Summer is the eagerly anticipated reward after being tried by yet another long, unpredictable winter. There is a very literal freedom from paring down clothing layers and enjoying extended periods of time outside. This means the obsession with doing every activity al fresco is in full effect – patios, international food festivals and, now, the ubiquitous local farmers market.
A farmer’s market can simultaneously break up and elevate a monotonous grocery routine. By removing the middleman, you’re able to foster relationships within your community in ways that can’t be done in conventional groceries stores. The emphasis on meticulous craftsmanship within small-volume production is becoming a steadfast purchase requirement for many consumers. The level of vendor transparency leads to trust, giving you back the power to choose whose food you consume.
Combing through the canopied tables you’ll hear the soft chorus of appreciative murmurs from enthusiasts taken with this slice of nirvana before them. By bringing us the best of what’s currently in season, our idea about what we thought we knew about food. Gumball-sized wild strawberries are shockingly flavourful, cauliflower can be purple, and bags of bright, aromatic greens dissolve the notion that salads need to taste like a punishment.
The transition from Summer to Fall is probably the most interesting when it comes to produce availability. Many fruits and vegetables that peak late in the summer also carry over into the Fall, boasting intense flavours and textures suitable for the variety of dishes needed during the fluctuating weather.
It may seem like a cardinal sin to eat ripe corn any other way than straight off the cob. However, when transformed into a corn fritter, it’s hard to deny the subtle, yet game changing taste and texture plump sweetness of fresh kernels provide.
A proper heirloom tomato is worth creating an edible shrine around, and nothing balances and complements its heavy acidic better than a velvety goat cheese. When combined in an heirloom tomato and goat cheese salad, it works well as both a side and main dish.
Like apples, plums vary in levels of tartness and sweetness, ranging in hues from deep purple to red, yellow and even green. The sweet and juicy flesh of the classic purple plum is perfect for eating raw and adding to baked goods. A plum crumble is fantastic either cold or warmed up, especially when accompanied by a scoop of ice cream and/or whipped cream.
Fresh peas are not the questionable canned mushy ones you grew up with. These tiny green flavour bombs deliver more sweetness than you might expect. When cooking with it, save the classic hot, ham hock flavoured split pea soup for winter. A chilled pea and mint soup is nourishing and light, with the mint simultaneously smoothening and accentuating the pea flavour.
Much like turkey and cranberries, lamb has been pigeonholed into only being compatible with mint. The tang we rely on to cut through the rich texture of the meat can be replicated with a fruit possessing a similar effect – raspberry. In the dish seared lamb chops with raspberry marsala sauce, the deeper flavour of the fruit is strong enough to stand up against lamb’s distinct flavour
Forget all the constant reminders that blueberries are some anti-oxidant super food, and instead focus on just how darn tasty they are when in season. Overwhelmingly delicious without being too sweet, they are the perfect addition to a decadent breakfast such as blueberry French toast casserole
Here is just a short list of the many thriving farmers markets around the country:
This year round market has a spacious wood oven as one of its fixtures, featuring goods by Dufferin Grove Bakers. Kind Organics looks and smells like a secret garden, with their variety of salad blends, sprouts, micro-greens, herbs and edible flowers. If you’re lucky, you’ll grab one of the limited bottles of rose maple syrup by Forbes Wild Foods.
One of downtown Toronto’s most popular parks also has a seasonal farmers market. In addition to having a great variety of vendors, such as Feast of Fields’ luscious fruit and Montforte Dairy Co’s goat cheese, Backyard Urban Farm Company helps set you up with the proper tools and equipment needed to create your own small vegetable garden.
This smaller, yet extremely vibrant market perpetuates the holistic experience with diverse ready-made and shelf stable products. Mo’Rockin’ presents a new menu each time, specializing in healthy international and Canadian fusion cuisine. Gaining in popularity like kombucha are artisinal sauerkrauts and kimchis by Pyramid Ferments, who will have you hooked on these underrated condiments. Local wineries and cider producers make monthly guest appearances that are worth planning a trip around, if anything for the one stop shopping.
This is arguably Montreal’s most popular and tourist-driven market. If decadent goods such as cured meats and cheeses are what you desire, you’ve arrived at the mecca. La Fromagerie offers more than 850 Quebec and international cheese varieties, and well-known butcher Boucherie de Tours provides an extensive selection of meats, such as duck and lamb.
One of Montreal’s oldest markets, its broad cultural diversity in its vendors and shopkeepers give it the feeling of a little village. The owners of Epices de Cru are extremely passionate about spices, constantly travelling to meet and learn from other experienced producers. Playful sausage concoctions like pork and Kraft Dinner are just the tip of the iceburg at Ils en Fument Du Bon.
Le Marche du Vieux Port
This annual, enclosed market in Quebec City is more than just a great place to purchase the best food of the season; it’s also a quick romantic tour of the city’s culinary portfolio. You’ll find a dizzying array of decadent nationalistic goods like cheeses, maple products, quiches, tarts and meats. Cochon Tout Rond is very serious about their meat, with all products being completely natural, gluten, nitrite, preservative, nut and dairy free. Atkins & Frere stand out from the crowd with their famous smoked salmon and seafood.
Fredericton Boyce Market
It may surprise you to know that this is one of Canada’s top 10 community markets, with over 250 indoor and outdoor suppliers. Opening at 6am, treat yourself to a breakfast at Huskins Food and people watch while perched on the raised breakfast area. The Nut Hut’s cinnamon roasted almonds make a great satiating snack.
Halifax Seaport Farmers Market
This market is in the middle of a vibrant arts and cultural section of Halifax’s waterfront. Around it you’ll find cruise terminals, event facilities, galleries, cafes and other businesses. Seafoam Lavender Farm is very serious about what they do, demonstrating the full spectrum of its aroma and benefits in their culinary, household and skincare products. If you take a small detour, not too far from Halifax is the Annapolis Valley, well known for their apple orchards and annual apple blossom festival.
St. John’s Farmers Market
A real community staple, St. John’s market includes a variety of events during its seasonal stay, from theatre to hoola hoop classes. Its popularity has also enabled it to expand into a new space, the former bus depot, in 2018. Stock up on delicious soups, packaged to prevent travel spills, from The Blue Box Pantry and check off a few gifts for friends at St. John’s Soap Works.
This year-round East Vancouver market has been established since 1995, which is a testament to the quality and integrity of the vendors and loyalty of the community. The products sold would delight even the most seasoned foodie. Vegan pate from Pastiche uses the combined rich textures of organic seeds and grains as the base for her gourmet flavours, such as golden squash and sage.
Penticton Farmers Market
Perfectly positioned in the Okanagan Valley, rich in both their wine and food culture, this large-scale market is a star example of successful sustainable agriculture. The produce available has been reported as the cream of the crop. The signature galettes from Joy Road Catering are filled with the best in-season fruits like cherry and pear Shop around with a cup of coffee from Backyard Beans, complete with your own mug that you can recycle in any of the multiple designated bins.