3 Years in the Making – A Return Visit to the East York Farmers’ Market! The Ate by Ate Daily, Vol. 007

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Time passes by so fast that sometimes, you don’t even notice how long it’s been since you last did something because each and every day comes and goes in a blurry flurry of activity.  You think, “oh, it must have only been a year or so” until you think back real hard or look at photos and realize, “holy jeebus, make that three!”  That was me today after my visit to the East York farmer’s market just outside the East York Civic Centre at the corner of Mortimer and Coxwell.  I haven’t been back to this market in three years.  THREE.  And oddly enough, almost right down to the day: June 14, 2011 when I took those first photos and wrote my post on the market and its baby eggplants.

It’s the strangest feeling in the world when the realization sinks in that while three years have gone by, some things just don’t change.  In some ways I feel like I’ve come full circle to where my life was at three years ago and feeling somewhat…stuck.  And in other ways, everything has changed.  In June 2011, I had just graduated from grad school, I hadn’t yet started my baking adventures with Lisa and Miya at Le Dolci, and Ate by Ate was only 6 and a half months old.  I don’t even think I had a Twitter account for Ate by Ate at that point yet.  The one constant though?  How my routine jaunts to the markets have grounded my blogging, made photography so much fun, and in general, made me happy.  They’ve pushed me to keep positive.  You get out for fresh air.  You walk.  You meet nice people.  You visit neighbourhoods you wouldn’t otherwise visit.  And you get those creative juices going like you wouldn’t believe.  And as a bonus, you get to eat and buy some awesome local food.  Who knew fruits and veggies were good for your health in more ways than one?!

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Today’s morning visit to the East York farmers’ market was so lovely.  The weather was beautiful and it was so nice to get out and clear my head for a bit.  That and I just love taking photos of fruits and vegetables!  I definitely got a lot of amused smiles and stares from vendors and fellow market-goers as I clicked away at tomatoes, asparagus and baby zucchinis.  It happens every time; I’m used to it!  The market is set up in a really great green space outside the civic centre near plenty of benches to sit on, trees and shade to keep cool under, and even some pretty gardens to enjoy.  Despite the generous crowd of people who filter in soon after the market is up and running at 8am, there’s still this beautiful sense of peaceful to it and I love it.

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At the market today: heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, jams, jellies and honey, bread and pastries, sausages and cured meats, baby eggplant, baby zucchini, wild mushrooms, bell peppers, fresh herbs and herb plants, lettuces and kale, strawberries, rhubarb, and asparagus – lots and lots of asparagus!  I know this sounds weird, but asparagus has truly proven to be one of the most photogenic vegetables.  I’ve photographed asparagus many times over the years and it still amazes me how you can get such cool shots of it time and time again.  Hello total foodie geek moment.

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So, what did I pick up from the market this morning?  Two big bunches of gorgeous green leaf lettuce, $2 a pop.  YES, lettuce.  I know it’s nothing glamourous but I love me my greens and lettuces!  I’ve been going nuts over the arugula at Wychwood Barns as of late so why not throw some more greens into the mix?  The stuff is less expensive AND nicer at the farmers’ market than it is at the supermarket so there’s really no reason to pass on such nice food.  I can’t wait to use it in sandwiches and as the base for lettuce wraps.  I can see it now: green leaf lettuce wrapped around shredded chicken, sprinkled with sesame seeds and drizzled with peanut sauce.  Or wrapped around shredded chicken with black beans, avocado, and shredded cheese.  Or with fish.  Or shrimp.  YUM.

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East York Civic Centre is located at 850 Coxwell Ave. at Mortimer Ave.  The East York farmers’ market takes places on the front terrace of the civic centre every Tuesday from 8am-2pm, May to November

Home Grown: Baby Heirloom Tomatoes and Baby Eggplants! The Farmers’ Market at East York Civic Centre

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Thus far in my farmers’ market series, all the markets that I’ve visited have been pretty central in the downtown Toronto area: Nathan Phillips Square on Queen St. West, SickKids Hospital on University Ave., and Trinity Bellwoods on Dundas and Shaw.  Nothing that’s considered particularly eastern, western, or northern.  You all know how much I enjoy visiting these markets, but you might be wondering how and why I chose to go to the east end today.  I don’t know if you can guess from the title of the post, but there are some keywords in there that will tip you off as to why East York holds such significance for me.  Home grown…baby…East York.  That’s right, baby Deb was born across the street at East York General over two decades ago and the east end of Toronto was my first home for the first year and a half of my life before my family and I moved to Scarborough.  A true blue Torontonian, through and through.  Even though I obviously have no recollection of my early baby years, it felt oddly comforting taking the bus northbound on Coxwell Ave. knowing this was where my roots were first planted.

The farmers’ market at the East York Civic Centre, located at 850 Coxwell Ave., was absolutely amazing!  It was a gorgeous morning out today, sunny with a comfortable cool breeze, and I had such a great time walking from vendor to vendor taking in the large market and all it had to offer.  There was so much to see and I had to do 2 and half rounds around the market before I could fully make up my mind!  This is definitely one of the larger markets I’ve visited and the area is just beautiful and peaceful with lots of lush green grass, trees, and benches. 

The market was set up in the shape of a square and there was a tiki straw umbrella booth selling smoothies, a hot grill getting fired up in the center of the market with hot dogs and sandwiches, vendors sellings homemade cookies, tarts, and bags of granola, oodles of cured meats and fresh loaves of bread and pastries, and table after table of fantastic fruits and vegetables!  I was so excited to see stuff I hadn’t yet come across on my farmers’ market tour and everything was bursting with freshness and colour. 

There were pints of adorable itty bitty baby potatoes, colourful baby heirloom tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, little zucchinis, and quite literally, a mountain (or wall!) of fresh strawberries.  I loved seeing the heirloom tomatoes and baby potatoes, but what got me in a tizzy was the BABY EGGPLANTS!  OH.MY.GOD.  Given how much my mum adores eggplant, there was no way I could pass these up.  They were adorable and gorgeous, with the darkest shade of plum.  I bought one container (3 baby eggplants), looked in my bag, paused, and turned back around to buy one more set.  I squealed and walked away with 6 beautiful baby eggplants and skipped away a very happy girl.  I had such a wonderful, refreshing morning at the market here and I’m really happy I made the trek out.  It was well worth the trip to see the beautiful fruits and veggies, and to revisit the place I once called home.

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East York Civic Centre is located at 850 Coxwell Ave. at Mortimer Ave.  The East York farmers’ market takes places on the front terrace of the civic centre every Tuesday from 8am-2pm, May 17th to November 1st (excluding statutory holidays).