When you live on Manitoulin Island, you quickly become aware of the need (and want) for eating your own fresh vegetables and fresh fruit. We have fabulous grocery stores on the Island, but being able to buy your produce from local Farmers’ Markets or grow your vegetables in your own garden do make a big difference when it comes to taste and treading lighter on the Earth.
I love the fact that our beef comes from our farm. Our chicken, lamb, and pork are local. Grampy catches our fish from the lake. Our eggs come from a local farmer, and most of our fruits and veggies come from our farm.
It’s also very important to me that my family gets our recommended daily intake of fruits and veggies. Though I’m guilty of wanting to have produce from overseas or across the border (yes, I love my avocados and we cannot grow them where we live!), I try to ‘buy local’ as much as I can. I do purchase pineapple and clementines (and I try not to beat myself up for it) and I try to make sure the bulk of what we eat are grown either on our farm, on the Island or in Ontario.
What vegetables are in season in Ontario?
In the Spring, we can get a variety of produce like:
ASPARAGUS from April through June. We have lots and lots of asparagus on our farm. We love them grilled, sauteed, steamed, and even eaten raw! Picking the asparagus and eating it fresh was something new to this city girl! I was surprised at how sweet the asparagus is raw! It tastes sort of like snowpeas!
ARUGULA from May through September. We love mixing arugula in with salad other greens and tossing it with a nice homemade balsamic vinaigrette.
BEETS from May through October. Beets are one of my absolute favourites. It was only recently that I tried eating beet greens! Love them! I also have a balsamic glazed beet recipe I really love, and of course, pickled beets are an all-time favourite here too!
CHARD from May through September. I make soups and stir-fry recipes with chard. Chard sauteed with garlic is also very tasty.
CARROTS from May through November. They keep well in cold storage. We eat them raw, add them to a variety of recipes, make carrot cake, carrot juice, carrot salad, carrot soup, etc. There are so many ways we use carrots in our cooking. To be honest, I enjoy just eating carrots fresh from the garden (washed).
GARLIC SCAPES in May and June. I never knew that you could eat the long green shoot that springs from garlic! The scapes are so delicious! I first had them at a restaurant as part of the garnish for my dish. I actually thought they were some kind of different string bean! Garlic scapes are now among my favourite things to eat!
GREENS from May to November. There are numerous types of greens you can grow and eat in the Spring that are perfect for mixing together in a salad. I love being able to have fresh salad greens throughout the seasons.
HERBS from May to October. Herbs can be grown or started indoors. It’s great having your own personal little herb garden in your kitchen. This makes it easy to add flavour, colour, and freshness to your dishes!
LETTUCE May to October. Lettuce is easy to grow and pick. Great in salads and sandwiches.
LEEKS in the Spring, we go leek picking on our farm. Nothing beats a nice homemade leek and potato soup!
MORELS in the Spring. On the Island, Spring is an exciting time because of the morels and wild leeks!
MUSHROOMS year-round. If you grow mushrooms, you’ll enjoy harvesting them! Just make sure you know which mushrooms are edible and which ones can kill you!
PARSNIPS in April and May, and again in October through November.
RADISHES May through October. I’m not really a fan of radishes, because I find their bite a bit too strong. My husband loves picking radishes, giving them a quick wash, and popping them into his mouth. He loves them.
RHUBARB from April through June. Admittedly, I wasn’t a huge rhubarb fan before I moved to Manitoulin Island. I actually HATED Rhubarb when I was a kid. Now that I’m married to a farmer, my mother-in-law has taught me how to cook with rhubarb, bake with rhubarb, and learn to love rhubarb. Our rhubarb on our farm is so prolific, that it would be a shame to not use it. I have a rhubarb-strawberry-apple pie and a rhubarb strawberry dessert that I love making.
SPINACH from May through October. Spinach is fabulous eating in a sandwich or in a salad. We also really enjoy spinach in stir-fry or soups. Our latest way of enjoying spinach is in smoothies and vegetable juices! Gotta love the dark leafy greens!
Do you have a garden? What do you grow?