Lime Mint Jelly, Bread Baskets, and Market Fruits – Between Seasons at Dufferin Grove Farmers’ Market

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Everyone has a running list of things they would hypothetically do if they won the lottery or had all the money in the world.  Actually, let’s not even say all the money in the world – just more than what you already have.  While one of my goals in life is to go on a cupcake shop tour across the country, the states, and the world, there is one other food-related thing I wish I could do, and that is to buy everything that strikes my fancy at every single farmers’ market I go to.  And I mean EVERYTHING. 

It’s a little embarrassing to admit this, but if money wasn’t a concern, I would and could have easily blown $30 at the newest and latest Lunchtime Office market I recently wrote about, at the ING Direct Cafe.  Some raw vegan food from Earth & City (vegan pizza and a raw brownie), a pie from Yorktown Pie Company, another edible veggie bowl and container of dip from Luscious Dips, some seafood from Hooked Inc. and some tortillas from ChocoSol.  Can I eat all of it at once?  Goodness, no.  I might be a food tank, but even I couldn’t down all of that in one go.  I would take half of it home.  But $30!  That is an absurd amount to even think about spending for lunch at one market.  But there it is.  If I didn’t have to watch my wallet or think about budgeting, I would bring the markets home with me.  There has never been one market I have been to where I didn’t want to leave with a wheelbarrow full of fresh bread, fruits and vegetables, and pantry items.      

I think these market visits have really challenged me to be creative with my meal-planning over the last year.  It’s easy to come to the false conclusion that going to the markets time and time again would yield the same foods and products during the same season, thus resulting in boredom.  After all, many of the same businesses and vendors are present each time.  Far from it is the way I see it.  My knowledge, tastebuds, and exposure to different food products have grown with these markets and in turn, many vendors have reciprocated by bringing new and creative things to the table each week for their customers and market-goers.  I find myself discovering new things every time and I get excited about things all over again. 

My last visit to Dufferin Grove was back in December before the holidays so I paid another visit to the indoor winter market recently to see what goodies I could get nice photographs of and – surprise, surprise – I left wanting half the market!  It’s so interesting to see how a farmers’ market evolves over the course of a year and watching it move along in transition between seasons.  You can tell that while the winter vegetables and comfort foods are still making its rounds, spring is waiting in the wings to break out full force.  Just look at the sunny lemons and oranges.  Spring is definitely going to be one very exciting season this year because I’ll get to see many of the markets that were hibernating over the winter come back and I’m looking forward to that.  My favourite discoveries this time around were the cornmeal sourdough bread loaves, the artisan pumpkin seed loaves, and – get this – lime mint jelly in a jar!  As of late, I have been on the biggest toast and _____ (insert some form of spread, dip, or condiment here) kick lately.  

I know that sounds kind of ho-hum (really, Deb?  Toast is your food adventure?), but it makes a world of difference when you start experimenting with different kinds of bread and spreads.  I’ve been having a field day with my peanut butter on Texas toast with almond milk, sesame seed bread with beet hummus, and 12-grain rye with garlic spread.  And now to find out there is such a thing as lime mint jelly?!  That makes me all sorts of excited.  I think it would taste fantastic with a turkey sandwich on some French bread.  Once I finish off my container of beet hummus (I actually bought the beet hummus for my mum, but I kind of polished off half the container myself, oops)  I just might pick up a jar.  Or maybe just another container of veggie hummus.  We’ll see.

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Dufferin Grove Park is located at the intersection of Dufferin St. and Bloor St. West.  The Dufferin Grove farmers’ market is held year-round at the northwest corner of the park every Thursday from 3pm-7pm.  For more info on the farmers’ market and its vendors, click here.

Getting Warm and Cozy at the Indoor Farmers’ Markets – The Eglinton Market at North Toronto Community Centre

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I love visiting different community centres.  Growing up, I spent a lot of time at my local community centre, and bouncing between different ones around the city to ice skate and swim with my dad.  I spent 3 years swimming like a fishy full-time, winter after winter strapping on ice skates that were way too big for me because my dad bought me skates he thought I would “grow into” (which I obviously didn’t), and almost all my life popping in and out of community centre libraries with stacks of books I would stick my nose in for weeks on end. 

Community centres are so important not only in providing neighbourhoods with lifestyle, sports, and exercise programs, but they’re also vital in creating and maintaining our social relationships.  You meet people, you make friends, you get to know your own neighbourhood better, and you learn about events going on in the city you otherwise wouldn’t have known about.  At the very least, a community centre can function as a physical and mental refuge for some, a home away from home for parts of the day.

The Eglinton Farmers’ Market (in conjunction with Appletree Markets) moved indoors this past November, setting up camp on the main floor of the North Toronto Memorial Community Centre every other week from 3pm-7pm.  I finally got the chance to see the market in its indoor form since its winter move and I was really excited to see what January would bring.  Even though I think I arrived at the market before every single vendor was able to set up, I was still able to snap some photos and I even took away some fabulous new foodie reading material for myself! 

The market was in full-out winter mode, with barrels of cabbage, potatoes, leeks, onions, apples, pears, brussel sprouts, and beans ready for the picking.  I was so amused by the brussel sprouts – they looked like jolly green giant beanstalks with little green nubbies on them!  In its natural form, there they were with brussel sprouts literally still on the stalk!  Brussel sprouts have become one of my family’s favourite vegetables over the past two years and that’s because we don’t do the brussel sprout no-no: we don’t steam them!  For years, my mum hated brussel sprouts because she had an awful dining experience where the cooking method used didn’t do them justice and they ended up being reduced to mush.  Roasting (or in our case, a quick boil) does the trick and sprinkle some olive oil, garlic, sea salt, or cracked black pepper and you have yourself a tasty meal.

The winter markets are all about warmth and comfort and there was plenty of that at the little market.  There were homemade jars of soup, baskets with mounds of Italian beans perfect for making salads and warm soups (it was the first time I had ever seen Italian borlotti beans!), and plenty of fair trade coffee from Chocosol!  I picked up the most recent issue of Edible Toronto and The Golden Horseshoe from Chocosol where they were featured on the cover and in the magazine as the featured cover story, and the most recent issue of Post City magazine: North Toronto from the community centre.

I’m sad that the market is every other week as opposed to every single week, but I feel lucky enough that I have markets to go to and great community centres to visit and explore.  The winter is still young and I’m crossing my fingers I’ll finally be able to visit the market at Wychwood Barns and the 99 MRKT when it comes back later on this month!  No matter what, I’m making it a priority to visit whichever ones I can so I can get the goods on what’s good this winter at the market. 

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The Eglinton Appletree Markets are held indoors during the winter season at North Toronto Memorial Community Centre at 200 Eglinton Ave. West from 3pm-7pm.  From November 10th to May, the market is held indoors in the community centre every other Thursday from 3pm-7pm.  Check out the Appletree Market website here for specific dates and for more information.