Summer time and the fields are bursting with edible goodness. All over Southern Ontario, farmers are harvesting fresh foods and bringing them to market. And with the increased demand for locally grown food, small farm markets are popping up in every neighbourhood.
Take the time to go – they’re not only a good source of healthy food, it’s a great way to get outside and talk to local farmers about what they have and how to prep it. Many operate a box program all year but especially in the fall and winter where they supply fresh produces from their greenhouses, or root vegetables from storage, and often they have egg, milk and meat.
The newly revitalized farmers market in Streetsville, run by the Lions’ Club, is held every Saturday from 8am to 1pm at the Centre Plaza, from now til October. If you’re not able to get there on a Saturday, check out the two farmers markets in Mississauga – one on Wednesdays at Celebration Square, and the other on Sundays at Robert Speck Parkway. (http://www.lionsfarmersmkt.com/)
What is a farmers market: what you’ll find there:
Farmers markets can be held indoors or out – but usually in summer it’s outside. You’ll find everything from preserves to fresh-baked breads and cakes, to bunches of carrots and spinach with the dirt still clinging to them. The produce is always fresh so it’s dependent on harvest time. According to Harvest Ontario, strawberries are ready in June, asparagus in May and June, apples from August to November, corn July to October, and so on. There is overlap when certain produce is ready, but be sure to ask the farmer a good way to prepare the food. (for more details see https://harvestontario.com/whatinseason)
Why they’re important:
Michael Pollan writes in The Defense of Food that we shouldn’t eat anything our great-great-great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. That’s because our Western Diet has come so far away from its roots that we more often eat food product than food. The overly refined, packaged, and high fructose (sugar) diet has led to health and weight problems.
Eating more fruits and veg, and home-cooked meals, is good. Even better is buying locally grown foods because the more food travels the more nutrients it loses. At a farmer’s market, you’re picking up produce that was in the field this morning. Food also tastes better and is more nutritious when it’s in season. And it creates less carbon footprint – reducing the fuel spent getting the food to your table.
Summer is harvest time and you can really load up on fresh veg. If you prepare and freeze it right away, very little of its nutritional value is lost. (During the winter frozen veg have more food value than canned, or even fresh, because they’re flash frozen on the spot.) It’s worth buying a freezer is you have the space, so you can buy up all that great produce at the market and freeze the extra.
The difference between local grown and organic:
Organic foods are grown in soil that’s been nourished with non-synthetic fertilizers, and the crops have higher levels of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and other good stuff. It’s ideal if you can find food that is both organic and local – and certainly some of the farmers at the market will be organic. But if they aren’t don’t discount the produce — sometimes they simply don’t have the resources to handle the extra paperwork, and so it becomes important to ask how they fertilize the crops and nourish the soil.
Take the time to speak with the farmer to find out what they have apart from the market – like a weekly box, or a beef share program. You can also get a list of CSA farms here http://csafarms.ca/wp/
When it’s important to buy organic:
There’s no doubt organic food is more expensive, and if you’re on a budget, you will have to pick and choose what to spend on. Some items are grown with more pesticides than others and if they have thin skins (apples, grapes) it’s best to buy organic to avoid ingesting these. The items with the most pesticides are apples, celery, strawberries, spinach, imported grapes, sweet peppers, lettuce and other greens and these are better purchased as organic. Many items are safe to eat without being organic, such as onions, corn, avocado, asparagus, eggplant, cantaloupe, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes and grapefruit. For a more comprehensive list check out https://www.self.com/story/the-foods-you-should-actually-buy-organic. Organic meat can be really expensive, so look for grass-fed (which means it didn’t live on a feedlot).
Life is easy when you live in a full community, Dunpar’s Streetsville Centre townhomes (http://www.dunparhomes.com/project/id/385) are the perfect opportunity for you to embrace living in the village in the city. These townhomes will be a short walk from the Streetsville Farmers’ Market, so you can spend a morning at the market then enjoy cooking with your finds while they are as fresh as possible!