When it comes to local, seasonal cuisine, you can't get any fresher than buying directly from a nearby farmer.
As Robin Turner, owner of Roots and Shoots Farm in Manotick, explains: "It enables you to connect with the person who grew the food you're putting on your table. It also ensures you're cooking what's in season and at the peak of its flavour."
Even though days are shorter and nights are cooler, September and October are still prime picking months in our area. Farmers' daily harvests at this time of year include an abundance of lettuce, onions, tomatoes, peppers, beans, cucumbers, apples, melons and much more.
Robin, who is also president of the Ottawa Farmers' Market at Lansdowne Park, notes that meeting local farmers offers another important benefit, in that growers know a lot about the food they produce. "You can usually rely on a farmer to provide storage tips and great recipes for what you're taking home."
There are presently over 1200 farms in the City of Ottawa and more than 80 have qualified for Savour Ottawa status, meaning that everything they sell must be grown or raised on their farm. Ottawa's justfood.ca is a valuable resource for learning about our local farmers, what they grow and where they sell it. Many have stands at their farm gates, as well as participating in one or more of the 20 seasonal markets across the region.
Ottawa's 23 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs offer yet another way to get your hands on fresh-picked food. Each shareholder receives weekly delivery of a guaranteed supply of local produce that varies as certain crops hit their peak. Participating in a CSA program also offers stability to local growers who can better understand how much they can afford to plant, based on the number of people who have committed to buying their harvest.
"Another great benefit of being part of a CSA is that it often encourages people to try things they may not be familiar with," says Robin. "We grow over 100 different varieties of vegetables at Roots and Shoots. During the season you might find sweet hakurei salad turnips, purple carrots or striped heirloom tomatoes in your basket, alongside more mainstream items. Everything is fresh and full of flavour. I love growing healthy food for others to enjoy."
Roots and Shoots Farm is at 6110 Mitch Owens Drive.