I really do love living in Canada. I love the people, I love the geography, I love the culture and I feel lucky to be able to raise children in a country with such a progressive social landscape. But despite all of this, there is one thing that has always made me question my loyalty to Canada – our winters. And in particular, this winter!
I love the change of seasons and don’t mind a little snow here and there. But I dread the days where the wind picks up and the temperature drops. Or the days where it teeters on the edge of rain and snow, so all day you get a wet, cold, sleety downpour. Or the days on end where it seems like everything is grey and dirty.
Living downtown Toronto means that it’s much easier to walk places than it is to drive. We walk to most of our activities and play dates, so when the weather does not co-operate, it feels like we are stuck inside way too much. Last winter we barely had any snow so I didn’t feel quite as cooped up. Also, Tyson is much more active now than he was a year ago, so it’s really important that we get out at least once a day. Mostly though, I think I’m finding this winter particularly long because the summer was soooooooo amazing. Endless days of sunshine and warm weather meant that Tyson and I would spend our days outside enjoying the city.
One of our favourite activities was visiting the many local Farmer’s Markets where we spent time wandering around and supporting local farmers and artisans. I had really been missing this and had felt uninspired by my trips to the grocery store when someone suggested to me that I pay a visit to one of the winter markets in Toronto. Winter markets? I hadn’t really thought to look into any markets past October, when most of the ones I frequented during the summer shut down. I quickly did some research online and found that there are most definitely some markets open in the winter. So I quickly made plans to visit them as soon as possible!
For two weekends in a row, Jon and I packed Tyson into the car and visited the Evergreen Brick Works Farmer’s Market and then the Stop’s Farmer’s Market at Wychwood Barns. Both are open on Saturday mornings all winter long, are indoors, and are host to a variety of high-quality local vendors. Honestly, I was expecting a small market with a couple of farmers selling some wilted vegetables. We found the opposite – these markets are thriving! Both were overflowing with fresh and local produce, meat, baked goods and a number of other interesting food items. The markets are actually very similar and in fact, we found a number of vendors who had tables at both.
The atmosphere of Evergreen Brick Works and Wychwood Barns is just so lovely. Both buildings have such history and make for a very pleasant market experience. I would seriously visit just for the surroundings – the amazing selection of Real Food is just a bonus!
The vendors at these markets are noticeably friendly. They are all obviously passionate about what they do and did not hesitate to stop for a chat or to explain something about their products, despite the crowds. One vendor insisted that I take a free Jerusalem artichoke when I said I had never tried them. She was confident that I would be back for more! I also purchased another “new-to-me” vegetable based on her recommendation – celery root (a.k.a. celeriac) and made a delicious soup with it later in the week. This same vendor was at both markets so the next weekend we purchased a bag of mixed roasting vegetables from her. We made them for dinner that night and it was a delicious and unique combination.
We really enjoyed ourselves at the markets and came home with way more food than we expected. At both markets we purchased apples and pears from Bizjak Farms. Although they are not officially organic, the friendly gentleman explained their low-spray philosophy – which essentially means that their farming practices focus on soil integrity, using fertilizers and sprays only when absolutely necessary, and even then, using as little and as natural as possible. We ended up catching this same friendly gent at both markets since we were there on consecutive weekends and he alternates every weekend. Their fruit is delicious, and grown close-by in the Niagara region.
Other purchases included some fresh pea sprouts and a delicious Momo for lunch (a Tibetan dumpling served in a cabbage leaf bowl). Yummy. We also purchased some organic and naturally raised pork – which ended up being Tyson’s first taste of meat later that evening.
Tyson really enjoyed himself, and clearly was not able to wait until we got home to check out the loot!
So perhaps winter isn’t that bad after all! The winter markets are an opportunity to get out of the house, while still escaping the cold, and getting access to a range of fresh and local food. I encourage you to do a little research and see what local markets are still open in your neighbourhood over the winter – you might be pleasantly surprised. It’s a fun way to spend a Saturday and another great opportunity to expose your kids to Real Food right from the source.
Are there any Farmer’s Markets open in your city during the winter?