Posts tagged ‘local food in Calgary’
Life has been especially full over the past few weeks. My interesting but very busy job has been taking up more time than usual, and we’ve also been spending lots of weekend time enjoying local festivals. All this means less time at home. I’m sure it also makes your blog readers feel like you’ve dropped off the face of the planet (sorry!). Things are starting to equalize back to a more normal pace now, I think. At the very least a period of calm has settled in for the long weekend.
I’ve been harvesting the English peas growing along the side of our deck all during these past few weeks. Nothing says summer like the taste of garden fresh peas. What we have planted is equivalent to two or three rows in a standard vegetable garden. It yields a small bowl of peas to munch on as a snack everyday. The daily harvest has meant a few quiet minutes in the garden, even on the busiest days, plucking fresh peas from their vines in the evening when the day has cooled off. It’s been wonderful to sit for a few minutes on the deck and enjoy eating them while I water the tomatoes and the dog crunches on the empty pea pods. The tomatoes on our deck are growing in giant terracotta pots, which dry out quickly and demand near-daily watering. I’ve been nurturing those tomatoes since I planted them as seeds in late March, so I made time for that chore – there’s no way I’m going to let them dry up when we’re on the brink of enjoying a delicious tomato crop.
10 or 15 minutes spent in garden tending the plants and enjoying a couple of handfuls of freshly picked vegetables doesn’t seem like much, but it’s made a world of difference – my vegetable patch is the perfect antidote to frenzied days that are otherwise racing by way too quickly.
Highwood Crossing produces some great organic local stuff that Calgarians need to get behind. We’ve switched over to their cold-pressed organic canola oil as an alternative to extra virgin olive oil. Olive oil, as you can imagine, is not a product native to Canada, and it usually ships in from a long, long way away. Why generate such a big carbon footprint when there’s a better quality local product available. Highwood’s canola oil tastes a million times better than the standard extra virgin olive oil you’d find at the grocery store and it’s not that much more – about $14 for a large bottle. It’s getting trendy and rightly so – I’ve seen it used in several high end local restaurants in salads, on grilled asparagus and similar things. Good choice!
Also at Highwood Crossing is the tastiest granola I’ve ever purchased. It tastes like homemade. What more do you need?
Over the past year we’ve made a conscious choice to shift our purchasing patterns and lifestyle choices to align with the very intelligent movement around food that is unprocessed, ethical, local, organic and seasonal. In other words, real food. It’s sad and crazy that our North American culture has leaned so far in the wrong direction when it comes to industrial, unsustainable food production practices, not to mention the fact that we as consumers continue to put these products into our bodies and then wonder why health care costs, cancer rates, obesity, fatigue, stress and many other diseases and symptoms plague our society.
The main thing we changed was to drastically reduce our use of traditional grocery stores like Safeway, Sobeys, Superstore etc. Our routine now includes a weekly trip to the Calgary Farmer’s Market, a weekly order from Spud and occasional visits to Planet Organic for staples we can’t find at those other locations. Sunnyside Market is also conveniently located for picking up last minute items and fresh produce. We still make a trip to Safeway once in a while, but it’s less than once a month and it’s starting to seem more and more unnecessary. We’re also growing some of our own food. We have a tiny yard, so it’s not much, but every handful of fresh herbs and plate of salad that we harvest from the deck brings huge satisfaction – it tastes amazing and reinforces what we’re trying to do.
Slowly but surely we’re filling our cupboards and fridge with local foods instead of products that are shipped from thousands of miles away. I’m sure we’ve never been healthier. We’re eating better and we’re cooking better, inspired by more interesting ingredients. I’m thrilled to part with an extra dollar or two knowing that more of my money is going into the local economy and into the hands of a producer who actually cares about the quality of the food we’re eating and is also investing their time, money and effort into creating a more sustainable food system.
I’m still learning about strawberries. I purchased a small package of them last year for a hanging basket. I’d read somewhere that you should pinch back the flowers of strawberry plants during their first year, so I did this and only harvested a handful of berries. In the fall, I planted the strawberries in a small patch of dirt along the sunny, west facing spot along fence; small shoots also went in a couple of spots in our front yard. I mulched the strawberry plants heavily for the winter, and when spring came one of the first signs of life was these three bits of strawberry. The largest clump along the fence is flourishing and now has numerous flowers that I hope will turn into delicious berries. The two tiny shoots are both in shadier spots, but they’re coming along nicely. I was so encouraged by their early, healthy start that I purchased more strawberry plants this spring. Two were planted in a sunny spot under the large cherry tree in our backyard, but they’ve unfortunately already met their demise at the hands of the hungry (and destructive!) squirrels that live in our backyard. I also have a cute little strawberry pot stuffed with plants on our toasty warm south-facing backyard deck. I can’t bring myself to pinch off the flowers on any of the new ones, even after seeing how healthy last year’s plants look after having done so. I will do some more research on this question of pinching back the flowers of new plants in the first year. For now, I’m too keen on living in the moment and enjoying some fresh berries this year to do the deed!
The plants in our yard will probably only yield a few small handfuls of berries. There are a number of U-Pick berry and vegetable farms in the Calgary area and I’m interested in making a trip out to harvest some strawberries for snacking, baking, salads and maybe jam if I’m feeling really ambitious. During our last trip to Victoria I experienced the most amazing strawberry-rhubarb jam with my toast when we had breakfast at the Blue Fox Cafe – still can’t get it out of my head and I’m keen to try to make my own.