It is interesting the way that things have flip flopped: When I lived in the city, within a small radius, I had ten grocery stores to choose from, two farms from which I could buy seasonal produce, and one farmer’s market that would set up on Saturdays. In the country, I have one excellent grocery store nearby, I am surrounded by a multitude of farmers’ stands that sell produce, and around here, any day of the week is pretty much “farmer’s market” day.
Needless to say, we took full advantage of this opportunity.
Over the course of the last four months we have enjoyed fresh tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, green and yellow beans, peas, corn, potatoes, zucchini, broccoli, onions, garlic, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and several varieties of apples, all grown locally.
There have been other products available, but there just haven’t been enough hours in the day to try them all.
When you add to the mix a local butcher shop that also sources products from local suppliers, we have found ourselves marveling on more than one occasion at how everything on the dinner table was truly local.
I will be the first to say that I appreciate the convenience of a good supermarket that can sell you anything, anytime, especially in the middle of a Canadian winter when the ground is frozen and growing season is over. The availability of imported fruits and vegetables is certainly a delight to add colour and variety to our diets through the twelve months of the calendar year.
But when local produce is available, freshly picked and comparably priced, why wouldn’t you buy it, especially when your taste buds stand up and take notice?
The first “Oh my God!” moment was when my partner brought home some snap peas. I couldn’t remember the last time that I bought peas in a pod. At first, it seemed like an awful lot of time-consuming effort to open a pile of pods and get such a tiny amount of peas… That was when I remembered why it had been decades since I last did that.
But the minute I had a bite of the warmed, lightly salted, lightly buttered peas that hadn’t been sloshing around in a can since who-knows-when, I knew I could get used to this fresh produce thing. The peas tasted like heaven… if heaven was round, green and tasted like spring.
Another moment I remember so vividly from this past season was the first time my partner made apple sauce from freshly picked apples. When he first suggested making it (and my point of reference being commercial applesauce that generally tastes unremarkable) I agreed to join him in sitting at the table for an apple peeling session without really knowing what awaited at the finish line.
What a delightful treat it turned out to be! The applesauce was bursting with flavour without needing much in the way of seasoning or sugar. The applesauce was an instant hit with me, and became a quick favourite to accompany vanilla cake or ice cream or both. Needless to say, we made more and those apple peeling sessions have become something to which I look forward to now.
I had some previous experience with skinning fresh tomatoes, dicing them and freezing them for use in recipes. This season we made a day out of it to try our hand with my mother-in-law’s tomato relish. We made a huge batch of relish, but we also froze several containers of diced tomatoes.
Based on my last experience with using fresh rather than canned tomatoes, when making my chicken minestrone, the resulting colour of the soup is seemingly a different shade, almost a little brighter. And maybe it’s psychological, but I am pretty sure it presents a slightly different taste profile.
Having just moved in June, there was no way that we could launch our own vegetable garden this year amid all of the other work we had to do around the house, but we are considering it for next year. We know the satisfaction that comes not only from fresh produce, but fresh produce from one’s own garden is the absolute best feeling. But it is good to know that with all of the options for fresh produce surrounding us, we can get by quite well.
In a few short months, we really enjoyed the journey of discovering what farm-to-table really meant.
This also gave us the opportunity to pitch in and help our neighbouring farmers at a time when many businesses were hurting from Covid-19, as demand from restaurants had weakened through the era of social distancing.
As I am writing this post, sipping my morning coffee (knowing full well that the beans were obviously not locally sourced), farmers around the world are to be commended for their continued hard work in helping us keep a great variety of food on the table, year round.
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