Appreciation

I’ve mentioned the Evergreen Brickworks Farmers Market a few times now. Why do I go there? It is probably the most unique market in the GTA. It is located in the ecologically rejuvenized Evergreen Brickworks at Pottery Road and Bayview.

This site, was called the Don Valley Brickworks, and the bricks that were manufactured here, was largely responsible for the skyline of Toronto. In fact, there is an outdoor skyline of old Toronto showing the buildings that were constructed using bricks from this company.

skyline

It was abandoned and left to rot until Evergreen. Evergreen, a non-profit corporation promoting education of sustainable development had the vision of turning a giant, industry-made bowl into a flourishing meadow. To convert the brick making buildings to learning centres. In 2001 the dream  became a reality.

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It is located in one of mid-Toronto’s ravines. I can ride my bike along the Beltline, following the old Mud Creek washway. No other market has this breathtaking excursion

And, at the end of the bike ride, at 8 am when the market opens, I can relax in a Muskoka chair and listen to the early morning birds.

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One experiences the market seasonally, week by week. As fruits and vegetables ripen in the farmer’s fields, each week brings a new culinary joy to the stalls.

For this assignment, I go the first week to Bzjak Farms. It is a family owned farm, operating since 1973 in Beamsville and Vineland – the heart of the Niagara Fruit Belt.

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As I kid, each summer I would hear about the Niagara Fruit Belt but didn’t really understand what it was.I just ate the peaches. I’ve now come to really appreciate that geographical area and thankful it has not been paved over for development. The Niagara Fruit Belt, nestled between the rise of the Escarpment and the moisture of Lake Ontario, has meant a bountiful harvest of soft fruits and vineyards.

We are truly blessed to have an abundance of locally grown, fresh fruit each summer. To have dedicated farmers like Bzajk…

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And to the foresight of organizations like Evergreen to provide the space for farm to table – literally.

I picked up cherries, strawberries, apricots and blueberries. A lot of people would balk at the prices. But not the people who come to shop at Evergreen Brickworks. These independent farmers have placed fair, market value on their labour. These are not subsidized California strawberries, flown 3,000 miles to your supermarket. The cost of a limited growing season, temperamental weather conditions, countless hours in the field, picker wages and transport sums up what it means to buy locally – $12 for a quart of blueberries. For me, that is cheap.

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To enjoy the full flavour of these “just picked”, I washed and prepped the 3 fruits to enjoy raw.

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Slicing up the fruit, I whipped up some cream and added a few dabs of Ontario maple syrup…perfect.

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The vibrancy of the colours of fresh fruit is, in my opinion, the selling point of Niagara fruit. They are not picked early and left to ripen as they are transported. Their colours show that they are picked at the height of ripeness.

The flavour is unparalleled. Biting into a spoonful of locally grown strawberry, cherry and blueberry is overwhelming. It only comes for a brief time each year. This knowledge makes the taste sensation even more powerful. I want to savor every last mouthful.

However, the whipped cream and maple syrup enhances the flavour, contrasts the texture and brings back childhood memories.

I go the following week when I’m told the peaches will be ready. One other distinguishing element of this farmers market is that – dog’s are allowed.

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I take the Bayview bus from Davisville station with the pugs – Raisin and Eve. Across from Bzjak Farms is a stall that sells dog cookies. That comes after we do our fruit shopping.

The Bzjak farmer tells me they have a new variety of peach this year. Something they have been cultivating for awhile. It is called the V-Blush and is very sweet.

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I get a basket and make plans to do a cobbler with these little ones.

I combine the sliced peaches with white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice and cornstarch. I then bake for about 10 minutes in a baking dish. I cut back on the sugar as I figure the sweetness of this variety of peach will be enough.

For the topping I mix flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and blend in butter cubes. I drop the mixture on to the peaches and then dribble a maple syrup and cinnamon liquid on top.

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I bake this for another 20 minutes. It takes all my will power not to gorge on the whole thing. Yes, the sugar content of the peaches was prominent and I’m glad I cut back on the white sugar.

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In conclusion, this blog is entitled Appreciation. Why? Because we, in Southern Ontario are so fortunate to have the climate, geographical location, dedicated farmers, markets and road side stalls to partake in a limited but bountiful harvest of fresh fruit. I have never really appreciated that until recently. I’m glad this blog assignment provided me the opportunity to explore that appreciation.

 

 

 

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