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.
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.
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.
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