Area: 5,660 square kilometres; it's Canada's smallest province.
Location: this crescent-shaped island is located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the east coast of Canada, and is separated from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia by the northumberland Strait.
Capital and largest City: Charlottetown
History: entered confederation on July 1, 1873
Main industries: agriculture, tourism, fishing and manufacturing
In spring, summer and fall, the fields of P.E.I. are lush with potato plants. The rich, fertile red soil produces some of the most flavourful and abundant potato crops in the world. The tiny island produces more than 30 per cent of Canada's total potato crop, and potatoes are the province's primary cash crop.
The humble potato made its way to P.E.I. when Europeans settled in North America. By the late 1700s and early 1800s, P.E.I. was exporting potatoes to the rest of Canada and around the world.
Today, P.E.I. potatoes are grown for three industry markets: seed, table and processing. Seed potatoes are sold to be planted for the next year's crop.
Table potatoes are sold to the retail and food-service industries. And processing potatoes, which make up more than 50 per cent of the potatoes grown in P.E.I., are used for frozen potato products, potato chips or dehydrated potato granules.
The historical, social and economical importance of this hearty tuber is not lost among islanders, who are proud to call P.E.I. "Spud Island."
Prince Edward Island is home to some of the world's finest oysters. The cool, nutrient-rich tidal waters contribute to the clean, sharp, balanced taste of P.E.I. oysters. Oysters are often named for the waters from which they come; famed P.E.I. oysters include Malpeque, Raspberry Point, Colville Bay, Conway Cup and Summerside.
P.E.I. oysters may be harvested from the wild, farmed or cultured. Wild oysters are hand-harvested using tongs, which allow harvesters to gently pick them from the water without disturbing the surrounding ecosystem.
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Farmed and cultured oysters are increasingly grown using off-bottom or water-column growers; these oysters can be harvested using large boats and hydraulic booms. About two million pounds of oysters are harvested from the waters off P.E.I. each year.
Oysters are highly versatile. Enjoy them raw on the half shell; baked, steamed or grilled in the shell; or shucked and fried or sauteed, or cooked in chowders or casseroles.
Purchase oysters from a supplier who has good turnover and always keeps them chilled. Look for clean ones that smell like the sea, with undamaged shells that are tightly closed or, if slightly open, that close tightly when tapped.
Refrigerate live oysters on a baking sheet, flat side up and covered with a damp towel, for up to one week. Do not clean the shells until just before shucking.
Tastes of P.E.I.
P.E.I. is known for its fresher-than-fresh seafood and iconic potatoes, but it's home to a wealth of other culinary treasures. Check out these foodie finds for a small sample of the interesting tastes you can find on the island.
Anne of Green Gables Chocolates -- The chocolates are handmade using the freshest natural ingredients in Avonlea Village, and they invoke the spirit of the beloved red-haired heroine of Lucy Maud Montgomery. For a truly addictive sweet-and-salty snack, check out the P.E.I. Chips: fresh, crisp potato chips covered in a layer of sweet milk chocolate.
Cows Creamery -- As a maker of premium ice cream since 1983, Cows is a symbol of P.E.I. as readily recognized as Anne herself. The original shops are in P.E.I., of course, but you can get your Cows ice cream fix in Halifax; Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.; Banff, Alta.; and Whistler, B.C., too.
J.J. Stewart Root Beer -- A bit of history and a lot of taste go into each bottle of this delightfully creamy old-fashioned root beer. Microcrafted in small batches in Cavendish, P.E.I., you can buy this root beer directly at the J.J. Stewart Mercantile or at select retail locations around the island.
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Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar -- These folks make an award-winning and unique clothbound cheddar. Based on traditional cheddar-making techniques that originated in the Orkney Islands, north of Scotland, this cheddar is wrapped in cheesecloth and aged for 14 months. The result is a dense, crumbly cheese with a tangy, earthy flavour.
Cheese Lady's Gouda -- Make sure to try the samples of fantastic gouda when you visit. The array of flavours (including peppercorn, garlic and herb) make it hard to choose just one to bring home with you. Don't forget to check out the cheese-making action through the viewing windows.
Upscale P.E.I.: Prince Edward Island is a culinary hotbed offering much more than down-home maritime cooking. Create an elegant dinner with our P.E.I.-inspired menu, featuring some of the finest products from Canada's smallest province: oysters, beef and potatoes. Serve the main course with steamed vegetables of your choice.
This icy granita makes more than you'll need for 24 oysters, but you can freeze the remainder – or serve more oysters.
Impress family or guests with this special-occasion roast, which is truly quick and simple to make.
Here's an elegant, light variation on the usual creamy scalloped potatoes. The high starch content of Yukon Gold potatoes helps the slices stay together.
No one will miss the fat in this show-stopping dessert: traditionally layers of fruit and custard or whipped cream in a cake-lined mould. Yogurt mousse replaces the traditional filling, and a lightened-up topping replaces the whipped cream. For a quicker option, follow the tip to use store-bought ladyfingers.
Farmer's markets are a Saturday must on Prince Edward Island, giving shoppers the chance to meet and talk with the people raising, growing and making their food, and to discover specialty items they won't find at their local grocer.
P.E.I. boasts two year-round markets on Saturday mornings: Charlottetown Farmers' Market and Summerside Farmer's Market. Another three markets operate seasonally on Saturday mornings: Victoria Farmers' Market, Kensington Farmer's Market and Bloomfield Orchard Farmers Market in O'Leary.
So go ahead, get out there on a Saturday morning to sample the best in island pickles, preserves, produce, meat, eggs, fish, seafood and more.
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Charlottetown Farmers' Market
The Charlottetown Farmers' Market has provided customers with local produce and crafts since 1984. Over 60 stalls reveal stunning island produce, breads, pastries, meat, fish, seafood and one-of-a-kind crafts. You can sample amazing ethnic food, including African, South Asian and Lebanese cuisines available for take away. The market is open Saturdays throughout the year and Wednesdays from July to October.
Summerside Farmer's Market
Located in the historic Holman Centre in downtown Summerside, this market, started in 2008, hosts about 35 vendors supplying a range of meats, vegetables, fruits, baked goods and artisanal crafts to the crowds. Be sure to arrive early for the best selection. The market is open through the year Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
For more information on local and seasonal markets, visit P.E.I. Flavours
P.E.I. Flavours -- The P.E.I. Flavours Culinary Trail is an all-encompassing island-spanning guide and map created to help you explore some of P.E.I.'s most unique and exciting culinary destinations. Whether you want to find the freshest catch of the day, pick your own fresh fruit and vegetables or find a place to eat a great meal, it's all in there for you to discover. Check out their site for details.
Summer and fall are the best times to take part in food-related festivals across Prince Edward Island. In addition to festivals, check out local lobster suppers held in community centres and churches year round to get a true taste of P.E.I. Here is a sample of some of the festivals the province has to offer.
Tignish Irish Moss Festival
Summerside Lobster Carnival
P.E.I. Potato Blossom Festival
Tyne Valley Oyster Festival
Prince Edward Island International Shellfish Festival
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P.E.I. Beers, wines and spirits
Prince Edward Island might be small, but it's home to some big tastes -- including the province's beer, wine and spirits industry. Here are some of the producers to turn to should you find yourself thirsty in P.E.I.
• Gahan house -- Located in Charlottetown, the province's only microbrewery (gahan.ca) produces a handful of small-batch ales, made on-site with the freshest ingredients.
• Matos winery -- This newly opened family-operated winery (matos winery.com) is dedicated to creating extraordinary wines and exploring the potential for wine production in P.E.I. Matos currently offers three wines: an award-winning Gamay-Noir, a rose and a Chardonnay.
• Prince Edward Distillery -- This distillery (princeedwarddistillery.com) produces artisan-crafted premium spirits that celebrate P.E.I.'s rich harvest. Look for Prince Edward Potato Vodka -- Canada's first and only potato vodka -- and Prince Edward Wild Blueberry Vodka.
• Rossignol Estate Winery -- Established in 1994, Rossignol Estate Winery (rossignolwinery.com) was the province's first commercial winery. It offers red and white wines, plus a unique selection of fruit wines.
• The Myriad View Artisan Distillery -- Head to this distillery for modern (legal) moonshine that embodies the spirit of P.E.I.'s independence. Try the signature products, Strait Shine and Strait Lightening, or Strait Whiskey, Strait Vodka, Strait Rum or Strait Gin. They're all made at the distillery, overlooking the Northumberland Strait.
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