Eating Locally in March…in a Polar Vortex

Dana and I aren’t exclusively local though more than 90% of the food we bring into our house is locally grown.  We don’t prescribe to any one label on how we eat but we’re pretty close to locavores when it comes to our home diet (this is challenged when eating out or spending time with some friend and family).

And every winter I seem to end up reflecting on that decision; especially in March.  March and April are the leanest months of the year for fresh, local food in Toronto.  That’s especially true this year when we’ve been buried in more snow that we’ve had in years and faced the coldest weather (over the longest periods) than we’ve faced in many years.  The farmers markets have less selection and many farmers begin to close their tables as they run out of stored foods and less people attend to purchase them.

Toronto is an amazing place when it comes to local food.  We’re surrounded by farmland in all directions (even south as Lake Ontario turns east around Hamilton).  Relatively long summer months (for Canada) mean ample supplies of fruit, vegetables, meat, game fish and more.  The cold winters allow for cold storage and recent years have seen many farmers start to grow crops to sell over winter as they know there’s an appetite (pun intended!) to support the supply.

We’ve been eating this way for about 6 years.  Each year we learn new things; we didn’t get here overnight and continue to learn day-by-day.  And, when March comes, I tend to reflect on why we do this and how it’s working out.  And, as in years past, I am often surprised to find that each year gets easier (even when the previous didn’t feel like a struggle) and that we’re as committed as ever to support the farms and markets that we do.

5 reasons why eating local has become easier in recent years:

  1. Availability.  Farmers are planning for winter markets.  In addition to planning, they are investing in storage facilities to extend the harvest and are interested in attending winter markets.
  2. Low-technology.  Many of our farming friends have invested in low-cost technology that allow them to grow organic food in the winter.  Hoop houses, greenhouses and more have been bootstrapped to create affordable solutions to extend the growing season.
  3. Innovation.  Instead of looking at traditional crops, farmers have figured out alternatives (such as sprouts and shoots) that can grow in the winter without elaborate infrastructure.
  4. Our cooking ability.  As we learn more ways to use squash, sunchokes, sweet potatoes and other winter food we gain diversity on our table.  If the ingredients are limited (compared to summer), our imagination and ability in the kitchen can bring variety to our plates.
  5. Our evolving pantry.  As we preserve more food and learn other ways and recipes to do so, our pantry becomes more interesting.  This evolution allows limited options to be transformed into endless combinations.

If you eat locally, what are your options/ what do you do to get through the winter months?

Joel Speaking At Imaginate (Tomorrow Evening in Port Hope, Ontario)

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be speaking at an amazing event tomorrow evening.  It’s a benefit for the Green Wood Coalition; the evening will be combination of speeches, music and art.

Joel Speaking At Imaginate (Tomorrow Evening in Port Hope, Ontario) speeches [Read more...]

New to Preserving? Some Fall Preserving Ideas

Waterbath preserving is safe and easy (as long as you follow a tested, trusted recipe).  With our preserve swap approaching this coming Monday, we thought it would be good timing to share a quick overview of the process and give a roundup of seasonal recipes that can be preserved in the fall using this method.

You should know that waterbath preserving simply means processing food in jars by covering them with boiling water for a specified amount of time.  You can’t jam any recipe into a jar – this method works for high-acid food (such as fruit and pickles) and is really easy to learn.

Although you can take a course, you will find that reading a book or a blog should be enough to get you started.  You can find some of our favorite books to get you started here or you can check some of the posts below.  Beyond our own blog there are many amazing blogs which feature preserving (some of our favorites include Food In Jars, Local Kitchen, Cupcake Rehab, Punk Domestics, Toronto Tasting Notes, Grow and Resist, Hip Girls Guide to Homemaking and many, many more.

If you want some ideas for preserving in the fall, here’s a few great places to start:

  1. Spicy Pickled Carrots
  2. Pickled Onions
  3. Pickled Leeks
  4. Pickled Cocktail Onions
  5. Pickled Hot Peppers
  6. Pickled Garlic
  7. Pickled Beets
  8. Pear Chutney
  9. Pearsauce
  10. Applesauce
  11. Herb-infused vinegar

Preserving isn’t always about making pickles but each of the ingredients can be bought locally in the fall (not a requirement but something we’re passionate about) and are great launching points to learn to preseve!

Each recipe should take 1-2 hours (an experienced person could make many of them in half the time); so get working in your kitchens and then join the preserve swap on Monday with your new treasures!

The Canadian Food Experience: Mustard Pickles

This is our first month participating in the Canadian Food Experience Project which began June 7 2013. As more than 80 participants share our collective stories across the vastness of our Canadian landscape through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity through the cadence of our concerted Canadian voice. This months theme is Regional Canadian Food.  You can see all of our posts in this series here.

September already?  Holy schmoly.

It’s already time for another installment of The Canadian Food Experience Project.  This month’s challenge is to write about our “Cherished Canadian Recipe.”  When I read the theme I knew instantly what I had to write about.  I also knew that I was pushing, if not breaking, the rules.  I’m going to share with you my absolutely favorite recipe of all time; but I can’t share the details.  I have to write about the recipe, and not share the recipe.

And I’m not being falsely modest or mysterious.  I’m not locking away a secret recipe.  I can’t share it because, according to most sources (including the National Center for Home Food Preservation), it’s just not safe.

My cherished Canadian recipe is my Meme’s (Grandmothers) French Canadian Mustard Pickles:

The Canadian Food Experience: Mustard Pickles Canadian Food Experience [Read more...]

What are Hashtags and How to use them for Foodies

People make this topic overly complicated or are intimidated by it.  Today we hope to simply the topic and answer:

What the heck is a

What are Hashtags and How to use them for Foodies

And why should you care, as a foodie, that FaceBook now has them (as do Twitter and Instagram)?  Keep reading to find out why I’m so excited… [Read more...]

March Against Monsanto (Toronto) 2013

More than 2,000 Torontonians took the street this weekend to protest against Monsanto and GMO (Genetically Modified) food.  It was part of a nearly global event where it’s estimated that 2,000,000 people took to the streets to voice their concerns against GMO’s (source).  The event was organized by the folks at March Against Monsanto.

Here’s our highlights from the Toronto march and what it felt like to walk amongst the peaceful crowd:

If you’re not familiar with the reasons why people are angry about GMO’s, consider (source):

  • 61 countries in the world require labelling of GMO food.
  • The United States and Canada are the only two industrialized nations which do not require them.

We are eating GMO food, due to lack of labelling, cannot make a choice not to.  Consider the percentages of the following crops that are Genetically Modified (source)

  • 93 percent of all soy
  • 86 percent of corn
  • 93 percent of canola seeds

Many countries have partial or outright bans on GMOs (source):

  • Monsanto’s GMO corn is banned in France
  • GMOs are banned in Austria, Hungary, Greece, Bulgaria and Luxemburg.

There is significant concern about the environmental impact of the use (and types) of chemicals being used with GMO crops (source).

Like any global issue, GMOs have opponents and proponents.  There are arguments supporting both sides; my primary frustration is that I cannot choose to be GMO free if I want.  We don’t have to agree on the impacts of GMOs – but surely everyone must be willing to support the right to choose?  Monsanto and companies using it’s seeds spent millions of dollars campaigning Californians to prevent mandatory labeling (source).

Change will happen when the public asks for it.  Will you join us (and the people in almost 300 cities around the world) asking for labeling of GMOs?

On Love, Loss and Dandelion Wine

Today’s post is about sharing a story and marking a moment. We’ll share the recipe and technique for Dandelion Wine next week if that’s what you’re looking for!  And, while it may start a little morose, it does circle back to the reason I write here; it’s the story of how food (specifically preserving) brings comfort in tough times.

I lost a dear friend this week. I won’t trouble you with the details spare that it had been coming for some time and that he was far too young to have passed.  Our friendship is a tough one to describe to others but we never had to describe it nor defend it to each other and that’s what counted.

On Love, Loss and Dandelion Wine milestones [Read more...]

Why March Against Monsanto? A Video Plea from Vandana Shiva

Yesterday we shared our plea for you to join one of almost 300 cities protesting against Monsanto on Saturday.

Today we thought we’d hand our ‘microphone’ over to a real pro to make the case. This is Dr. Vandana Shiva and why she’d like you to add your voice on Saturday:

Looking for an event near you on Saturday? Look no further than this list!

286 Cities March Against Monsanto this Saturday (May 25th)

This is an invite and a call to action to join many people around the world in a peaceful protest against Monsanto this Saturday (May 25th).

Monsanto is at the heart of genetically modified food (GMOs).  They own the intellectual copyright on certain seeds; they own a form of life (reportedly even doing so when it spreads into other fields through wind and pollination).

286 Cities March Against Monsanto this Saturday (May 25th) monsanto GMO Food Security [Read more...]

The CFIA Defines Local… again. And Messes up… again.

It was almost a year ago when the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) launched a definition for the word “local” and I vetted our concerns.  The definition was simultaneously too stringent (it limited local to 50 kilometers which would almost make “local” food a commercial impossibility within large city limits) while also being way too hole-ridden (using the word ‘or’ meant ambiguous application was possible).

The CFIA Defines Local... again.  And Messes up... again. Local Food Food Politics CFIA Canadian Food Inspection Agency

A different definition of local food from 2011 where we redistributed the 100-mile circle into a dinosaur-like shape that covered Southern Ontario and even parts of the north.

The definition stayed in tact from last June without much noise until April when the CFIA ordered a hamburger joint to remove the word “local” from it’s marketing material. The story received a lot of press – many people thought that the distance would have been considered local but, because there were more than 2 counties separating the farm from the restaurant, it could not be labelled “local.”

On May 10th, the CFIA quietly revised the legislation and announced an ‘interim‘ definition (with no announced timeframe before revisiting. (more after the break) [Read more...]