Cross Canada Cooks: Saskatchewan
Looking out over the fields on John Bennett�??s farm. Read about John on page 3 of this article. <br />Photo by Adell Shneer Credits: Looking out over the fields on John Bennett�??s farm. Read about John on page 3 of this article. <br />Photo by Adell Shneer
Cross Canada Cooks: Saskatchewan
Area: Land and freshwater area total 651,036 square kilometres; Canada’s seventh largest province
Location: Nestled in the centre of the Canadian Prairies, bordered on the west by Alberta, on the east by Manitoba and on the north by the Northwest Territories and Nunavut
Capital City: Regina
Largest City: Saskatoon
History: Became a province of Canada on Sept. 1, 1905. The name comes from the Plains Indian word kisiskatchewan, meaning “the river that flows swiftly,” after the Saskatchewan River, which runs through the province.
Main Industries: Agriculture, mining, manufacturing and tourism
-Amy Jo Ehman
Saskatchewan's top crops
Agriculture remains the single largest industry in Saskatchewan. Grains, pulses and seeds have the largest yields in the country – and, in some cases, the world. Here’s a look at Saskatchewan’s top crops.
WHEAT: Saskatchewan is the largest producer of wheat in Canada. It’s also one of the largest in the world, supplying 10 per cent of the world’s total exported wheat. In 2010, Saskatchewan produced more than 9.5 million tonnes of wheat, including winter, spring and durum wheat.
RYE: Although fewer Saskatchewan farmers grow rye than other grains, the province remains the top producer of rye in the country. It produced about 90,000 tonnes in 2010.
MUSTARD: Saskatchewan is the world’s largest mustard seed exporter, supplying yellow mustard seed, brown mustard seed and Oriental mustard seed. In 2010, Saskatchewan produced 134,300 tonnes of mustard seed for the demanding world market.
CANOLA: Canola is the second largest crop grown in the province, which is particularly interesting considering the plants didn’t even exist 30 years ago. Saskatchewan produced more than 5 million tonnes of canola seed in 2010.
PULSES: This category includes a variety of peas and beans, which grow successfully throughout the province. Peas, chickpeas, lentils, beans and fava beans are all Saskatchewan-grown pulses. In 2010, farmers produced more than 3.8 million tonnes of pulses, of which peas were the majority (more than 1.8 million tonnes).
FLAX: Saskatchewan grows about 70 per cent of Canada’s flaxseed and about 25 per cent of the world’s. In 2010, the province produced more than 300,000 tonnes of flaxseed.
Saskatchewan farmer’s markets
There are plenty of farmer’s markets dotted across Saskatchewan. A long history of agriculture and food culture means these markets are home to every ingredient that’s grown, picked or foraged under the Prairie skies.
Saskatoon has the province’s largest – and only year-round – market. Highlights include luscious cherry ice cream, Saskatoon berry pie, fruit wines and hard apple cider. Make sure you check out the Garlic Guru, which sells everything from garlic appetizers to garlic sweets.
Regina’s seasonal market is lovely, too. It starts indoors in spring, moves outdoors in the summer and stays open till harvesttime in early fall. Smaller towns and cities support many rural-style markets. For maps and helpful links, visit saskfarmersmarket.com.
-Amy Jo Ehman
Page 1 of 3: Discover the not-to-be-missed Saskatchewan food scene and daytrip ideas on page 2 >>
Saskatchewan's foodie scene and food trails
Writer and cookbook author Amy Jo Ehman of Saskatoon, author of Prairie Feast: A Writer’s Journey Home for Dinner (Coteau, 2010) shared some of her favourite food trails across Saskatchewan. Time to hit the road!
Regina and area
• Near Regina, head north to the Qu’Appelle Valley and stop at Lumsden and visit Prairie Cherry Corner, the retail outlet and café at Over the Hill Orchards, which specializes in delicious organic cherries. By appointment, you can tour the cherry orchard near town. The small tart cherries grown there were developed by scientists at the University of Saskatchewan to survive harsh winters, and are perfect for pies, ice cream, chocolates and sauces.
• From Lumsden, head farther up the Qu’Appelle Valley toward Craven. There are several market gardens along the way. One of the nicest is Lincoln Garden and its Corn Maiden Market.
• Head west along the Trans-Canada Highway to Moose Jaw. Stop at Yesteryear’s Ukrainian Borscht for an old country–style bowl of homemade beet soup. (Samples are free!)
Saskatoon and area
• In Saskatoon proper, check out the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market and browse the displays of local fresh fruits, veggies and other treats. Later, head over to Christie’s Mayfair Bakery for delightful artisanal baked goods made using locally grown grains, such as spelt and kamut. Try their European-style breads, including baguettes and ciabatta. Leave room for the bakery’s iconic confection: the chocolate bowtie, a bowtie-shaped pain au chocolat.
• Hit Highway 7 heading southwest and stop in Harris at Crystal Beach Orchards U-Pick for fresh Saskatoon berries, chokecherries, raspberries, dwarf cherries and blue honeysuckle berries. The orchard store sells jams, jellies, syrups, beverages, baked goods and ice cream, all made with Prairie fruit. Take the self-guided tour through the orchard and neighbouring wildlife preserve.
• Get on Highway 14, heading due west of Saskatoon and visit the Living Sky Winery. They produce fruit wines made from cherries, rhubarb and strawberries. Their newest addition is freshly pressed apple cider. The winery opened in August 2010, and several restaurants now list their wines.
• North of Saskatoon via Highway 12, stop off at the Petrofka Bridge Orchard. Besides fresh fruit, the store offers dried apples, soft apple ciders and apple cider vinegar.
• Hit Highway 11 and head northeast of Saskatoon to Osler. Stop at Pine View Farms’ butcher shop. If you have time, take the self-guided tour of the farm and vegetable gardens.
• A bit north of Osler, in Rosthern, is the Station Arts Tea Room. This little café, housed in a restored train station, serves mostly regional foods, including produce from the owner’s prolific town garden. It has a new arts centre attached that hosts local theatre productions, including dinner theatre.
• Just east of Rosthern on Township Road 312, check out Seager Wheeler National Historic Site, a restored farm dedicated to farmer Seager Wheeler, who was known for his fruit orchards and his early award-winning work on wheat varieties. There’s a weekly Sunday buffet and other food-related events over the summer.
Maple Creek and area
• Head south of Maple Creek on Highway 34 to Ravenscrag for a visit to the Spring Valley Ranch and Creamery. Rare-breed dairy cows produce the milk for many delicious artisanal cheeses, including Chapel Cheddar, Grassland Gouda, Coulee Caerphilly and more.
• Drive southwest of Maple Creek on Highway 27 to Cypress Hills Vineyard and Winery. Fruit wines and grape wines (yes, they’re growing grapes!) are on offer, and there’s a bistro where you can grab some lunch.
• In Maple Creek, go to the Maple Creek Farmers’ Market. It runs on Friday mornings from May to October.
• Between Maple Creek and Regina on the Trans-Canada Highway at Swift Current, stop at Gramma Bep’s Guest House. Gramma Bep (originally from Holland) sells her pies, jams and jellies made with local fruit.
• Near Swift Current at Herbert, you can dig in to faspa, a light meal traditionally served in Mennonite homes on Sundays when guests drop by unexpectedly. It’s available daily from June to September at the CPR Train Station Museum.
Saskatchewan day trip itineraries
Two days - roundtrip from Regina to Maple Creek
1. Moose Jaw: Yesteryear’s Ukrainian Borscht
2. Mortlach: Hollyhock Market, Saskatoon Berry Festival
3. Herbert: Faspa
4. Swift Current: Gramma Bep’s
5. Maple Creek: Cypress Hills Vineyard and Winery, Spring Valley Ranch and Creamery, Maple Creek Farmers’ Market
6. Overnight near Maple Creek at the Reesor Ranch, a working cattle ranch known for its camp coffee and home-cooked meals. Or head to the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park for camping or resort accommodation.
7. Back to Regina
Daytrip, circle route north of Saskatoon
1. Petrofka Bridge Orchard
2. Rosthern Station Arts Tea Room
3. Seager Wheeler National Historic Site
4. Pine View Farm
5. Back to Saskatoon
Daytrip, south of Saskatoon on Valley Road
1. Robertson Valley Farm
2. Berry Barn
3. Strawberry Ranch
4. Rhode’s Raspberries
Page 2 of 3: Get an inside look at Saskatchewan's great food festivals and read a touching profile of farmer John Bennett on page 3 >>
Saskatchewan's great food festivals
We caught up with writer/cookbook author Amy Jo Ehman of Saskatoon, author of Prairie Feast: A Writer’s Journey Home for Dinner (Coteau, 2010), and asked her to fill us in on where locals go to celebrate food. Below are her picks of the best festivals across the province.
Saskatoon Berry Festival – Mortlach
This festival pays tribute to the province’s most famous berry. In Mortlach, peek into the Hollyhock Market, a cute organic grocery store with a big garden, and chickens and goats roaming around out back. In nearby Moose Jaw, drop in at Yesteryear’s Ukrainian Borscht Corp. for an old oountry–style bowl of homemade beet soup. (Samples are free!)
Bruno Cherry Festival – Bruno
Check out this small town’s delicious local cherries, which are tart and perfect for pies. Something of a regional secret, the trees are bred to stand up to tough Prairie winters. While you’re in Bruno, visit Pulvermacher Bros. Fine Foods, where the Pulvermacher men have been making excellent European-style sausages for more than 100 years.
St. Walberg Wild Blueberry Festival – St. Walberg
The oldest food festival in Saskatchewan, this huge gathering features a street craft fair and local wild blueberries from the forests north of St. Walberg.
Great Canadian Mustard Festival – Regina
Started a few years ago by concept chef Moe Mathieu at his restaurant, The Willow on Wascana, this festival pits chef against chef to create the best, most unusual foods made with mustard – even dessert! When you’re in the city, try to squeeze in a visit to the Orange Boot Bakery (orangeboot.ca) and Clear Creek Organics (clearcreekorganics.ca), a farmer-owned organic butcher shop, for some more culinary delights.
5. Saskatoon Folk Festival – Saskatoon
For over 30 years, this festival has been serving up about 25 pavilions’ worth of food, entertainment and cultural displays representing Saskatchewan’s multicultural heritage. There’s even free transportation on Folkfest buses.
Snapshot: Living Sky Winery
While it’s more common to associate the vast Prairie lands of Saskatchewan with cattle and grains than with fine wines, a set of determined folks in Perdue are hoping to change that.
Living Sky Winery produces a handful of fruit wines and one cider from fruit grown in the winery’s sustainable orchards. Table wine varieties include currant, rhubarb, apple and raspberry. The winery also makes framboise, a traditional raspberry dessert wine.
Our favourite for fall is Living Sky’s 3 Day Dog Cider, a refreshing sparkling cider made in small artisanal batches from organic apples. The name comes from the old refrain that Saskatchewan is so flat that when a dog runs away, you can see him going for three days.
At the moment, these wines are only available within the province, but with growing interest in all things sustainable, organic and local, who knows what the future holds for this fascinating fruit winery?
Saskatchewan grower profile: John Bennett
John and Shirley Bennett have farmed in Biggar, Sask., for more than 30 years. Their 650-hectare spread is home to a variety of pulses, oilseeds and cereal grains, but lentils are undoubtedly their star crop.
A commitment to soil sustainability is priority No. 1 on the Bennett farm. John practises no-till farming, an eco-friendly method of cultivation that forgoes traditional tilling, or mechanical turning over, of soil with large equipment. With a sparkle in his eye, John, a former schoolteacher, explains his methods in thoughtful detail. Soil that’s not tilled clumps better, preventing harsh winds and sporadic, heavy rains from washing it away. “Preventing soil erosion is key,” he says.
John’s tireless enthusiasm for this farming method has landed him a seat on the board of directors of the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, a post as president of the Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association (SSCA) and a SSCA No-Till Farmer of the Year Award in 1993.
Lentil plants yield a huge amount of nutrition in a small package. Each tiny pod holds only two seeds, but those small lens-shaped seeds are packed with fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals. Pulse crops, including lentils, have an added benefit to the land: they return nitrogen and protein to the soil they’re grown in, nourishing the next season’s crop and shielding plants from disease.
Ninety-seven per cent of the pulses grown in Saskatchewan are exported to countries where they are a dietary mainstay. But some of the remaining three per cent go to delicious use on the Bennett farm. Shirley turns them into everything from breadsticks to brownies. Not bad for a humble pulse!
Check out two Canadian Living Saskatchewan-inspired food menus:
Saskatchewan harvest menu - This bountiful menu is inspired by the rich agricultural offerings of Saskatchewan: lentil salad, fried pickerel, and a comforting cherry buckle for dessert.
Northern Saskatchewan fish & chips dinner - Freshly caught fish and laid-back cooking from Saskatchewan's Hatchett Lake Lodge inspire this fish & chips menu for 8.
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