The folks at HarperCollins were kind enough recently to share a copy of new book Locavore by Toronto author Sarah Elton, and to offer me the chance to ask her some questions. As someone who’s pretty well versed in the food system and in local eating in Toronto and Canada, I was impressed at how much I learned from the book about some of our food sources, and I was beyond impressed at the ingenuity of the farmers Elton profiled in the book. I came out of it with a positive attitude toward the future of our food, which certainly isn’t the norm. Support your local food system and your local authors and check out the book!
Since this blog is about eating local in Toronto, and Elton lives in Toronto, I asked questions on that theme – but don’t think that the book is focused on Toronto, because it isn’t at all. I think my favourite story was of the farmers in Richmond, B.C., who have to bring their cows into the barn when the tide comes in because the rest of their fields are flooded.
So, without further ado, the questions…
What are your favourite places in Toronto to shop/eat local?
There are all sorts of great places in Toronto where you can buy fresh foods produced nearby. I regularly visit the St. Lawrence Market, as well as other farmers’ markets including the Riverdale farmers’ market, which is my summertime favourite. I love the Gilead Cafe and the Brick Street Bakery too.
What are some of your favourite local products/produce from the region?
I am a big fan of Ruth Klahsen’s Monforte cheese. Her Toscano is a big hit with my kids. I always head straight for farmer Ted Sharpe’s veggies when I visit the Riverdale Farmers’ Market or the Greenbarn Market. Evelyn’s Crackers are delicious and made from local ingredients. And I look for Sleger’s Greens which are tasty and come with a good story – they turned their tobacco farm into organic greenhouses – that I tell in my book.
How do you find new products/produce to try?
I am always on the hunt! Whenever I go to a farmers’ market, I take a close look at the stalls. Signage isn’t the best so you have to ask questions. I found some incredible beets this weekend at the Jean Talon Market in Montreal. They are long and fat and look like overgrown carrots, except they are beets! The farmer told me that they are an old variety that they have to harvest by hand but taste fabulous. We’ll have them for dinner tomorrow, I think.
If you could have everyone in Toronto make one change toward local eating, what would that be?
I would have everybody eat in season. That would mean waiting till May or June for our fat and delicious local asparagus, rather than eating the spindly imported stuff in January. Or savouring melons when they are hot from the summer sun rather than eating those styrofoam-esque cantaloupes and honeydews that you can buy the rest of the year. If we all chose to eat in season, the grocery stores would cater to the seasonal palate and we’d be closer to having a local and sustainable food system.
How do you find/adapt recipes to suit your local-eating needs?
I use the index in my cookbooks to look up ingredients so I can plan my meals based on what is in season. Also, I experiment. I once made a Thai green curry with pumpkin and Brussels sprouts and it was delicious! The Brussels sprouts soaked up the coconut milk and we all enjoyed the meal.