Monday, October 12, 2009

100 Mile Thanksgiving Feast

This is a year of firsts... my first year having my own Thanksgiving (just me and Alex), my first 100 mile year, and the first time I've ever celebrated Thanksgiving on actual Thanksgiving. My family, for as long as I can remember, has celebrated Thanksgiving on the Sunday. Even though it was just the two of us, I was most excited about Thanksgiving this year. The challenge: to see if I could celebrate entirely 100 mile.
On Saturday morning, as per usual, Alex and I headed to the farmers market. I carefully selected Thanksgiving dinner from vendors whose food was both local and in season. Since I'm not crazy about turkey (it gives me stomach aches), we decided to get a chicke. We picked up a 4 lb fryer from the Guelph Poultry Market. The GPM sells chicken that is free of hormones and antibiotics, as well as being free range. A 4 lb bird set us back a mere $6.80.
To accompany our bird we chose a selection of seasonal vegetables. We got corn on the cob from the little old guy inside the market. He sells local corn which has not been sprayed. I found an heirloom variety of squash at Bowman's booth. It is called a carnival squash and it is yellow and a bluish colour. The Bowmans also sold me some bright yellow patty pans. This was my first time buying them and only my second time eating them. At Greenfields Organics I found some delicious looking carrots and a red cabbage which would add nicely to the mixture. The two pie pumpkins I purchased came from the lady inside who sells free-range eggs. My stuffing was made with local butter, herbs from my own garden, onion, garlic and celery from vendors at the Market and bread that I baked using Grassroot Organics Red Fife flour. I braised my red cabbage with onions and apple (from the family who sells the apples), along with some locally fermented apple cider vinegar, butter, honey (from Mark McAlpine) and a little of Cox Creek Cellars' Peach Symphony.
Although I know that chicken should be served with white wine, not red, Alex and I had finished the white long before dinner. So, with our feast we had a bottle of Cox Creek Cellars Pinot Noir.
For dessert, my favourite... pumpkin pie. The pastry was made with local eggs (from Shannon Lee's new hen!) and Grassroot Organics Red Fife flour. The pie was filled with roasted and pureed pumpkin, fresh from the market.
All in all, the only part of our meal that could not be considered local was the lemon I used on the chicken and the spices used in the pumpkin pie. Would Thanksgiving dinner be complete without pumpkin pie? And would pumpkin pie be complete without nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and allspice? Absolutely not.
Over dinner I told Alex what I was thankful for. I told him that I was thankful that my family has made it through the toughest year of our lives together. I am thankful for my friends, old and new. I am thankful to all the farmers who produced the food that we enjoyed so much. And finally, I am thankful that I have someone wonderful to share my time with and that he puts up with all my antics and idiosynchracies. I really am a lucky girl.
So, all in all, this 100 Mile Thanksgiving feast was a 100% success! Can't wait to do it again next year! Gotta go... pie time!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Backyard Bounty

In my ongoing search for reliable, organic, local produce, I stumbled upon Backyard Bounty. Introduced via Facebook, Shannon Lee Stirling and I began communicating back and forth. Eventually, we met in person one morning at the Guelph Farmers Market and since I was interested in learning more about what they do, I decided to volunteer on a couple of harvest days.

On a wet and muddy Tuesday morning at 7 am, Shannon and Julianna picked me up at Planet Bean. Armed with coffees and zucchini loaf, we made our ways out to the backyards we were to harvest that morning.

The first backyard wasn't actually a backyard, but a front yard which, apparently, had caused quite a stir in the neighbourhood. The neighbourhood's ideas of aesthetics were challenged by the neat rows of peppers and eggplant. Personally, I thought it was beautiful.We continued on to another house where hot peppers grew close to the ground and sunflowers towered over our heads. We spent the last hour in another yard full of delicious greens. What a sight! We filled buckets full of fresh greens, much of which was to be delivered to The Cornerstone. I love hearing that restaurants are supporting local, urban agriculture projects, such as this one. One of the down sides of dining out is not knowing where the food comes from. I can put that worry on the shelf when I sit down to a fresh salad at the Cornerstone now.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and I had to make my way to work. But I promised the girls that I would return for another harvest day. It was a wonderful way to begin my day. Easy, cheerful conversation with like-minded souls, harvesting fresh and delicious produce. I went to work with dirt under my fingernails but a smile on my face.

The Low-Down

Innovative and eco-minded, Backyard Bounty is an extremely unique urban agriculture project, operated by a small team of three, Robert Orland (founder), Scott Williams (Head Farmer) and Shannon Lee Stirling, Project Coordinator. Throughout the season they also relied on the kindness of volunteers, of which there never seem to be enough.
Backyard Bounty converts yards belonging to participating community members into productive mini farms in exchange for fresh produce and free yard work. Apparently interest was high and some yard owners were actually turned down. The ones that were chosen were selected for size, soil type, location, and the amount of sunlight available. All produce was grown from heritage, non-GMO seeds and produced without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. They sell their wares at the Guelph Farmers Market on Saturdays, to CSA members, and participating restaurants, such as The Cornerstone in Guelph. CSA shares cost $400 for 20 weeks, a mere $20 per week, AND the price includes delivery! Considering the price of gas these days, this is a steal. *Prices will be a little higher next year and there will be a delivery charge, with the option to pick it up yourself. Check Backyard Bounty's website for more updates on this and more.
In the spring, Backyard Bounty produces arugula, lettuce, beet greens, radishes, turnips, kohlrabi, kale, broccoli, green onions, corn salad, spinach, snap peas, edible flowers, and herbs. In the summer, produce includes: zucchini, cucumber, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, radish, beets, carrots, swiss chard, basil, eggplant, herbs, cut flowers, snap beans, and peppers. Fall shares include cabbage, kale, broccoli, squash, pumpkin, beans, fennel, beets, leeks, onions, arugula, lettuce, radishes, and more herbs. There's really no better way to ensure that what you are eating is local, clean and in season. It's also a great way to experiment with new vegetables! I only wish that I had discovered them at the beginning of the season.
If you are interested in puchasing your own CSA share, you should visit Backyard Bounty's website for further details:
Also, for those who are interested in learning more about urban agriculture should attend the Urban Agriculture Symposium on Friday, November 20th at the Arboretum. For more details on the symposium, click here: