Frost-sweetened carrots, winter spinach, homemade sauerkraut, yummy maple syrup and pure virgin sunflower oil … these are just a taste of the many locally produced items available at the indoor Organic Farmers Market open Thursdays from 2 to 7 p.m. all winter long in the lobby at the TBG.
Who knew you could buy freshly grown local beets, carrots, radishes, parsnips, spinach and watermelon turnips at this time of year? Nicola Inglefield told me that Whole Circle Farm in Acton, Ont. grows vegetables in an unheated greenhouse, providing winter abundance no matter what the weather.
Customers Have Become Friends
“Everything here, we either make or grow ourselves,” Chris Jurjans from Trillium Organic Farm, told me. That includes chickens, eggs and certified organic produce. Chris comes in weekly from Long Point, Ont. to sell her vegetables including pumpkins, squash and kale, but her most popular products at this time of year are her canned sauerkraut, beets, jam, ketchup and maple syrup. A regular since the market began at the TBG, Chris said that many of her loyal customers have also become friends.
Wonderful Maple Trees
Brian Hamilton, who began bringing Marigold’s Maple Syrup to the market last fall, offered me a sample of this delicious Canadian libation and explained the difference between light and dark (or amber) maple syrup. The lighter coloured liquid is tapped first and the dark, which contains more minerals and vitamins, later in the season.
“The light syrup became popular in war time when sugar was rationed,” he said, and people wanted something sweet as soon as possible each season. “Today, people also want the healthiest.” But both light and dark remain popular.
Brian also carries maple butter, which has been heated and whipped as it cools. He explained that what affects the maple syrup crop most each spring is not the cold or snow so much as high winds which can break branches and cause other tree problems.
Brian brings his 100 per cent pure maple syrup down from Mount St. Louis, north of Barrie, where he taps about 3,000 trees a year and has nothing but praise for Canada’s maple trees which offered what was likely the first crop to homesteaders in the new world.
“We have wonderful trees in Canada,” he said. “Our maple trees can be used to build homes and furniture. Their wood can be burned for heat and they produce wonderful syrup to eat.”
Healthy Local Alternative
Looking for local natural oil for salads, vegetable dishes and baking? Try sunflower oil. Roman Plawiuk from Huron Sun Pure Virgin Sunflower Oil says his oil, which he squeezes and cold presses in small batches in Barrie, is a “healthy local alternative to olive oil.” Made from natural non-GMO high-oleic sunflower seeds, this oil contains high levels of good cholesterol lowering mono-unsaturated fats. “It has the delicious light taste of sunflower seeds and is superb in salads and root vegetable dishes,” says Roman.
Prize Winning Cheese
And, if you like cheese, don’t miss Carpe Diem Artisan Cheese. Produced on the family run Harmony Tree Farm near Uxbridge, Ont., this cheese is made from sheep’s milk from the farm’s own sheep herd. Chelsea Belli told me that her family’s cheese took both first (for Durham Blue) and second (for John Rowland) place ribbons at the Royal Winter Agricultural Fair.