It’s farmers’ market season! Just last Tuesday, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Ted McMeekin opened a celebratory farmers’ market on the beautiful grounds of Queen’s Park in Toronto. It was like the kick-off, the firing pistol, the waving of the flag that starts a glorious, new season of farmers’ markets opening across the province with the harvesting of the best food grown and raised in Ontario.
Following the Minister’s greetings, hundreds of attendees roamed the market sampling foods from farmers and some of Ontario’s most delicious commodity groups. First stall at the market was Farmers’ Markets Ontario. They had dozens and dozens of clear cups showing off the juicy, sweet strawberries. It was like a sea of red and people ate them up faster then they could keep them on the table. The Organic Council of Ontario had prepared a giant salad of organic chicken coleslaw that they were scooping out along with samples of yummy hunks of organic beef.
Ok, so you had to travel backwards to eat the salad first and finish off with strawberries, but no one seemed to mind the order of food at this market. The Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association offered tastes of fresh asparagus spears cooked with parmesan cheese. Next to those samples were tiny cups of dried cherries – lunch and dessert together!
The beef council went all out with large portions of steak gazpacho salads that people picked up and walked across to the Greenhouse Growers Association booth for cups of delicious, sliced tomatoes and hunks of cucumbers that they used as salad garnish.
The sun was shining, the weather was warm and everyone was in the mood for locally grown Ontario food. In fact, everything points to a glorious summer and an even better growing season this year. To date, we’ve had fresh fiddleheads, rhubarb, asparagus and strawberries to fill the tables of the markets that are once again open for another growing season.
I made my way through the market and enjoyed pulled pork from the Ontario Pork booth and then a larger than I should have had scoop of Kawartha Dairy ice cream. The flavour was Birthday Cake in honour of the Dairy Farmers of Ontario 75th year in operation. Then at the Independent Meat Producers booth they were sampling Gold and Silver medal winning wieners! Now this time I was in a good position, a delicious wiener in one hand and a sample of fresh mushrooms with spinach dip in another from Mushrooms Canada.
It was difficult to decide which was my favourite Ontario food, but I did ponder this as I munched on Reif raisins and sipped on a glass of fresh apple cider.
It’s not only the farmers’ markets that are opening right now, but on-farm markets as well. They’re great places to buy fresh food as well as jam, jelly and preserves. Today, more and more on-farm markets are opening bakeries and baking up seasonal pies and tarts. Visit one this weekend and you’re sure to find strawberry pies.
It’s the season to get out and buy from farmers’ markets and on-farm markets where ever you are in Ontario and take these quick and easy recipes with you to get the most of the season. Click here for all the pictures.