Beef Stir Fry with Asparagus, Snap Peas & Fiddleheads

This quick and easy Beef Stir Fry with Asparagus, Snap Peas & Fiddleheads is our celebration of spring.  Quick, easy and very versatile, this dish packs a flavor punch!

Why We Love Stir Fry Dishes

  • It’s quick, easy and a great way to add more vegetables to your children’s meals
  • It’s versatile – include your favorite veggies and use the opportunity to clean out the fridge!
  • Double the recipe for leftovers the next night
  • Add some rice and this recipe is perfect for meal prep
  • It’s a great way to stretch your food dollars

We had some exciting news this weekend!  Farmer Morris announced that you can now Pick Your Own Asparagus at the farm.  Barrie Hill Farms is the first farm in Ontario to do this and we are very excited to send hungry customers out on the wagons to the asparagus fields!

Tips for Cooking Stir Fry Recipes:

  • If you’re adding a lot of beef, cook it in batches.   Lay the strips down and let cook for 2 minutes undisturbed on high heat.  Turn over once golden brown and cook for 1 more minute.
  • If you want your dish super saucy because it’s going over rice, double the cornstarch/water mixture
  • I wanted to feature asparagus and fiddleheads so my dish is all green but this is a great recipe to include lots of colors.  Kids respond to bright colors on their plates and different textures as well.
  • Serve on wild rice rather than minute rice.  Wild rice is an excellent plant based protein and has a unique flavor.  Many gourmet blends are available and some can be cooked in just 20 minutes.
  • NOTE:  Fiddleheads cannot be eaten raw.  To learn more about these fun ferns, click HERE.

 

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Recipe courtesy of Simply Fresh Dinners,  A partner with Barrie Hill Farms in bringing fresh recipes to your table.

 

More Asparagus Recipes from Barrie Hill Farms

Lemon Butter Asparagus 

Asparagus Salsa

Shaved Asparagus Salad

A calendar showing when crops are available at Barrie Hills Farm.

Stir Fry Beef with Asparagus, Snap Peas & Fiddleheads

This quick and easy Beef Stir Fry with Asparagus, Snap Peas & Fiddleheads is our celebration of spring. Quick, easy and very versatile, this dish packs a flavor punch!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: stir fried asparagus
Servings: 4
Calories: 439kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 12-16 ounces Strip loin steak (or your favorite cut)
  • salt and pepper - for steak
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 bunch asparagus, washed, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 8 ounces snap peas, washed and trimmed
  • 4 ounces fiddleheads, washed and trimmed
  • 1/4 cup beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon sherry
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • dash red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water. (optional to add at the end. If you don't want a super saucy dish, skip this final step)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Cook rice according to package directions.  Fluff with a fork when done.  Set aside.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on high heat. Season beef generously with salt and pepper.  Add beef strips.  Cook on one side undisturbed for 2 minutes, turn off and cook for 1 more minutes.  Cook in batches if required.  Set aside on a plate.
  • Heat additional oil if required.  Add ginger and garlic and heat to medium high. Add asparagus, peas and fiddleheads with beef stock, sherry, tamari or soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper as required. Cook for 3-4 minutes.
  • Return beef to wok and heat until warmed through. 
    Optional, add cornstarch mixture and stir until thickened.
  • Spoon over cooked rice and serve.

Nutrition

Calories: 439kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 54mg | Sodium: 505mg | Potassium: 1069mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 2490IU | Vitamin C: 48.6mg | Calcium: 93mg | Iron: 6.4mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Apple

This simple and easy recipe contains the deliciousness of sprouts, apple and thyme tossed with olive oil and fresh apple cider!

  I topped it with a few pomegranate arils as well to add more colour.  Did you know they contain Vitamin C, fibre and antioxidants?

Barrie Hill Farms Brussels Sprouts Salad

Leave those stray leaves on your baking tray.  They cook up quickly and you may have to remove them when you toss them halfway through but they add a great crunch to the dish.

Barrie Hill Farms – Brussels sprouts and apples

I also added peeled garlic cloves to this but it seems I took this picture before I included them.  This is totally optional but it’s a wonderful addition for garlic addicts like myself.

This dish used the apples from the very first crop of apples from  Barrie Hill Farms.  They pressed their own apple cider right at the farm.  Can’t get any fresher than that!

Barrie Hill Farms, fresh apple cider

I need one of these machines.   Hmmm, I guess I better get myself an apple orchard first.   You can see why I get so crazy excited about working with the farm!

Barrie Hill Farms – Making Apple Cider

These Gala and Honey Crisp apples were the best I’ve tasted.

The Many Health Benefits to Apples!

  • Improves neurological health
  • Helps in preventing dementia
  • Reduces the risk of stroke
  • Lowering levels of bad cholestrol
  • Reduces your risk of diabetes
Barrie Hill Farms – Making Apple Cider

The result?  A healthy, vegan dish that is super tasty, colorful and the perfect side dish any day of the week.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Apples

This simple and easy recipe contains the deliciousness of sprouts, apple and thyme tossed with olive oil and fresh apple cider!
Total Time: 30 minutes
Course: Salad
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: brussels sprouts and apples
Servings: 4
Calories: 154kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 apple, diced. I used Gala apples. Leave skin on if organic.
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, washed, halved
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, peeled
  • small handful of sprigs of thyme
  • 1/4 cup apple cider (Zieglars Apple Cider is gluten free, as are many others)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate arils

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 F
  • Place apples, sprouts and garlic in medium sized bowl.
  • Combine cider, olive oil and pepper in a small bowl, mixing well. Pour mixture over apple combo and stir gently until well coated.
  • Spread mixture on baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes and toss. Remove any stray leaves that are getting crunchy. Return to oven for an additional 10 minutes or until sprouts are slightly browned. Remove.
  • Place in serving bowl and top with pomegranate arils if desired and serve.

Nutrition

Calories: 154kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 30mg | Potassium: 540mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 880IU | Vitamin C: 100.7mg | Calcium: 58mg | Iron: 1.7mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Follow us on Facebook for more delicious farm-fresh recipes, and updates on our growing seasons!

Recipe courtesy of Simply Fresh Dinners,  A partner with Barrie Hill Farms in bringing fresh recipes to your table.

 

More Apple Recipes from Barrie Hill Farms

Goat Cheese Bruschetta with Honey Crisp Apple

Oven Roast Chicken Breast with Apples and Grapes

A calendar showing when crops are available at Barrie Hills Farm.

5 Ways to Preserve your Local Ontario Produce

Preserving fresh fruits

Many of us are doing our best to eat local Ontario produce, but one of the major difficulties in the Canadian climate is how to continue this throughout the year. Whether you’re buying your fruits and vegetables from farmers markets in Ontario or you’re growing your own, preserving the nutrient-rich produce is a concern. Try your hand at food preserving this year, and read on to find out our top five ways to preserve your food.

Fresh Food Storage

The easiest way to store you local produce is by fresh storage. All that this straightforward option requires is a cool, dark space such as a root cellar, basement or garage. Produce such as onions, garlic, root vegetables and apples last a long time in conditions like this.

Fridge Food Storage

Using your fridge is a similar storage option to fresh storage, but the temperature and moisture levels are lowered. Food items like carrots and beets do very well in this manner of storage. You can place them into large freezer bags and eat them as you need.

Freezer Food Storage

Freezing your local produce is a great option that will preserve the closest flavour and texture to fresh. If you are planning on using this option often, it is recommended that you use a chest freezer because it doesn’t have the usual defrost cycle of a kitchen freezer.

Some vegetables will require you to blanched or steamed first to stop the enzyme action (which will cause loss of flavour, colour and nutrients), but others can be stored raw. Foods such as peppers and kale store great in freezer bags or containers.

Pickling or Fermentation Storage

This is a little more of an involved storage option, but one that can help foods last for over a year in fridge storage. Fermented foods retain a lot of their nutrients in storage, more than canned foods, and has the added benefit of bacteria that is excellent for your gut health. Pickling options that work the best are cabbage, onions, carrots, eggs, and cucumbers.  

Canning Storage

The final, but most complex storage option is canning. Using a large stockpot with a lid you’ll cover your jars with water to sterilize them. You can use this method to preserve your fermented foods longer, as well as jams and jellies, or tomatoes. You can use a pressure canner for lower acid foods such as carrots, beans, sauces, broths and soups but you will need to purchase one specifically for this.

Local Produce is the Best Reward

Keeping your fresh foods as delicious as the day you brought them doesn’t have to be a difficult as you might think. Choosing which storage option appeals to you most can make this process easier and thus more likely for you to continue. Being able to eat your home grown foods in the depths of winter will be a satisfying reward for your hard work. We’re looking forward to seeing you back on the farm in the spring.

Best Spots to Eat Local in Barrie

Best Places to Eat Local Food in Barrie

With our abundance of farmers markets in the Barrie area, eating local in the summer is an easy and delicious task. Once winter arrives it can get a little harder and your creativity will have to come out. There are still plenty of options however, and with a little planning ahead you can provide yourself with canned, jarred or pickled fresh local foods to feast upon once the snows come.

Winter Farmers Markets

Winter meals have traditionally been focused on roasted vegetables, slow cooked stews, colourful veggies and fruit thawed out of the freezer, or preserved items. But where to find these items if you haven’t had time in the summer months to squirrel away your own supply? In our area there are two main farmers markets that stay open year round and simple move their goods indoors: the Barrie Farmers Market, and the Orillia Fairgrounds Farmers Market. At either of these places you’re able to find plenty of options to fill your winter pantry, as well as crisp fresh foods that are grown indoors that will help keep you healthy during the darker months.

At the Barrie Farmers Market, located in the City Hall rotunda on Saturdays 8am-12pm, you’ll be able to browse from over 42 different vendors including local farms, chefs, bakers and specialized artisans. What better way to celebrate the holidays and supporting your community than by giving locally made foods and gifts. The Orillia Fairgrounds Farmers Market is located near the entrance of the Agricultural Society on Saturdays from 8am-1pm. They have over 37 different vendors that provide a variety of local goods including vegetables, maple syrup, preserved goods, baked items and specialty made products such as soaps and woodworking.

What Local Foods Can I Buy In the Winter?

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that there are so many delicious local food options in the winter months, but taking a look at Foodland Ontario monthly availability guide will help you to plan before you head out to the farmers market. Many of these options come from indoor greenhouses, and by adding in these fresh items you’ll help to keep your immune system healthy and your taste buds from getting bored with stews and soups. Take a look through some of our recipes to find ways to incorporate local foods into your meals.

Even unexpected items like rhubarb are available fresh in Ontario from January to June. Called ‘forced winter rhubarb’, it used to be so common that at one point there were over 60 winter-rhubarb farmers in Ontario alone. Since the 1960’s the general public has forgotten about this tangy and crisp treat but it’s beginning to make a comeback. Grown indoors in darkened areas, the lack of sunlight means that it doesn’t develop it’s usual bitter taste, and stays red all the way through. A perfect mid-winter treat to bring out and amaze your family and friends.

Non-seasonal local foods like eggs, oils, honey, jams, maple syrup, fresh and cured meats, wine, cider and beers, cheeses, and fermented, canned or jarred foods are always available from Ontario farmers markets.

Farm-to-Table Restaurants

In the Simcoe and Barrie area there are several restaurants that serve dishes made using locally sourced ingredients. Why not spend your night out at an establishment that supports the community, the environment and your health.

Era67 is an Orillia based restaurant whose menu focuses on food that is in season and locally sourced whenever possible. They make all their dishes daily, do not use pre-packaged foods, and source their ingredients from local farmers markets and vendors.

Craving’s Fine Food & Market is a Barrie space that provides to-order foods and catering options. Their carefully curated menu uses local foods and in-season ingredients to create dishes that will satisfy everyone.

Ripe Juicery has two locations in Barrie, and one in Muskoka. They create cold pressed organic juices that strive to improve their customer’s health, and supports their local community by using local farm sourced ingredients.

Mad Craving’s is a modern bbq and bakery that creates mouth-watering foods from scratch using hormone and antibiotic free meats, and local produce from farms in the area.

The Globe Restaurant  is based out of Alliston and stays connected to its local farms and neighbours by using a farm-to-table menu inspired by seasonal food availability and sustainability.

Eat Local Year Round

Eating fresh and local year round doesn’t have to be impossible – even in our cold Canadian climate. From preserving your own local fruits and vegetables, to trips to the local farmers market, or a night out at a farm-to-table restaurant, you’ll be surprised at how easy eating local in the winter can be. We look forward to seeing you again at Barrie Hill Farms in the spring when our our farm market opens.

What is Farm Fresh Produce, and Why Does it Matter?

Farm Fresh Produce & Why it Matters

What comes to mind when you think of farm fresh produce? Does it bring to mind the simple pleasure of choosing a pint of local strawberries to take home, of deciding which pumpkin most clearly says ‘pick me!’ Or is it the knowledge that you’re choosing something deliciously good for your health, your hometown and your neighbours?

Local food is commonly defined as produce sold within 50 kilometers of where it was grown, but for some it also means food grown by people they know and can talk to at the farm market; food that supports small-scale values and a community-based focus.

The emphasis on what is in our foods, on where it is grown, how it is grown, and how that impacts the environment has become more mainstream in recent years. This is a change for the better, because our food has the power to improve our health and well-being as well as the our environment.

Health Benefits of Eating Farm Fresh Produce

It’s called farm fresh produce for a reason! Locally grown foods have a leg up on the competition when it comes to both nutritional value and taste. Once picked, fruits and vegetables begin to lose that nutritional value and so the longer they wait in storage the less rich in vitamin C, E, A and B they will become – so while that produce sits inside trucks and warehouses it’s losing that magic green power.

Local farms are able to allow produce to ripen much longer than imported, which adds to the nutrition value immediately. Also, how produce is handled after being picked also plays a part in its nutritional value; rough handling, mechanical harvesters or long transport can combine to reduce the quality, taste and nutritional value of fruits and vegetables.

Environmental Positives of Local Farming

Of the pick-your-own farms in Ontario, Barrie Hill Farms is a leader in sustainable farming practices which help protect our environment. It is one of the first to have earned the designation of LFP Certified. This certification from The Land Food People Foundation signifies that we follow these guidelines in our focus to create sustainable agriculture for the future:

  1. To reduce or eliminate synthetic pesticides and fertilizers
  2. Avoid the use of hormones, antibiotics, and genetic engineering
  3. Conserve soil and water
  4. Ensure safe and fair working conditions
  5. Provide healthy and humane care for livestock
  6. Protect and enhance wildlife habitat and biodiversity
  7. Reduce on-farm energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions

Water usage is a major environmental topic that many Canadian farms focus on. The use of drip irrigation allows us to deposit water directly to the plant’s root, thus minimizing the amount of water required. In addition, keeping the plants dry aboveground reduces leaf disease and fruit mold which helps us in our quest to reduce pesticides.

Choosing food grown from farms in Barrie also helps to reduce your carbon footprint in two main ways. The fewer kilometers your food has to travel from the field to your plate, the fewer transportation emissions are in our air! Local farming also helps to promote the preservation of our green spaces by encouraging youth to continue farming traditions, or even start their own local farming operation.

 

Local farming is just as important today as it was hundreds of years ago and though many of the reasons are different, many of them remain the same: our health, a connection to one another and our land. There’s no better feeling than biting into a strawberry pie made with fruit you picked from the soil yourself, or buying a pumpkin from someone who you know grew it locally.

There’s a lot of disconnection from our food sources in this day and age, and choosing farm fresh produce means making healthier choice for our bodies and the environment. Make Barrie Hill Farms a regular part of your meal planning for your own health and the health of our community.

 

 

Five Wintertime Tips for Making the Most of Ontario Farmers’ Markets

Health conscious Barrie dwellers who like to visit Ontario farmers’ markets in summer tend to lose enthusiasm for buying local foods once temperatures drop. It’s as though the first snow blanket over those pick-your-own strawberry fields tries to cover up all our good intentions for making eating local Ontario produce a priority. But eating local is easier than you think…even in winter months.

In fact, eating farm fresh foods after the growing season is not only possible—it can be economical and enjoyable, too.  By planning and preparing during summer months and applying these tips in winter, you can make the most of the many farmers’ markets Ontario has to offer and strengthen your community in the process.

Find a Year-Round Farmers’ Market Near You

If you’re wondering where to buy Ontario produce in winter, visiting a farmers’ market where local farmers bring their choice produce is a great place to start. You may be surprised to learn that Ontario has many year-round farmers’ markets taking place on Saturday mornings as well as other days of the week.

Here local farmers continue to offer healthy and tasty farm fresh produce and greenhouse goods at prices on par with big grocery store chains.  If you’ve never visited one in winter you will likely find it to be a different experience from the hustling hub you visited in summer.

Come November, farmers markets typically move indoors and take on a whole new vibe. New smells of fill the air—sometimes wood smoke, simmering soup, or fresh breads. The pace slows and people seem to linger longer and chat more. Local artisans share their woolly and winter wares. Comfort foods in the form of local meats, cheeses, honey, breads, jams and other prepared foods take centre stage. And the cozy and pleasant atmosphere creates an experience that is so much more than a trip to the grocery store could ever give.

Barrie has a year-round farmers market that takes place inside city hall on Saturday mornings. Orillia, Innisfil, and Elmvale-Springwater have winter markets as well. Although it may be a little out of the way, taking time on Saturday morning to visit a farmers market near you can offer you local seasonal produce while offering a very enjoyable shopping experience.

Do a Little Homework to Get the Real Bargains on Farm Fresh Produce

There are bargains to be had when purchasing fresh produce at farmers markets, even in winter. Barrels of potatoes. Bags of winter greens. Bins of squash. Vendors will often discount produce when selling in greater quantities and sometimes at the end of the market day. Knowing when to buy and what types of foods to look for can provide real savings.

However, if you don’t like the smell of rotting potatoes or finding half composted salads at the bottom of the fridge drawer you’ll want to be sure you are likely to use the food you purchase.

Knowing how long various types of produce stay fresh can provide some sense of certainty. Here is a list of common foods and the typical shelf life for each whether refrigerated, frozen, or stored at room temperature.

If you’re looking for something that’s not on this list do a little homework before you head out. Buying but not using produce is a waste and an inconvenience. Arming yourself with shelf-life knowledge will help you choose those foods you’re most likely to consume and save you money in the long run.

Be Spontaneous and Embrace What Local Ontario Produce that Winter Has to Offer

Some say you should make a list and buy only what’s on that list when you shop for groceries. But when it comes to sourcing foods locally, it’s good to go to market with an open mind, too.

Seeing, smelling, and touching the local produce in person is often the best determinant for what your body needs. Sometimes it’s not until you see that vibrant veggie that you realize what you and your family are craving.  And since winter produce such as squash, apples, potatoes, cabbage, onions, turnips, beets, and collard greens are incredibly versatile, it makes sense to wait and make those final choices in person.

You can also receive inspiration for delicious winter menus from those who grow the food you’re buying. Often, farmers will provide unique recipes for the ingredients they’re offering or provide special preparation tips for the produce on hand that week.

Slower-paced winter markets offer great opportunities to collect ideas from growers, vendors and information booths. Visiting them with an open mind for trying new or different things can help you enjoy local foods in a whole new way.

Plan Ahead and Stock Up at the Summer Farm Market

Although the above tips target the colder months, produce is obviously tastiest and least expensive at season’s peak. What foods do you miss most come winter? With a little forethought you can enjoy those and other locally grown food year round, too.

If you don’t know much about how to freeze produce or prepare preserves, winter may be just the time get started in your reading and gather your supplies.

You can also take this time to research and note when that produce in your area becomes available so you can buy in bulk at the most opportune times for flavors and savings.  This harvest schedule shows when the crops of Barrie Hill Farms are most likely to be in season.

Plan a Visit to Barrie Hill Farms

Making the extra effort to visit a local farmer’s market and buy local Ontario produce can be financially beneficial and personally satisfying. It can also help build community, protect our environment, and strengthen our local economy. We hope you will come see us at Barrie Hill Farms in the spring, summer and fall when our own farm market is open!

8 Reasons to Visit the Pumpkin Farm and Apple Orchard this Fall

Pumpkin Farm Barrie Hill Farms

Every fall should celebrate the changing of the seasons. But in the midst of back-to-school from summer vacation, homework, and a return to being busy, families often forget. But fall shouldn’t be all about work! Take a day off and enjoy the fall season: the crisp fall air, the colours of the leaves, and of course, a trip to the farm.

There are many, many reasons to plan a visit to the pumpkin farm. Here, we’ve listed a few of our favourites, and some you may not have thought of before:

The Pumpkin Farm and Apple Orchard is Close to Home.

Pumpkin Farms and Apple Orchards are always close by in Ontario. We have a proud agricultural tradition, as one of Canada’s best farming regions. It’s especially important to plan a trip to the country, even if you’re in the city. Let the kids discover first-hand where their food comes from.

Picking Pumpkins is So Much Fun.

Even big kids enjoy carving Jack-o-Lanterns. Some people look for the biggest, bumpiest pumpkin to make the scariest Jack-o-Lantern. Others look for symmetry. The perfect pumpkin is sitting in the field, waiting for you.

Pumpkins are Good For You.

Pumpkins are tasty when roasted, and so are their seeds. Pumpkins are loaded with vitamins A, C, and potassium, and high in fibre. They are high in iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, and contain 3 different carotenoids. Try roasting pumpkin by cutting it up and seasoning lightly with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Put the ‘Thanks’ into Thanksgiving.

Whether it’s roasted pumpkin, pumpkin pie, or other delicious fall treats from the farm, such as apples, you’ll feel grateful for the harvest. Feel connected to your food source and appreciate the freshness of farm-to-table eating.

Spend the Day Outside.

Don’t spend the fall indoors. When the winter comes, you have many indoor days ahead. Get your dose of fresh air and vitamin D. The added bonus is how well you’ll sleep at night.

Stock-up on Other Festive Fall Decor.

Your Pumpkin Farm or Apple Orchard often sells perfect items to decorate your home for fall. Look for multicolour corn, hay bales, corn stalks, mums and other items to make your front porch more welcoming.

Sweets to Take Home.

Fresh apple cider, sparkling cider, and baked goods are typical finds at your local farm. Set a pot of cider on the stove and let it simmer with cinnamon sticks and cloves to add a wonderful, warm scent to your home. While you’re at it, bring home some pie and other seasonal baked goods, as well as other locally-sourced goodies such as maple syrup or honey.

Postpone the Holidays. Just a Little!

Everyone loves the Holidays so much, it’s easy to see why the Fall is overlooked in preparations for December. But may we suggest leaving it until November? Savour the wonder of fall, the joy of the harvest, and make Fall last a little longer! Eating farm-to-table and discovering the ‘roots’ of our food, makes us slow down just a little bit – and that’s a good thing.

If you’re convinced, plan to make a fall visit to the pumpkin farm and the apple orchard at Barrie Hill Farms to fully appreciate the changing seasons and the delicious taste of fresh-picked apples and get your pumpkin for Halloween.

Strawberry Picking 101: Tips for Bringing Home the Best Berries

Strawberry-Picking-Barrie-Hill-Farms

Strawberry picking in June is an Ontario tradition you don’t want to miss out on. If you haven’t tasted fresh-picked strawberries, then it’s definitely time to sample Ontario’s sweetest treat! Make the most of your first strawberry picking excursion, and ensure your berries are at their best with these suggestions.

When Does Strawberry Picking Season Start?

Strawberries are at the peak of freshness from the end of June to mid-July in Ontario. Since availability is entirely up to mother nature, it’s wise to check with your local farm before planning your trip. Many farms also have an annual Strawberry Festival. Strawberry Festivals are held when strawberries are at their freshest, and usually attract crowds of strawberry lovers with strawberry-themed entertainment and strawberry treats.

To be prepared for your day of strawberry picking, it’s important to bring water, wear a hat and bring sunscreen. It’s also a great idea to bring a gardening pad to comfortably rest your knees on as strawberries are harvested from the ground. To prevent waste, you can also bring your own shallow containers from home.

Strawberry Picking Tips:

• Be choosy with your berries. Pick only the ripe berries that are red all the way to the hull (green tops) and leave the rest to ripen on the plant. Unlike other fruits like tomatoes, strawberries do not ripen after picked.
• To pick the berry, don’t grasp it on the fruit itself, but pinch the green stem and gently twist it. Allow the berry to gently fall into your hand. You can pick with two hands to speed up the process.
• Lay the berries gently in a shallow container, and do not stack them too deep, as the weight of the berries on top will cause bruising on the berries below.
• The ideal berry-picking day is overcast because the berries are cooler and won’t spoil as quickly. It’s perfectly fine to pick in the rain. In fact, it’s enjoyable to pick in a light summer rain!
• Pre-plan what you will do with your berries, and freeze the left-overs, so there is no waste.
• Pick enough strawberries to share with friends.
• Carefully transport the berries home and refrigerate them immediately in a shallow dish, after removing any bruised or spoiled berries. Don’t store them in a hot car for any amount of time as this will speed up spoiling.
• Wash and hull berries (remove the green top and white core) only when you are ready to eat them, as adding moisture by washing will cause them to grow mould. After washing, gently dry with paper towel to remove excess moisture.

How to Freeze Fresh Strawberries

Don’t worry if you over-picked your strawberries! They can be easily frozen to enjoy in milkshakes, smoothies or over ice cream. The trick to freezing strawberries is to do this before they have started to spoil.
1. First, remove any mouldy or soft berries. Next, hull, wash and carefully dry your berries. Since they will be soft after thawing, you’ll want to ensure you chop them to your preferred size before you freeze.
2. Once you have prepared your berries, lay them out on a cookie sheet with a layer of parchment beneath, without touching. Freezing them separately is important, otherwise, they will freeze together in a hard lump that will be too difficult to use.
3. After the berries have fully frozen, transfer them from the cookie sheet to freezer bags and squeeze out all the air before sealing. If prepared well, berries should last 6 months in the freezer, and are ideal to add to your morning smoothie recipe.

Our Favourite Fresh Strawberry Recipes

Strawberries are best enjoyed in classic recipes, such as strawberry-rhubarb pie, strawberry shortcake, jam, and of course, sliced and topped with whipping cream. Strawberry Pie can also be made ahead and frozen to enjoy later.

Celebrating the harvest with strawberry picking and strawberry festivals is a tradition that comes from Ontario’s agricultural heritage. It wasn’t that long ago that harvesting the berries and preserving them for the rest of the year was a very important task, as it meant the sweet taste could be enjoyed for later. Now that strawberries can be imported from other parts of the world, this important piece of Ontario history needs to be preserved. Plan to make strawberries part of your own family’s summer traditions and make memories to cherish out of this short and sweet growing season.

Top 10 Reasons You Should Choose the Farm Market Over the Supermarket

Top reasons to choose the farm market over the supermarket.

Even if you’re in the heart of the city, it’s worth a drive to your local farm market.  Getting closer to where your food comes from results in the freshest food possible, along with an excellent day out in the sunshine if you opt to pick your own.

While this may seem like work to you, it’s a labour of love. When you pick your own fruits and vegetables, you’re guaranteed the very best, and you’ll appreciate it that much more because the rewards are delicious!

10. Buying Farm Fresh Produce Supports Farmers and the Local Economy.

It’s true. Farmer’s feed families. Help keep our farms strong by showing your support. Feel good about every dollar you spend, because it goes into the preservation of a way of life that sustains us all.

9. Farm Market Produce is the Freshest.

While farm markets sometimes take in fruits and vegetables from other local farms, you can rely that the food is the freshest available. In many cases, it’s mere hours – not days – from field to table.

8. Fresh Produce is More Nutritious.

Experts agree that time and travel reduce the nutritional value of the food we eat. You get more from your food when it travels less.

7. Food from Farm Markets is Safer.

While you must always wash your fruits and vegetables before eating, farm market food is safer to eat. Supermarket produce is often handled much more, traveled farther, and is older.

6. Preserve Precious Farmland for Future Generations.

Supporting local farms in Barrie is one way to ensure that farmland is here to stay. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. Our land for growing food is a precious resource that we need to protect. Show your support and ensure that farms thrive to ensure the food security for future generations.

5. Fresh Baked Pies. Jams. Preserves. Honey.

Farm Markets source delicious artisanal foods locally, so there’s always something delicious to eat for dessert.

4. Source the freshest Dairy Products at Farm Markets.

Many farm markets also carry a selection of fresh dairy products sourced locally as well. So, stock up on the freshest eggs and artisanal cheese, as well.

3. Fresh Picked Flowers.

Many farm markets carry an assortment of fresh flowers to decorate the table for your delicious summertime feast.

2. Celebrate the Seasons.

Observe the changing seasons by the agricultural calendar. Whether it’s the first berries of spring, or picking out your pumpkin for Halloween, it’s fun to bring the kids and really notice the changing of the seasons.

1. Avoid the Lineups and Parking Lots.

Shopping locally at your farmer’s market is something to be enjoyed, not another chore to do. There’s something to be said for slowing down and simply enjoying the good weather while it lasts.

Have we convinced you yet? Visit a Farm Market near you, before the long, lazy days of summer are over.

 

Whittamore’s Farm in the City: Thank You for 60 Years of Farm Fun

Farmer Morris says goodbye to Farmer Whittamore

After closing their operation last fall, most of their farm equipment was offered for sale. Farmer Morris agreed to purchase quite a few of Whittamore’s irrigation pipes and fittings. Today, Mike Whittamore stopped by the farm to drop off the last of the order.

As many of you may know, the Whittamore family has retired from farming “Pick-Your-Own” fruits and vegetables, after more than 60 years of being leaders in the industry.

As longstanding members of many Ontario farm organizations, the Whittamores were always leaders that were willing to share their expertise with others, for the betterment of all farmers in the province. Their pick your own, farm shop, bakery and school tours were always exceptional models of best practices and professionalism. And they became friends to many across Ontario.

Over the last 25 years I have spent many a sleepless spring night on my cell phone with Mike Whittamore, as we irrigated the fields to protect our strawberry blossoms from frost. “Are you watering yet? What time did it start to freeze at your place?” We would keep each other awake, share a laugh and fight back against Mother Nature together. Because that’s what farmers do. And we were in it together. I can clearly recall one exceptionally frost plagued season. We had both been up five or six nights in a row fighting the frost. I was sleep deprived and exhausted. Around the sixth night I was completely worn out. Beat. On our nightly call I finally said “Mike, I give up. I can’t do this anymore. The forecast is calling for frost AGAIN TOMORROW. I’m just going to go to sleep and let the #$@! berries freeze.” Instantly, Mike replied “You CAN’T do that. You’ve got too much invested. We’ve done six nights together, you can do one more. Don’t give up now. You can do it.” And he was right. I had come too far to quit. So, I battled on. I don’t remember how the crop turned out that year, but we saved our crops and it wasn’t a wipe out. And I had Mike to thank. So, each year, midnight frost chats became a part of our farming life. I’m going to miss those chats this year. Mike likely won’t because he’ll be tucked warmly in his bed. But, by the time he finally gets out of bed and is leisurely enjoying a morning coffee, I bet he gives me a call… just to see how things went.

So Whittamore’s farm will be missed by many. It will be impossible to “fill their shoes”, but the many farms around Ontario that Whittamores helped and inspired will be honoured to welcome their farm friends the best we can. Whittamore’s Farm was “Your farm in the city”. Barrie Hill Farms hopes to be “Your farm not far from the city” and will warmly welcome all of the Whittamore’s former customers who are going to miss them just as l will.

Farmer Morris