Raspberry picking at Proulx Farm

In mid-July, we went raspberry picking at Proulx Berry Farm in Orleans. We are more accustomed to the busy seasons of strawberry and pumpkin picking, and were pleasantly surprised to find that there were just a few other groups of pickers for raspberries. Proulx is great as a U-Pick location. You pay a small admission fee per person but that cost is deducted from your berry price at the end (keep your entrance receipt!). Their pricing for both strawberries and raspberries seemed fantastic (compared to buying berries at the farmers’ markets). You take a short wagon ride (attached to a tractor – selling point for young kids) to and from the bushes. Raspberries are a bit easier to pick than strawberries as they grow on bushes (not along the ground). We went a few weeks into the season but there were lots of ripe berries to pick.

Raspberries

After we had finished picking, we enjoyed a pre-packed allergy-friendly lunch on a grassy area. Our toddler played on their play structure and with their numerous toy trucks in the sand ‘pit’ (really more like a huge pile of sand). We also visited their animals and looked at more tractors.

Animals Little chicks! Hello! Sitting Pigs Hanging out

Roots and Shoots CSA share – 2nd week of August

Share

Summer is really ticking along! This is the first share where we’ve gotten a hot banana pepper. I don’t recall ever having one in any of our shares over the past years. We got some eggplant, tomatoes, peppers and beans – the staples of summer.

A garlic harvest of our own

Last weekend, we celebrated our very first garlic harvest! After eating the little scapes from our garlic last month, we were excited to see what the bulbs looked like beneath the soil. I think we harvested them a little bit later than we maybe should’ve (1 week earlier would’ve been good) but sure enough, we found fully formed bulbs! They were rather small but I’d still say we were fairly successful for a first ever garlic planting. These were from cloves that we picked up at last year’s Carp Garlic Festival. We’ll be going back to the festival this year to buy a few more bulbs for eating and for planting.

Fresh out of the soil Ready to be hung

In other news, our tomatoes are still green but there are a good number of them growing larger by the day. We also have a healthy number of flowers that will become tomatoes very soon (fingers crossed!). The peas are doing fabulously but like last year, the plant is large and unruly. I really need to work on how to grow a nicely contained pea plant. Our purple beans are beautiful as ever and the plant looks like it is doing well. The chard and kale are producing good yields, and unlike last year with a mold issue, this year’s cucumbers are looking great! We’ve got a lot of flowers and a few cucumbers already growing.

Ripen, babies, ripen Future tomatos Part of the haul Peas IMG_4481

I love seeing our vegetables doing well. It is so satisfying! But I also cannot believe that it is August!?

Roots and Shoots CSA Share – 4th week of July

So fennel…really not a fan. There is just something about the smell and the flavour that I absolutely dislike (black licorice…). Otherwise, we had another healthy helping of zucchini (which I blanched, chopped and froze) and cucumbers, a lovely bunch of beets, onions, beans, carrots, kale and chard.

CSA share 4th week of July

New this week: some cute and crisp green peppers and a bulb of garlic! Can’t wait to get more peppers!

Nothing says summer like….

Nothing says summer like...

We took our toddler strawberry picking for the first time at the end of June. For the first time that I’ve gone, it wasn’t hot, humid and sticky but rather pleasant. Sunny blue skies with no humidity! Definitely a welcome change as there is absolutely zero shade in a strawberry patch. Makes me appreciate commercial strawberry pickers even more.

Of course, preceding this trip to the strawberry patch was the introduction of strawberries to our toddler to make sure he wasn’t allergic to them. I had wanted to wait to test strawberries until we could give him fresh ones (not ones that had been trucked hundreds of kilometres) so the timing is limited. I missed last June/July so this year it was! And he was fine – phew.

I’m guessing like most of the other kids, he stood in the patch eating berry after berry while we tried to pick as many to take home as we could. Then came the mass processing – washing, cutting the greens off and freezing. I also tried canning a no pectin strawberry jam, which turned out marvellously. Got to use our candy thermometer for the first time! I’ve learned that greener strawberries naturally contain more pectin so next year, note to self, I need to bring home a few part-green ones for jamming.

Next up: raspberry picking. We had wanted to go blueberry picking but the farms closest to us seem to have all lost their crop during our tough winter!

Roots and Shoots CSA share – mid July

The first year we joined our vegetable CSA (community shared agriculture), I took photos of our shares each week. I decided that it would be fun to start with the photos again this year. We are still with the same fabulous Roots and Shoots Farm (see some photos from the farm tour several years ago) and are getting a full share this year, as we cook just that much more from scratch nowadays.

Do you know what each of the vegetables are?
Do you know what each of the vegetables are?

Our shares actually started a few weeks ago. Radishes, hakurei turnips and onions have been the staple vegetables for all of the shares. We’ve had scapes for two weeks, zucchini and cucumber for two weeks, last week was the first showing of broccoli and this week, we have carrots and beans! I’m fairly certain tomatos are just around the corner, which is exciting…but it also reminds me that summer is passing so quickly!

Lately, we’ve been making a lot of green soups. Using our homemade stocks, we add beet greens or radish greens and puree with our Vitamix (new addition to our household this Spring – loving it!). Our toddler absolutely loves these soups and we’re happy because he’s getting greens and fiber. Occasionally if we’re inundated with lettuce or chard, we’ll throw those into soups too.

Cucumbers, when not added to salads, are turned into quick Japanese pickles (I just use rice vinegar, sugar and salt). These are so refreshing on a hot summer day! I tried this recipe with radishes but found that they were a bit spicy; the pickles tasted like wasabi. However, the recipe with hakurei turnips is reminiscent of pickled daikon, which I love!

I love seeing that some of our friends, near and far, are getting onboard with CSAs in their area. They typically start with vegetable CSAs but I like to remind them that there are beef, chicken and pork CSAs too!

No tip restos

Earlier this month, a restaurant that will be opening in British Columbia gained a lot of media attention by having no tips, offset by increased menu prices and wages for the staff. Servers and cooks will receive more comparable wages instead of the former getting much more due to tips, and for those restaurants who practice tip-pooling, the amount of money each staff member will make becomes much more transparent.

I remember my time living in Japan and how easy it was to become accustomed to not leaving a tip at a restaurant. The general expectation is courteous service and that is how you keep bringing customers into your restaurant, instead of what, to me, feels like an obligation here to leave at least a 10% tip, even for less than courteous service.

A tip is like a little extra thank you to acknowledge above-and-beyond service (or with today’s lowered expectations, just GOOD service). It shouldn’t be expected by anyone. And it certainly shouldn’t become a post-dinner hassle; have you ever had a server tell you that you should be tipping more!? Ridiculous.

I hope that this no-tip restaurant concept catches on in Canada as it has started to do in the United States. I wouldn’t want restaurant fare to become out of the reach, price-wise, for people as we essentially subsidize the restaurant in lieu of tips but at least you are fully aware, walking into a place (or browsing the menu online), of what you will be paying. And if the service is less than par, you can write a restaurant review on sites like yelp or urbanspoon and vow never to return, but you won’t feel obligated to leave a tip. And a clearer, perhaps more egalitarian wage structure for restaurant staff couldn’t hurt.

Apples!

This fall, I’ve had a stronger-than-usual hankering for pears and apples. When a friend offered to pick apples for us from a local orchard, I said “Yes please!” right away. Along came 10lb of MacIntosh apples…so what do we do but cook up and can our first ever batch of homemade applesauce. The apples were sweet enough that no additional sugar was needed. We decided not to add any spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, etc) either, so this is a pretty plain jane batch of applesauce.

Beautiful Macs
Beautiful Macs
Quartered apples, ready for reduction
Quartered apples, ready for reduction
Immersion blended
Immersion blended
Canned applesauce!
Canned applesauce!

Looking forward to eating this stuff in March, when winter just doesn’t feel like it’s ending anytime soon….

Lovely Sunday Lunch

I had heard many-a-time about a very lovely Sunday lunch spot at a duck farm near Plantaganet, Ontario. A place where they feed you the vegetables that they grow in their garden and the ducks that they raise on their farm. A quiet haven off a two-lane highway about a 45 minute drive from downtown Ottawa. It was only recently that I finally made it out to Mariposa Farm to enjoy a meal.

Mariposa Farm (6468 County Road 17, Plantaganet, Ontario)

The Farm
The Farm
Large plant markers!
Large plant markers!
Welcome to Sunday Lunch at Mariposa Farm!
Welcome to Sunday Lunch at Mariposa Farm!

They change their menu every Sunday and for $45 plus tax/gratuities, you get a well-sized three-course meal: starter, entree, dessert. There is also homemade bread with soybean oil, and self-serve tea and coffee.

The cozy dining room
The cozy dining room
The view out the window
The view out the window

They provide three different options for each of the parts of the meal so it’s a semi-set meal. There was no vegetarian option for the entree…lucky for me, I’m not a vegetarian! Instead, I opted for their duck confit, which was absolutely amazing! Not to mention it came on one of my favourite fall vegetables: delicata squash!

One of the choices of starters: head cheese with a fruit puree, black radishes, mustard seeds, and some toast.
One of the choices of starters: head cheese with a fruit puree, black radishes, mustard seeds, and some toast.
Duck confit on a bed of buckwheat, delicata squash, celerium, and pears.
Duck confit on a bed of buckwheat, delicata squash, celerium, and pears.
A selection of local cheeses with oatmeal cookies
A selection of local cheeses with oatmeal cookies
A peach tart with raspberry sauce and a dollop of whipped cream
A peach tart with raspberry sauce and a dollop of whipped cream

It’s a lovely place if you’re looking for a special meal in a relaxing setting, friendly hosts, delicious food (albeit not very vegetarian-friendly), and something a little different from your city restaurant. I’ve not yet heard one person walk away from Mariposa Farm dissatisfied.
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