Monday, November 30, 2009

May 2008: “Pelham Farmers’ Market”

The Pelham Farmers’ Market has resumed its weekly Thursday schedule for the season, so this might be a good time to reflect on the importance of buying locally produced foods. The Slow Food movement is quite separate from the well-known “Hundred Mile Diet” but is very much aligned with its aims. According to World Watch, the ingredients for typical North American meal travel between 2500 and 4000 km.! Think of all the gasoline that journey uses. Think of all the freshness lost along the way. Think of all the packaging and preservatives necessary for the food to make the trip.

Furthermore, the quality of foods that arrive from far-away food factories is appalling. Strawberries the size of golf balls and basketball sized melons that appear in February have the texture of a snowball… and about as much taste.

Yes, we live in a cold climate, and it’s not possible for anyone but a fanatic (see The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating , by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon) to realistically stick to such a diet. But doesn’t it make you crazy to go into a Niagara supermarket in August and see cherries imported from Michigan or apples from Oregon? By all means buy coffee and sugar and oranges (would it hurt to have local apple juice for breakfast?) and pepper and olive oil, but instead of buying salad greens from California in a plastic tub, go to the Pelham Market on Thursday and buy healthy, fresh, organic, local greens. And when you see imported produce at the supermarket during the season when local produce is available but nowhere to be seen, mention it to the produce manager. Retailers respond to their customers, and if the demand for local produce is there, they’ll offer it.

It is possible to enjoy local produce all year long if you’re willing to freeze or preserve it. Most fruit can be stored in the freezer for up to six months, and used as fruit topping on desserts or pancakes, in smoothies, or as part of many recipes. Many vegetables can be blanched and frozen, then used just as if fresh, and vegetable-based sauces all freeze well. Roma or paste tomatoes can be simply washed and frozen whole. To use them in a recipe, run the frozen tomato under hot water for a second, slip the skin off, and use them just as you would canned tomatoes.

If doing it yourself isn’t your style, you don’t have to travel far to buy locally grown fruit and vegetables all year. Frozen fruit from local farms is available at Cherry Country Connections on Tice Rd., at Cherry Hill Orchards on Highway 20, and at Cherry Lane Frozen Foods in Vineland. Niagara Presents on Mountainview Rd. in Beamsville sells preserves, jams, pickles, and sauces made from local vegetables and fruit.

We really don’t have to work very hard to support local agriculture in this region. All it takes is consciously making the decision that we want to eat locally produced food for all the benefits, both nutritional and environmental, that it provides. The Slow Food movement embraces the notion that, by becoming informed about how our food is produced and actively supporting those who produce it, we become part of and a partner in the production process. By shopping at the Pelham Market (or any of the other farmers’ markets in our region) we are both supporting local producers and engaging with them in the process of improving the quality of the food we eat.

For more information about the Slow Food movement, look at and to learn about the Pelham Convivium, write to Renée Girard at

Anna and Michael Olsen, Canada’s most famous food couple, are frequent shoppers at the Pelham Farmers’ Market. Anna filmed a segment of one of her shows for the Food Network at the market last year. In their best-selling cookbook, Anna and Michael Olsen Cook at Home, they offer this recipe for Maple Vinaigrette, a perfect accompaniment to the delicious early greens that you’ll find at the market during May.
25 ml white wine vinegar
1 ml dried mustard powder
25 ml pure maple syrup
90 ml extra virgin olive oil
2 ml coarse salt
1 ml ground black pepper
25 ml chopped fresh chives
Whisk the vinegar, mustard powder, and maple syrup until evenly blended. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking. Stir in the salt, pepper, and chives. Serve with slices of bread from one of Pelham’s local bakeries to mop up the vinaigrette.

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