September 17, 2019
Preserving Ontario produce means fresh home-grown food all year
Written By BRIAN LOCKHART
Bring a bit of summer into your winter by preserving your Ontario harvest
There’s just something special about having fresh produce, preserves, soup, or jam in the middle of winter, long after the growing season is over.
With a little effort and know-how, you can take advantage of fresh Ontario produce all year long by storing and preserving most things from the garden.
At Rock Garden Farms in Caledon East, the final harvest from this season is currently available.
Rock Garden Farms takes pride in the fact that all of their produce is grown and sourced from Ontario farms.
Many produce items will freeze very well if packaged properly and will be ready when you need them.
The growing season in the province usually wraps up between the end of August and towards the end of September, so much of the final produce for the year is currently hitting the shelves.
Preserving produce is not as difficult as some may think and with books and the internet today, you can get so many great ideas and explanations on how to do it. For some vegetables or fruits, all that is required is a cool temperature and a dry space and they will last for months. That cold room in the basement of your home was designed to remain cool for a reason. Typically a cold room should be below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, but not below 40 degrees. You definitely do not want a room to drop close to freezing as that will spoil any produce you have stored.
Many vegetables such as onions, garlic, and potatoes, as well as fruits like apples and pears can be stored for a long period in a proper environment. Preserving doesn’t always mean putting things in jars, there are several ways of keeping produce fresh in a cold cellar or freezer.
Margaret Galati, who along with husband Paul and family own and operate Rock Garden Farms states, “You want to try to put as much from a harvest away for the winter as you can. You can enjoy the fruits of the labour from our country all year. For example, it can be something as simple as putting garlic in a paper bag in a dark cool place to have Ontario garlic all year.”
While Rock Garden Farms does grow and sell their own produce on site, they source a huge variety from Ontario farms.
Whether you buy from local farms or markets or grow your own produce it can be even more gratifying to put in the effort of storing, freezing and canning. It’s like getting back to our roots when we eat food that’s locally grown. There are so many things you can do with fresh produce. You can make jams, pickles, tomato sauces or even freeze tomatoes. You can put carrots, onions, and squash in your cold cellar. You can make soups and freeze them or freeze the vegetables, such as peppers, onions, corn etc. and put them in the soups as you make them in the coming seasons. Imagine the freshness of your summer harvest in your stews or soups in the winter.
“When it comes to fruit, you can make jams and can peaches,” Margaret explained. “To start, you can pick one or two items and just do it. A lot of people use family recipes. It can take a lot of time but it’s worth it. Many people are going back to this for gift giving. When you give a preserve, you are giving something you made from your heart. It’s trying to bring back some of those old traditions. You don’t have to can everything.”
Getting into October you will still find potatoes and apples and squash but as far as things like peppers and onions, now is the time when you find everything. It’s definitely worth preserving Ontario produce, rather than relying strictly on imported products all winter. It’s like bringing a bit of summer back into your winter and can be more economical too.
The shelves and bushel baskets are full at Rock Garden Farms, but that won’t last as customers make their way to Caledon to stock up before Ontario produce is finished and the Farm closes for the winter.
Rock Garden Farms is located at 16930 Airport Road, north of Caledon East and just south of Patterson Side Road.
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