A gourmet's delight
Bountiful, flavourful, colourful, ambrosial: Imagine a table mounded with a sumptuous spread including handpicked wild crowberry preserves, fragrant lavender sea salt, chocolate-dipped blueberries, crunchy peanut brittle, a basket of purple-hued garlic, flavourful gourmet mustards, a thick wedge of Prairie-grown saskatoon berry pie, light-amber-coloured blueberry-flower honey, and salad greens drizzled with nutty flavoured flax oil -- and imagine the fond memories you could gather while discovering local foods.
Local food products offer the surprise of new and unexpected crops, along with fun and interesting uses of conventional crops. Have you seen fields of crystal-blue borage flowers in the Prairies, or tasted borage oil; savoured a Canadian-grown pecan nut; or sipped a golden, tangy-sweet ground-cherry liqueur?
Explore food Canada-wide
Have fun exploring locally produced specialty crops and foods. Here's a sampling of what you could do:
See wild bakeapple berries, partridgeberries, crowberries, squashberries and blueberries as you wend your way through a Newfoundland bog; learn about bog ecology; then repair to the workshop of the Dark Tickle Company to see the wild fruit being processed into jams, sauces, vinegars and chocolates. Lavender and the sea air...in Nova Scotia? Discover lavender sea salt, lavender honey, lavender sugar and lavender tea at Beach Lane Lavender Farm, where fields of lavender overlook the scenic Northumberland Strait. The Charlevoix region in Quebec promotes local food businesses with its delicious Flavour Trail, where a day trip can mean savouring chocolate-dipped blueberries; nibbling fresh, squeaky cheese curds while visiting a cheese museum and factory; or stopping at a specialty preserve maker where a sampling counter invites you to taste delectable jams and sauces, as well as treats like grilled nuts dripping in honey.
If Canadian-grown peanuts are a surprise, try visiting Kernal Peanuts, a growing, processing and retail operation in southwestern Ontario where a former tobacco farm now grows peanuts to be roasted, or transformed into candies, peanut butter and fudge. Garlic and shallot enthusiasts can visit Mill Stream Farm, where the specialty is high-quality hard-neck garlic and French shallots, which have a pungency and flavour not to be matched by imported fare. Not all local food businesses are outside of urban areas: Anton Kozlik's mustard, based at Toronto's bustling St. Lawrence Market, has earned a name for quality and selection with over 30 varieties of sweet, spicy and savoury mustards.
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The humble saskatoon berry is transformed into thick wedges of pie, flavourful saskatoon preserves and saskatoon berry fudge at the Berry Barn near Saskatoon, where guests can pick fruit and visit the greenhouse, then dine in the restaurant. Have you ever seen honey being extracted amidst the drone of bees? At Honeyview Farm, peer through a glass wall to see bees busy at work and watch the honey being harvested, then tour the processing facility to see how products such as bee pollen and beeswax soap are made. With a belief in on-farm processing, Highwood Crossing Farm grows wheat, rye, flax, canola, oats, barley and peas, then crafts them into products such as cold-pressed flaxseed and canola oil, organic granola, flaxseed baking mixes, stone-ground flours and cereals -- a start-to-finish operation.
Chart a path
How can you find local specialty food producers? Look at local or provincial websites, the phone book, or local tourist or producer associations such as:
• Economuseum network
• Le bon goÃ»t frais des ÃŽles marketing association
• Durham Farm Fresh
• AgriNat co-op
• Harvest Ontario
• Alberta Farm Fresh
• BC Farm Fresh and Vancouver Island FarmFresh
Where in the world?
Canada is a world leader in these crops, touted for their health benefits -- see if you can find specialty products containing them:
• Canola, with low levels of saturated fats, is a made-in-Canada crop
• Flaxseeds, with healthful omega-3 fatty acids: Canada leads world production
• Wild blueberries, for antioxidants -- Nova Scotia leads Canadian production
• Ginseng has been harvested here since before Canada existed!
Some of the pleasure in specialty local foods can come from the fact that they are the product of people with a heartfelt interest in food, and have been crafted with passion.
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