Getting back to our roots
by Marion Van Driel
British Columbians are the healthiest residents in Canada, and rank third in the world. So it seems natural that farmer’s markets abound throughout the province. And summer is the time to visit them, to gather up fresh, fabulous fruits, vegetables and meats for simple meals or gourmet feasts.
A few generations ago, going to grandma’s house in the summer was synonymous with new nugget potatoes, sweet minted peas, and butter lettuce salad, all from her garden, and served with a farm fresh roasted chicken and her canned apple sauce – nicely followed up with home made strawberry pie and ice cream for dessert. In the winter, her pantry was filled with the likes of canned green beans and peaches, all sorts of jams, and a plethora of vegetables and meats in the freezer. But today, with many grandmas working outside the home, caring for grandkids or volunteering, there isn’t the space or time for a substantial garden. While there’s nothing like gathering produce from your own garden, the next best thing is stopping by a farmer’s market.
Health and Environmental Benefits
Shopping at a farmer’s market, health-conscious consumers can know where their food is grown, how it’s grown, and how fresh it is. Buying from local producers also cuts down on the carbon footprint, and supports sustainable agricultural practices.
But the market’s bounty isn’t just for fresh eating. Preserving fruits and vegetables is making a strong comeback in a newer generation. Magazines and on-line articles abound with recipes for everything from bacon onion jam (so delicious – I’ve made it!) and hot pickled green beans to canned apple pie filling. And for those really serious about eating fresh, a root cellar project can keep produce viable all through the winter.
Farm to Table Fare
Chef and co-owner of The Farmer’s Apprentice restaurant in Vancouver, Dave Gunawan changes his menus daily, based on the best seasonally available produce. Gunanwan contends that the taste of food varies according to the grower’s practices, location, weather and the soil science behind it all. The composition of minerals varies from one area to another, resulting in different flavour subtleties – akin to those in terroir wines.
Gunawan’s philosophy is to prepare and present the food with the respect it deserves, in a way that enhances the natural flavour produced by the season and growing conditions. “It’s no longer a technique, it’s what we can learn from the farmers,” he says, adding that this is how the restaurant’s name came about. The Farmer’s Apprentice has a collaborative, inquisitive relationship with about 15 farms, providing the chefs with valuable knowledge. The care that the farmer takes and the integrity of the farming practices becomes clear through the food quality, according to Gunawan.
In the mid 1950’s, 45 to 50 per cent of the population was directly or indirectly involved in the agricultural industry. Today, this has dropped to only 1.5 per cent of the population – creating a considerable disconnect for younger generations, often unaware of their food sources. With fewer people involved in agriculture the recent increase in the number of farmer’s markets is timely as we become increasingly conscious of what we eat, and how it affects our health.
Compelling Reasons for Farmer’s Markets
• Supporting local community
• Your dollar goes more directly to the producer
• Food is fresher and generally farmed with integrity and care
• Learn more about food sources and preservation
• Sustains local farming
• Easier and more enjoyable to eat healthy