Summertime corn: How Sweet it is

If you haven't already indulged in sweet corn this August, then now's the time to head down to your local farmers' market or visit one of many sweet corn farmers harvesting just a few minutes away from your home. Sweet corn will be in season for about another seven weeks, lasting right until the end of September.

Many of our local corn farmers grow several varieties. Shearlea Acres of Ancaster, who you can find Fridays and Saturdays at the Centre Mall Farmers' Market, offers sugar-enhanced varieties that will stay fresh and sweet in your refrigerator for up to five days. Cranston Farms, also in Ancaster, has over 19 varieties of yellow, white, and peaches-and-cream corn for you to check out at their 'Sweet Corn Deli'. Ontario corn is some of the best around. Ben Dikkeboom of Parkside Farms in Waterdown claims to have the best sweet corn in the county. "At least that's what my customers tell me," he chuckled.

While the most common way to cook sweet corn is by boiling or steaming the corn, and eating right off the cob, you can try barbecuing corn or roasting it in the oven by wrapping the corn with its husks soaked in cold water, or by removing the husks and wrapping the corn in aluminum foil for protection. Sweet corn also makes and excellent addition to mixed vegetable or rice dishes, salads, and even soup.

Like most vegetables, sweet corn will taste best soon after it's been picked, so why go for corn that's been sitting around in a grocery store bin when there's plenty of fresh Hamilton sweet corn picked daily just down the road? And all for a better price and taste! Hamilton's very lucky to have sweet corn right it our own backyard, so visit the farms or the markets and take advantage of this tasty item from now right through until September. Need help finding local sweet corn? Just grab a copy of the 2007 Buy Local! Buy Fresh! Map, or visit our online food directory available at:

Contributed by: Graham Jenner

Walden Farm Keeps It Real

"Let us first be as simple and well as Nature ourselves..."

- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Walden Farm is one of over fifty farms on the 2007 Buy Local! Buy Fresh! Map and is certainly worthy of its name, emphasizing the importance of self-reliance and sustainability. Scott Brooks and his wife, Nikki, offer naturally-raised premium beef from Angus and Angus cross animals raised from birth on their own farm. Nearly all feed is produced on the farm, with the exception of salt and certain mineral supplements necessary for maintaining the health of the animals. It's important to Scott that he offers a homegrown, premium product. "It's higher quality than what you'll find at your local supermarket's meat counter, and it's priced very reasonably," he explained.

Scott and Nikki Brooks, now both semiretired, have been in business for 35 years. While the farm was once a larger dairy operation, the Brooks family now uses their expertise and facilities to produce beef, an operation Scott says makes the most sense for the land they have. They keep their land in forages to preserve the topsoil, and stress the importance of land stewardship. Scott describes himself as very fussy over the treatment of his animals, and is very strict on the use of antibiotics, employing them only when absolutely necessary. "90% of his animals," he boasts, "have never been in contact with a needle."

For those of us who are new to buying locally raised meat straight from the farm, it's important to understand that buying from places like Walden is a little different than purchasing a dozen tomatoes from the market. The Brooks' deal in bulk freezer orders. Customers need to be prepared to purchase at least a quarter of an animal, which works out to between 100 and 120 pounds of meat, a purchase of around $400. Given the quantity of the minimum order, you will need substantial freezer space. Additionally, orders need to be placed in advance; an order placed today wouldn't be filled for another month or two. From time to time there are retail cuts available, but Scott emphasizes that while he will always try to accommodate special requests, Walden Farm is not a small order retailer.

Ordering beef from Walden isn't as difficult as you might think, and there's no doubt you'll be paying less for beef of the very best quality. When asked where one might start if they're considering his product, Scott answered simply, "Call me! Come and visit!" If you are interested in a bulk order with Walden but you don't know where to start, just give Walden Farm a call. The Brooks' have an open door policy, extend a friendly invitation to visit the farm and see the animals, and are happy to answer any questions you might have about consumer-direct bulk orders. Just make sure you schedule your visit in advance.

Find Walden Farm on our map under #32, or use our online directory at http://www.environment/

Scott and Nikki Brooks
250 Alberton Rd., Jerseyville

Contributed by: Graham Jenner

When I was 23....

Below is a contribution from our guest blogger, Jennie Rubio. Enjoy!

When I was 23, I had answers to most of the world’s problems. My solution to climate change was simple: everyone should ride bicycles.

Then I had children. And realized along the way that life is always more complicated than you think.

But I am still interested in the environment, and quite worried about global warming. (I was once involved with publishing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I try to follow it still, with my limited understanding of the science. The most recent report, by 600 scientists, warns—eek!!—“the global atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has increased from a pre-industrial value of about 280 ppm to about 379 ppm.” That’s a lot of ppms!)

It drives me crazy, then, to go shopping and see only tomatoes from Mexico (or wherever). “Here we are,” I want to say, “south of Lake Ontario! Beautiful rich agricultural land as far as they eye can see! I demand to know why we can’t buy local produce!”

But, as always, the answer is: it’s complicated.

I started wondering about starting a business bringing local produce at least to my own community. In my more naïve moments I decided I would measure my success in terms of reduced carbon emissions, not profit. (Meanwhile, here in the real world, that’s not how business works.)

I’ve been asking lots of questions, trying to determine if this idea would even be possible. In Canada, and technically I did know this, we don’t have a very long growing season. Those beautiful field tomatoes you get in the farmer’s market this time of year don’t grow in January. I had a prejudice against greenhouses but I visited one today, and was delighted by those beautiful ruby-red tomatoes, which can be grown at otherwise dreary times of year. However, this is followed by a list of sentences beginning with “but” or “and”. But greenhouses require lots of energy. But new technology is improving this. And greenhouses can use less pesticide. And the growing season is extended. But the tomatoes are more expensive. But they are quite yummy.

All very complicated.

So in my spare time (I already have a job, but I won’t yet give up the idea that this can be done, somehow, if only I ask enough question) I’m reading about tomatoes. I’ve come across some fun facts (tomatoes came to Europe from South America, and for a long time were used for decoration only—Europeans thought that red colour was too sinister to be anything but poisonous. Am I the only one who thought Italy invented tomatoes?! And they used to be called “love apples”—sounds faintly rude! What kind of clientele would I attract with a business named “Love Apples”?); and some boring facts (the genus Lycopersicon is divided into two subgenera, Eulycopersicon and Eriopersicon …).

Can this be done? I hate the idea of people buying local stuff (from me at least) because they feel guilty, so I am determined that the business would need a positive outlook. It’s far too easy to get bogged down in all the complications.

Jennie Rubio
23 August 2007
Last Saturday Sarah and I headed to the Hamilton Farmers’ Market bright and early for their 170th anniversary. It was the perfect venue to hand out more of our local food maps – lots of shoppers eager to find more sources of locally produced food. After making sure the display board wouldn’t fall on us – it was a windy day – we opened shop and began handing out our map.

A crowd gathered almost immediately but, unfortunately, not solely because of the map. The farmers’ market was handing out free market bags and they proved to be a very hot commodity. I couldn’t believe the crowd that gathered around to receive the free loot so we decided to pop a copy of the map into the bags. All 1,000 bags disappeared quickly but, luckily, Sarah and I each scored one for ourselves. People kept asking us if they could have ours. It was pretty funny. Who knew people were so crazy about tote bags. Maybe we should commission some of our own…

Mayor Fred Eisenberger and city councilor Bob Bratina were on hand to open the ceremony with speeches after which spectators dove into the giant anniversary cake.

The highlight of the day was definitely the pie-eating contest even though the idea of consuming an entire apple pie made me feel nauseous. The five participants were neck in neck but the winner managed to scarf down his last few bites first. Me congratulating him made for the perfect photo op.

Next up, we headed down the street to the Makers’ Market in the courtyard of Christ’s Church Cathedral on James Street North. We knew a couple of the vendors and they had agreed to hand out maps for us. The market had a quaint setup with lots to offer. Up for offer were fresh vegetables, fair trade coffee, vintage items, and bike maintenance.
The crafters that were on hand with their artwork, greeting cards, and hand-sewn creations made Sarah and myself vastly inadequate in the creative talent department. Hopefully they won’t mind me buying their goods and passing them off as my own to my family and friends.

The next market is scheduled for September 15th. Do NOT miss it!

Bread and Raised in Hamilton - Every Wednesday in August

Don't miss out on this opportunity to sample some of the best food from in and around Hamilton, You'll even get to meet the chef and the farmer.

Wednesday night is the best night to eat out this summer

Ontario-licious: Farm to Table Freshness at Boo's Bistro - every Wednesday from now until September

Boo's Bistro and Wine Bar has launched a new 3 course prix fixe menu that features fresh Ontario produce paired with fine Ontario wines. Coined "Ontario-licious," the concept was developed by executive chef and owner, Vibulan (Boo) Aria, to demonstrate the quality, value and flavour of locally grown, Ontario produce.

Ontario-licious will launch Wednesday, July 11 and will be available each Wednesday throughout July and August. In addition to fresh Ontario-inspired cuisine, general manager and resident wine expert, Thea Weller, will assist diners in complementing Boo's creations with vintages from a variety of award winning Ontario wineries.

The prix fixe menu consists of an appetizer, entrée and dessert and will change each week. Creations may include dishes such as fresh Ontario spinach and zucchini fritters with Woolwich goat cheese and Witteveen bacon; warm Ontario baby spinach salad with chicken, mozzarella, and baby Waterdown potatoes, drizzled with a rosemary balsamic dressing and pavlova with fresh Ontario raspberries and Hewitt's Whipped cream. Prices start at $25 and can include vintage and premium wine selections for an additional $10 to $15.

Contact Thea Weller, General Manager at (905) 296-7598 for full details.

164 James Street South Hamilton, ON L8P 3A2 Tel (905) 296-7598