When I mention that I go to a farmer's market most people assume that I mean the Byward Market. The Byward Market is lovely but we don't go there often (probably just as well as I cannot be trusted near cheesemongers or La Botega). Next people assume I mean the Parkdale Market. The Parkdale Market is convenient for us but we don't go there often. Actually, most of the time when we are there we are buying fresh flowers (or leeks, they have great prices on leeks).
So I've started to say that I go to the Landsdowne Farmer's Market. The thing about this market is that that produce is local, produced within 100kms of the market (or maybe it's miles, I just assumed it was kms seeing as we're metric and all). There is one exception to that, there is a vendor from south of Toronto that sells peaches, plums, grapes etc that we can't get locally. Some people originally got their panties in a bunch over it because they aren't really "local" but from where I'm sitting it's peaches from Ontario and not from another country. You know?
So every Sunday morning we wake up, make a pot of coffee, throw on some clothes and head out the door with our travel mugs and reusable canvas bags. I love being out in cities early in the morning, when they are quiet and still. It's not a long drive to Landsdowne from our place but it's pretty with the early morning light reflecting off the canal. We see more runners than cars. Sometimes there's a charity run and we spend too much time starting at people trying to figure out which run it is.
We rarely have to pay to park at Landsdowne, only on days when there are other events. (During the SuperEX the market moves to a nearby park). When we do pay for parking we take our parking stub to the market's information desk and they give us a voucher of equal value to spent at any of the vendors.
We usually go to the market with a list. We usually wander up and down the entire length of the market before stopping to buy anything. Then we strategize - what do we want to buy that's not on our list? More often than not it's butter tarts from Phyllis' Baking (she makes the best butter tarts ever, her pie is pretty darned good too).
One of the things that we love is that because the market is about being local, more often than not it's the farmers and their families that we talk to. There's sometime satisfying about buying your food from the people who grow it or make it. When we say we love the butter tarts we don't get told, "I'll pass that along." We're told, "Thank you!" When we have a question about how to prepare something we're not greated with a shrug but with, "Well, this is what I usually do." When we buy elk maple sausages the sellers tell us that they were made with the maple syrup from the vendor two stalls down.
It's more than a market, it's a community.
We started going regularly a few weeks after we moved to Ottawa (or rather after I moved and Lee moved back). We've only missed Sunday's when we've been out of town. And something we did every week was fill out a ballot for one of the free baskets that they give out every Sunday. A couple of weeks ago we won one and oh my goodness that basket was overflowing! Check it out.
That is a heck of a lot of food. In no particular order the basket contained
- 1/2lt of Pascale's homemade ice-cream (we chose the Honey Raspberry Duo, it's goooood and made with raspberries from one of the other vendors)
- 1 wedge of Orati Mountain Cheese (which we had bought once before, it's yummy and Piper approves)
- 1 sage plant
- 1 chili plant
- Marrison Manor Organic spring salad (yummy sprouts)
- 1 package of Oatmeal Raisin Cookies from Just a Bite (yes, they are bite sized and yummy)
- Loaf of quick bread (we're not sure what kind, I suspect zucchini, it's in the freezer)
- 3 cobs of corn
- 1 bunch of multi-coloured carrots
- 1 bunch of greens
- 1 lebonese cucumber
- 1 yellow bell pepper
- 1 small eggplant
- 2 bunches of beets (we roast our beets here, yummy, also used the greens and decided I'm not a fan of beet greens...)
- 1 leek (bought more leeks, made potato leek soup)
- 1 lb cranberries (in the freezer, will make cranberry sauce soon)
- 1 basket of Ontario Coronation grapes (verrrrry yummy)
- 1 small basket of tomatoes (I suspect they were an heirloom variety of a plum/roma - they were dark and kind of purpley with a sweet, slightly smokey flavour)
- 1 basket of mixed yellow and red romas (I made roasted tomato soup and burned myself but the soup was yummy)
- 1 jar of local unpasturized honey
- 1 jar of Oven's Berry Farm strawberry jam
- Lentil and almond dip from Emily's Kitchen (a bit like hummus but with with a curry flavour)
- 1 itty bitty pumpkin
- 1 package of spicy Hungarian Czabi sausages from Bearbrooke Farm (we buy our eggs from them)
- 1 beeswax votive candle
We also received coupons for some discounts (a couple they we didn't use but appreciated the thought behing them). One that we did use was for a free burrito from Zucante. It was fantastic and they make real iced-tea (I had a choice between sweet or unsweetened tea).
In short, we got a heck of a lot. We were out of potatoes so we had to pick some up, along with the extra leeks I mentioned above and then we decided to treat ourselves. We bought a bison roast from Pykeview Meadows, the local bison farm and one of our favourite vendors. We invited Lee's parents over for dinner and had a meal of roast bison, mashed potatoes, multi-coloured carrots, my mother's homemade mustard pickles, homemade bannock, cucumber slices with homemade dressing (it's a sort of like French dressing that we call cucumber sauce) and cake and ice-cream for dessert. No, we could move when we were done eating.
And I'm very happy to report that I have not yet killed either of the plants. Go me!
The farmer's market will shut down for the season at the end of October and we'll have to go back to searching for decent produce at local stores. We're going to miss our Sunday morning routine. We're going to miss all the vendors. If you are in Ottawa and haven't been to the Landsdowne market I highly encourage you head there one Sunday this month (or Thursday, they are there Thursday afternooons too). Yummy produce, friendly vendors. What more could you want?