Heirloom Tomatoes, Cherries, & Fresh Homemade Fruit Jams – The Summer Farmers’ Market at Liberty Village!

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The farmers’ market trek goes west this week with a visit to the Liberty Village farmers’ market!  It’s been months since my last visit (we’re talking last fall with pumpkins and cranapples!) and since I gave the east end some love last week with fresh summery posts on the Leslieville farmers’ market, brunch, sweets, and drinks at Hammersmith’s in Riverdale, and sweet tooth treasures at Sweet Bliss Baking Company, it was time to mosey on over in the other direction.  This week we welcome some fresh faces to the lineup from the west side of the tracks including goodies from Parkdale and The Junction.

First up: the Sunday summer market in Liberty Village!  What a difference a year makes.  Liberty Village continues to grow and thrive as a community and as a dining destination with new additions to the neighbourhood including the Softchoice Lunchtime Office Market on Wednesdays and the brand spankin’ new quesadilla cafe, Maizal, on Jefferson Ave. serving fresh corn tortillas, quesadillas, and weekend brunch.  This growth is also apparent in their farmers’ market.  Even though the market itself hasn’t grown larger physically, I felt like there was more to see this time around and I had myself an absolute ball snatching up some goodes and snapping photos!  Along with gorgeous, vibrant heirloom tomatoes, zucchini flowers, carrots, and peppers, the market was bursting with fresh farm fruit: cherries, cantaloupe/musk melon, apples, raspberries, strawberries, baby golden plums, and peaches were all on hand and ripe for the pickin’.

Up and at ’em on a Sunday morning!

And effectively, Liberty Village gave me a very delicious out and solution to my raw fruit allergy problem: fresh homemade fruit jam!  Cue me squealing like a 4-year-old!  I love jams and this is the first maket I’ve been to that has had a spread like this.  There were tables set up in a ‘U’ shape and each table carried one type of fruit with a corresponding display of homemade fruit jam and dish of bread and jam samples.  A cluster of raspberry jam jars were surrounded by a moat of raspberry pints, the strawberries with strawberry jam, and the baskets of peaches with bright, juicy peach jam.  It was so pretty to look at and even tastier to eat!  In addition to fruit and jam, there were tarts and shortbread cookies made with jam and jars of pickled vegetables including pickled beets.  I picked up a jar of pickled beets ($3) for my mum (she loves beets the way I love cookes), a jar of the most delicious peach jam ($5), and a sweet shortbread cookie sandwich ($1.75) with a star cutout in the center revealing juicy raspberry jam inside.

I am dying to make peanut butter and jelly cookie sandwiches and this peach jam would be perfect for them, along with the jar of apricot jam sitting pretty in my pantry.  Oh!  And thumbprint cookies!  And accompaniments to pound cake!  All the jams and jellies I’ve come across during market visits have been so yummy and amazing (like the mango chutney at the North York market at Mel Lastman Square) and I only wish I could have some of everything without creating a pantry avalanche in the kitchen.  I’m really happy with my little market purchases though and I’m glad I came back to the Libery Village to see how far its come and how much its grown.

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The Liberty Village farmers’ market takes place every Sunday from 9am-2pm in the Green P parking lot on East Liberty Street between Atlantic and Hanna Ave.  Liberty Village can be accessed from King Street West and Dufferin Street.  You can view Ate by Ate’s very first Liberty Village farmers’ market post HERE.

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Sizzling Summer Markets – Summer Squash, Peas, Scallions, and More at the Leslieville Farmers’ Market

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Another summer weekend means another weekend market!  Between Evergreen Brick Works, The Stop at Wychwood Barns, the Junction market, and Liberty Village, there’s plenty of weekend market love to go around.  It’s been a little over a year since I started going to markets on a regular basis and it’s been amazing seeing how they transform between seasons and have they grow and evolve over time.  There are some markets I’ve only ever been to during the summer and some only during the winter so it’s a lot of fun seeing the differences and taking advantage of all the different food that comes along with these changes. 

In addition to visiting markets and seeing in seasonal lights, that are also a handful that I have yet to visit in general.  I have a list of Saturday and Sunday markets that I haven’t been to that I’m itching to scratch off including Withrow Park and most of the markets in Markham and York Region!  I know, I know – I live in Markham!  It was always easier for me to get around in Toronto though because of the day passes so that’s what I often opted for, but I have a strange way of getting around to things so I know I’ll get to them eventually.

For this particular market excursion, I made my way back to Leslieville!  I love the Riverside, Riverdale, Leslieville, and Beaches neighbourhoods along Queen East so planning  a trip to the Leslieville market is like planning an entire day trip because there’s so much to see and do!  It’s been months since my last visit – almost a year, actually, back in September when Jonathan Ashbridge Park was awash with fall colours and the air was chilly and crisp.  Not so much this time!  It was piping hot out, kiddies were running around screaming in the splash pool, and the market was busy and bustling with market goers and park enjoyers despite the sweltering heat.  It was so nice seeing the market so alive with activity.  Augie’s Gourmet Ice Pops had completely sold out (and for good reason!), Hooked Inc. was on site grilling up fish tacos in fresh corn tortillas, and people were snatching up summer vegetables like they were nuggets of gold.    

Even though I’m a self-proclaimed summer wuss, I’m so happy I sucked it up and made the effort to go.  Every season has its own unique beauty and personality and both are evidently manifested and embodied at the market: in the environment, in the atmosphere, and of course, in the gorgeous fruits, vegetables, and bounty of food.  There were mountains of scallions in vibrant greens and purples, beets in shades of plum and bright pink, baskets of beautiful green beans, snow peas, cabbage, and baby Shanghai bok choy, adorable yellow patty pan squashes, crusty baguettes, summer sauces, spreads, and salsas, sweet potato donut holes from LPK Culinary Groove, vegetarian and vegan Indian food from Tiffinday, fresh farm cheese, and spring roll wraps, nut burgers, macaroons, and pesto spreads from my beloved market favourite, Earth & City

My brother and I love condiments, spreads, and sauces (we go through hummus, spicy mustard, and tzatziki like crazy) so I always pay attention to the jarred goodies at the market.  They’re great for sandwiches, vegetables, and things like chicken tenders, sausages, and samosas so we always have a few rotating in our fridge.  I snatched up a sundried tomato pesto spread from Earth & City ($5) this time around, but trust that I’ll give in and take home some chutneys, salsas, and other yummies the next time around! 

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Leslieville Farmers’ Market is located at Jonathan Ashbridge Park on Queen Street East and Woodward Ave.  Jonathan Ashbridge Park is located in between Greenwood and Coxwell Ave., and can be accessed via public transit by way of the Queen Street 501 streetcar.  The market is new to the lineup of Toronto markets this year and is held every Sunday from 9am-2pm.  The last market of the year is on October 28, 2012.  Visit their website to sign up to their newsletter, to get involved, and to learn more.

The Great Outdoors – Sweet Gardens, Green Space, and Food at the The Stop’s Outdoor Market, Wychwood Barns

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The Stop Community Food Centre Farmers’ Market at Artscape Wychwood Barns is held year-round on Saturdays from 8am-12pm.  The market will be heading outdoors for the summer season starting next Saturday, May 26!  The park and historic community centre complex is located at 76 Wychwood Ave. just off of St. Clair Ave. West, east of Christie St. and west of Bathurst St.  http://www.thestop.org/green-barn-market

Veggie Pizza Buns, Turnips, & a Rainbow of Food – The Market Beauty & Bounty at Sorauren Farmers’ Market, Part I

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*****

The Sorauren farmers’ market is held on Mondays from 3pm-7pm in Sorauren Park at the corner of Sorauren and Wabash Ave, south of Dundas Street West.  The market is held year-round, operating indoors in the fieldhouse during the winter and outdoors at the park during the spring, summer, and early fall.  The easiest way to get here is by taking the 505 Dundas streetcar westbound.  If you’re envisioning major roads and intersections, Sorauren sits between Roncesvalles Ave. and Lansdowne Ave.  For more info about the market and other events in the area pertaining to organic, local food, and the West End Food Co-op organization, click here.

Sprouted Chickpea Hummus, Sour Cream Apple Pies, and Farm Fresh Carrots – Wychwood Barns, Part III

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Yorktown Pie Company in the house at Wychwood Barns!

I learned a valuable lesson during my visit to Wychwood Barns this past Saturday: you can never have or bring too many tote bags.  I left the house with my large, insulated drawstring lunch tote thinking it would be good enough for the warm (who am I kidding, it was hot) day ahead to carry around any goodies I bought.  I soon found out it was not as I juggled my purse, my camera, promo flyers, the newest issue of Edible Toronto, and many baggies of food as I struck up conversations with market vendors and took photos, all the while struggling to stick said baggies of food into my lunch tote without squishing everything. 

There were not enough hands to go around and, given how amazing this market was on Saturday, there were also not enough tummies to stomach all the wonderful food.  This visit was my favourite out of all the times I’ve went for so many reasons.  Not only did the selection of food blow me away, but also because I learned so much from the vendors about the food and the industry.  I had a great conversation with Mason from Yorktown Pie Company while I was ogling the mountains of small pies they had on Saturday and it talking to him, and others, just opens up your eyes to the ins and outs and highs and lows of farmers’ market and local business entrepreneurs.  You learn about controversial food issues, ethical concerns regarding the genuine certification of local and organic food (let’s just say some business are dishonest and give the impression that they use local food when, in fact, they do not), the difference between produce straight from our local farmers and its non-local counterparts, and about food in general.

For the record, their sour cream apple pie, $5 (aptly nicknamed “apple crack” among Yorktown Pie bakers and team members!) is out of this world!  If you love apple pie and/or sour cream doughnuts, you will be all over this pie like mud on a pig.  The apple pie has a sweet delicious crumble on top with baked apples and a creamy, custard-like filling that is so, so good.  I love the pies because the crusts don’t have the bitter aftertaste that I often find with other pies and this one is such a great dessert because you know it’s a treat that’s decadent, yet it doesn’t come off as too rich or too gluttonous.  A huge part of me wishes I had bought more than one because my family and I shared it.  Sigh.  Now I have to go back for sushi AND pies.  It’s never ending. 

Ooo, edible flowers on Earth & City’s vegan coconut brownies!

Take Earth & City for instance.  I’ve been a huge fan of their food for months now and it’s always hard leaving a market without something delicious from them.  Since the spring season started, Cassandra and Lisa started selling a bunch of different homemade vegan dips and spreads (perfect with their flatbreads, with vegetables, on sandwiches, and just about everything!) for $5 a pop including their sweet walnut sauce, preserved basil pesto, and sprouted chickpea hummus.  

You all know how much I LOVE dips and spreads (remember how crazy I was over Jesse’s Luscious Dips beet hummus from the Toronto Office Markets?  It breaks my heart that she moved to Niagara and that her business is no longer operating in Toronto), so I had to pick one up.  They had their sprouted chickpea hummus for sale and before you ask, “wait, isn’t hummus already made out of chickpeas?  Why the inclusion of the word chickpeas in the name?”, let me explain. 

Ever since I had their sprouted buckwheat pizza, I started reading up on sprouted foods and what the term “sprouted” actually means.  I found a very informative site HERE that contains a truckload of information on what sprouting is (soaking raw seeds, beans, and grains in water to basically “unlock” the stored nutrients and enzymes that are only made available to us through the process of sprouting and germination), the types of foods that can be sprouted aside from the obvious alfalfa (lentils, soybeans, sunflower seeds, chickpeas and/or garbonzo beans, barley, and more), its nutritional and health benefits (great for digestion!), and how to go about making your own raw, sprouted food.  

Earth & City’s sprouted chickpea hummus is – excuse my language – freakin’ unreal.  It is so delicious I could eat the entire container by myself in one day.  Made with tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, and a some sea salt, it has this wonderful savoury garlic flavour, a bit of texture from the chickpeas, and is super thick in consistency.

The amazing carrots and potatoes from Highmark Farms

I tried some with a carrot stick that Cassandra had cut up and I was head over heels in love, with both the hummus AND the carrot stick.  Which is unheard of for me!  I’m not the biggest fan of raw carrots.  I find them tasteless and exceptionally painful to eat (I feel like my teeth are going to snap off every time I try to eat them) and overall, not enjoyable.  However, when I dunked my carrot stick into the hummus I could not believe how soft, juicy, sweet, and flavourful it was and I asked Cassandra where the carrot sticks were from and she pointed behind me and said, “Highmark Farms!” 

I was floored.  Not because the carrots came from a fellow market food producer (many of the vendors swap and use one another’s bounty in an effort to reduce costs and showcase local food), but because of the difference in taste.  I hate the carrots that come from the supermarket but loved the carrot stick I ate from Highmark Farms.  The difference is so apparent and obvious it’s ridiculous.  This just serves as a reminder that it’s so important for us to remain cognizant of the food politics at play when it comes to our accessibility, our selection, and the honest to goodness bounty of great food that exists in and around our city and our province.  Will all of us ever be locavores?  Doubtful.  But it pays to know the difference and the options available to us.

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The Stop Community Food Centre Farmers’ Market at Artscape Wychwood Barns is held year-round on Saturdays from 8am-12pm.  The market will be heading outdoors for the summer season starting next Saturday, May 26!  The park and historic community centre complex is located at 76 Wychwood Ave. just off of St. Clair Ave. West, east of Christie St. and west of Bathurst St.  http://www.thestop.org/green-barn-market

Sushi Animals and Vegetarian & Vegan Sushi Bites – CheFe’s Natural Kitchen at Wychwood Barns, Part II

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Sushi roll artwork, vegan coconut brownies sprinkled with edible flowers, sour cream apple pie, and homemade hummus – all in a day’s work at yet another blossoming Saturday morning farmers’ market at Wychwood Barns!  Even though I go into many of these markets with a vague, general idea of the types of farmers’, producers, and food vendors that will be there, I can never be entirely prepared for what I see each time I go.  In addition to the changing seasons, vendors are always upping their game and wowing market visitors with new and different products, promotions, and samples, so no two markets are ever exactly alike.  Last time, I thought discovering the Bread Song Collective was the most exciting thing that had happened during my adventures at Wychwood.  Yesterday completely showed that visit up because I was treated to even more surprises!   

First up: vegetarian and vegan Japanese food and sushi artwork by CheFe’s Natural Kitchen!  I was beside myself when I saw their table.  Sushi?!  At a farmer’s market?!  I know I haven’t been to every single market in the city yet but oh my good gracious, this was the first time I had EVER seen sushi at a market and I was so excited like you would not believe.  And to think that CheFe’s Natural Kitchen has been right under my nose this entire time – foreshame!

Upon arriving at CheFe’s table located near the east entrance of the market, I asked Chihiro, co-founder and owner of CheFe’s Natural Kitchen here in Toronto, if she was new to Wychwood Barns.  I found out from her that her business was not, in fact, a new vendor at The Stop’s market but instead, a mainstay at every other Saturday market.  WHAT!  I realize I’ve only been going to the Wychwood market since February, but seriously, I could bang my head against a wall for missing her and her table of sushi delicacies each and every single time I went!  Obviously, I had just been going to the market during the weeks she wasn’t there and it took me, oh, nearly FOUR MONTHS to finally get the timing right!  And I’m so happy I did.  (And, as a side note, now that we know CheFe’s Natural Kitchen was at the market yesterday on May 19, we can do the math and figure out their next market appearnace: June 2nd!  And as a treat, CheFe’s Natural Kitchen will actually be at The Stop Market at Wychwood Barns EVERY Saturday during the month of June!)

CheFe’s Natural Kitchen is a local food business here in Toronto that operates as a catering business and a vendor at The Stop’s market.  Their focus is on creating nutritious food in compliance with macrobiotic principles, vegetarian and vegan food in particular.  In a nutshell, the TVA page on Macrobiotics and the Macrobiotic diet that CheFe’s site links to defines a macrobiotic diet as one that is devoid of additives, artificial flavours, chemicals, and animal products and devoted to whole, unprocessed foods in their natural state.

 

Their selection at the market includes onigiri, savoury crackers, brown rice cookies and sweet oat cookies, and homemade, healthy vegetarian and vegan sushi made with brown rice, flax seed, tofu, vegetables, Japanese herbs, black sesame seeds, and so much more.  My mouth gaped open as my eyes darted back and forth across the table of goodies before me while my mind kept screaming ohmygodohmygodohmygod.  This is not your run-of-the-mill, bore-me-to-tears veggie sushi.  Chihiro has, simply put, created sushi masterpieces.  She makes beautiful and adorable maki: rolls with the middles made to look like pink flowers and – wait for this – ANIMAL sushi!  Think sushi bites that look like anime pandas and monkey and birdies.  It totally reminds me of the art of the bento box and the relationship between food and art in Japanese cuisine, only in maki form.

The prices are incredibly reasonsable considering how labour intensive it is to make these little works of art.  Prices range anywhere from $1.50 to $2.50 per item for most things, with the exception of their sushi/nori logs, which are around $4.  There was no way I could leave without picking up a little something so I snatched up a giant pink flower maki roll ($2.25) and a brown rice and edamame onigiri ($1.50) and while I didn’t eat the pink flower maki myself (I saved it for my mum), she loved it and I LOVED my brown rice and edamame onigiri!  So much so that there was a large part of me that wished I had bought every single one of them off the platter.  I have no shame.  It was SO delicious and for $1.50, beyond worth it.  The brown rice was so soft and combined with the edamames studded throughout it, it tasted light, wholesome, and healthy because it wasn’t bogged down with seasoning.  I am already penciling in a follow-up visit to the market two Saturdays from now, just so I can get my hands and teeth on more sushi! 

When I started writing this post, I thought for certain that I’d be writing about yesterday’s market in its entirety, but now I realize that there is no possible way of fitting everything else into this post because there is so much more I want and need to share with you all.  The sushi discovery was just one of the wonderful things that happened yesterday and I’ll wrap up tomorrow with yummies from Earth & City, Highmark Farms, and The Yorktown Pie Company!   If yesterday’s farmers’ market was any indication of what the summer has in store, it’s going to be one incredibly amazing season from here on out.

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The Stop Community Food Centre Farmers’ Market at Artscape Wychwood Barns is held year-round on Saturdays from 8am-12pm.  The market will be heading outdoors for the summer season starting next Saturday, May 26!  The park and historic community centre complex is located at 76 Wychwood Ave. just off of St. Clair Ave. West, east of Christie St. and west of Bathurst St.  http://www.thestop.org/green-barn-market

It’s Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Summer – The Almost-Outdoor Farmers’ Market at Wychwood Barns, Part I

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Happy Food Revolution Day, and Victoria and Memorial Day long weekend everyone!  I know it’s been a bit quieter here over the last few days and that’s only because I’ve been working on SO MANY things for the blog for the upcoming month and season!  I have huge and exciting news to share with you all soon (I can barely contain myself, but I have to wait just a little bit longer to tell you all about it) and there are a number of things I’ll be doling out over the next month including the June Food Calendar, the June Markets, and two new series that are in the works: the patio dining series and the vegan brunch series!  I’m working away at the Cookie & Baking Scrapbook Project and I’m also hard at work gathering up news and update goodies for the next installment of the Cupcake Connection.  I’m crazy busy, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.  

Not only are things heating up here, but the weather is starting to get mighty fiery as well and that definitely makes for some very eventful outdoor farmers’ marketing!  I went to the market at Wychwood Barns again today and I can honestly say that since I started going back in February, today’s was the best its ever been.  I cannot wait to share my huge write-up with you all tomorrow featuring pies, hummus, sweets, and some very adorable and delicious sushi (yes, that’s right, CUTE sushi!), so enjoy the market veggies photos that were taken today – it doesn’t get any fresher than that! 

*****

The Stop Community Food Centre Farmers’ Market at Artscape Wychwood Barns is held year-round on Saturdays from 8am-12pm.  The market will be heading outdoors for the summer season starting next Saturday, May 26!  The park and historic community centre complex is located at 76 Wychwood Ave. just off of St. Clair Ave. West, east of Christie St. and west of Bathurst St.  http://www.thestop.org/green-barn-market