevent it cooking any further, and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Wash and drain the lettuce, and clean and slice the mushrooms if using.

Arrange the asparagus, mushrooms and sliced eggs over the salad greens.

Chop the bacon and sauté it until crisp. Blot it on paper towel, and sprinkle it over the salad. Drizzle over the dressing.




Last year at this time I made Bacon & Mushroom Warm Asparagus Salad... not so very different!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Spanakopita

Okay, what I actually made this time was the "spanako", no "pita". The slightly modified filling alone makes a very nice casserole, and is a whole lot quicker to make and less oily. Of course, you lose the crisp and flaky texture of the filo but such is life.

Yes we still have tons of spinach even though it is going to seed. It was time to do something else besides just steaming it or eating it in salad.

8 servings
1 1/2 hours - 30 minutes prep time - not including cooling time



1 kg fresh spinach/chard/kale (2 bunches)
1 large leek
OR 1 bunch (10 to 12) green onions
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup fresh minced dillweed
OR 2 tbsps dried dillweed
2 tbsps minced fresh mint
OR 1 tbsp dried mint
200g (6 oz) feta cheese
4 eggs
nutmeg & pepper

8 -12 sheets filo pastry
1/4 cup olive oil (about)

Wash the spinach (or other greens) well, and pick through it, discarding any bad leaves or tough stems. Put it in a large pot with just the water that clings to the leaves from washing them, and cook until just limp. Rinse to cool, drain well, and chop. Put the prepared spinach into a mixing bowl.

Trim, chop and wash the leek (fall) or green onions (spring). Mince the herbs - and fresh are much better, if you can get them. Sauté the leeks or onions briefly until just soft in the oil, adding the herbs at the last minute. Add this mixture to the spinach.

Rinse your feta if it is salty, then chop or crumble it and add it to the spinach mixture. Beat in the eggs and season the blend with a little grated nutmeg and black pepper.

Lightly oil a 2 quart lasagne pan. Brush 4 sheets of filo with oil, folding them in half and stacking them as you go. Place them in the bottom of the lasagne pan. Spread over the filling and cover with the remaining filo, brushed with oil and folded over as for the bottom layer.

You can also form individual triangles or packages by spooning some of the spinach mixture onto one corner of an individual filo sheet brushed with oil, and folding or rolling it up.

Bake at 375°F for 45 minutes, or less for smaller packages. The spanakopita should be puffed and golden-brown.

Variation:
1 more egg
1 cup light cream
NO filo

To the above prepared spinach mixture, add an extra egg and a cup of light cream. Pour the mixture into an oiled lasagne pan, and bake at 350°F for about an hour, until firm and lightly browned at the edges. Let cool before serving; either slightly warm or chilled.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Cherry Belle & Zlata Radishes

Zlata and Cherry Belle Radishes
Here are two radishes I'm growing this year; Cherry Belle which is probably the most common and popular red radish around, and Zlata, a rare and unusual radish from Poland that I acquired via Solana Seeds.

It was interesting to grow them together. The Zlata were the ones that excited me: yellow radishes! How novel - until last fall I didn't know there was such a thing. White; yes - there are a number of white radishes out there.

So far, however, I'm finding the Cherry Belles the better radish. There's a reason they are so popular. They are fattening up a few days quicker, they are holding juicier and crisper, and they are not so hot. They are also known for producing a minimal amount of leaves in proportion to the roots, and for storing in the fridge for quite a while. The Zlatas look like they could toughen up quickly, and they are more of a creamy tan than yellow, at least for me so far. It's possible they may be more yellow in other strains or grown inother soils. Cherry Belle was an All-America Select winner in 1949, so they've been around for quite a while. Some people even describe them as an heirloom variety. Both are open-pollinated.

Cherry Belle are supposed to be ready in as few as 22 days, but I've never had any radish ready as soon as advertised. Still, I'm pretty sure ours were ready in about 5 weeks, with the Zlata only a couple of days behind them. Mind you, neither of them are coming ready all at once; we seem to be getting half a dozen fattening up every few days, which is quite convenient.

Like all radishes they grow best in light soil, cool damp weather but in full sun. Radishes are easy to grow and the seeds are not too small, making them a popular first crop for children. However, I remember growing them as a child at our cottage and being very disappointed when they produced lush green tops and stringy, radishless roots; our soil was too poor even for radishes. If you grow radishes you will know they are ready by their shoulders, which peek up out of the soil.



Last year at this time I made Lemon Fried Chicken with Mushrooms, Asparagus with Pumpkin Seeds & Lemon Dressing, and Chick Pea, Egg & Belgian Endive Salad.



Cherry Belle Radish on Foodista

Sunday, 6 June 2010

The Locavore


About 2 weeks ago, Mr. Ferdzy and I went into Owen Sound for a dinner and talk at the Ginger Press. Sarah Elton, author of The Locavore, was the speaker and the dinner was a delicious meal made with local foods by the folks at the Ginger Press. The Ginger Press did not actually publish The Locavore, (Harper Collins has that honour) but graciously agreed to host this event. They did a superb job.

I was an idiot, and although I carefully brought my camera I forgot to take any pictures. You'll have to imagine the scene: about 25 enthusiastic, interesting and interested "local foodies", in both senses of the phrase, at a long table in the Ginger Press bookstore-café, surrounded by locally focused books. We found ourselves sitting between an Owen Sound town councillor (and the manager of the Owen Sound Farmers Market) and a pair of professional mushroom hunters, as we enjoyed smoked fish paté, salad, chicken breast with rhubarb chutney, asparagus and pickled beets as well as a lovely rhubarb fool and cookies for dessert. There were other goodies too and we ate very well indeed.

Sarah Elton, a food reporter with the CBC, travelled across Canada talking to farmers, gardeners, chefs and others about the state of agriculture in this country in order to write this book. There's a lot of rather depressing and frightening information, meticulously gathered and presented, about the parlous state affairs that prevails: farmers in every field (snerk) of agriculture struggling to survive in the face of the massive industrialization, commodification and internationalization that has transformed our food systems during the last 60 years. Fortunately, the people she's been talking to are people who are fighting back, with some impressive successes.

One of the stories that struck me the most, both in her talk and in the book, was of the Brussels sprouts farmers of Dieppe, New Brunswick. At least, they used to be Brussels sprouts farmers, before the McCain freezing plant shut down. Then, after struggling for years to survive, they realized that the only way to do it was to stop trying to compete against each other, band together and sell directly to consumers. The Really Local Harvest Co-op and soon after, the Dieppe Farmers Market, were born. On the first opening day of the Dieppe Farmers Market, 10,000 people showed up.

While this is a story of amazing success, the book is full of people who are making a go of farming in Canada, in the country in and in cities - half the book is devoted to food production in the city. Sarah talked to people growing food in greenhouses, on roofs, and on the prairies. She talked to cheesemakers, chefs and small plot intensive gardeners.

She ends up with a list of suggestions for changing our food systems. They're mostly things I've been doing for while, but it's good to see them laid out explicitly: ask questions, buy foods grown on farms practising sustainable farming, eat in season, avoid processed foods, choose organic and humanely raised meats dairy and eggs, voice your opinion, go to the source, look for restaurants where local and sustainable food is served, search out the alternative, and choose fair trade.

I admit I'm still reading the book, but I wanted to get a post up before the event faded from my mind. Normally I read books in a day, but this is a dense and information-packed book. If you are interested in food in Canada, it's well-worth checking it out.