Posts Tagged ‘Hidden Harvest’

Seasonal Eats: Purée of wild black walnut and butternut soup

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

Black walnut trees abound in Ottawa. The nuts can be used in a variety of dishes, including pâtés and soups.
Photo: Carol von Canon (via Flickr), http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

The Ottawa region is full of black walnut and butternut trees that bear tasty, nourishing fruit each fall. Squirrels love to stockpile them (as we found out last year when we discovered a huge stash of butternuts in our woodshed), but what most of us don’t realize is that they’re good food for people, too.

Thanks to groups such as Hidden Harvest Ottawa and the  Torbolton Institute, more of these flavourful local nuts are being gathered and used for cooking and eating. Shelling butternuts, and black walnuts in particular, can be challenging, but worth the effort.

Greystone Locavore In-season Fetes

To show how versatile wild local nuts can be, Chef Darryl MacDougall has decided to feature them on the menu for a February 25 locavore dinner to be held at his Constance Bay restaurant, the Greystone Grill. The dinner is one of a series dubbed the Greystone Locavore In-season Fetes that showcase foods and producers within a 100-mile radius. The Fêtes are an initiative of the Torbolton Institute, an innovations hub whose goals include making Ottawa locally food secure by 2020.

In addition to puréed nut soup – the recipe’s below — Chef MacDougall’s 5-course menu will include:

Wild black walnut and butternut pâtés

Handmade local butternut squash ravioli from Parma Ravioli, in a butter sage sauce

Rack of lamb from Our Farm CSA, served with root vegetables and a port reduction*

Fresh apple pie from Alice’s Village Café, with ice cream, drizzled with local maple syrup

*You can choose between this main course and vegetarian lasagna with béchamel sauce.

Greystone Locavore Winter Fête

6 p.m., February 25, 2014

179 Constance Bay Road, Ottawa

Price: $40/seat

Call to reserve your spot:  613-832-0009

About Chef Darryl MacDougall

A native of Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Darryl MacDougall learned his cooking skills at George Brown College and completed his apprenticeship at The Windsor Arms Hotel under Chef (and Masterchef Canada judge) Michael Bonacini. He opened the Greystone Grill a year ago and operates it with his wife Nadine. The couple is proud that the Greystone has been nominated as restaurant of the year for West Carleton by the West Ottawa Board of Trade.

Purée of wild black walnut and butternut soup

Chef Darryl adapted this recipe from one developed by his friend Chef Tony de Luca with whom he apprenticed in the 1980s. The original appears as Purée of Chestnut Soup in de Luca’s 2009 cookbook Simply in Season.

¼ c (60 mL) unsalted butter

¼ c (60 mL) olive oil

2 c (500 mL) black walnuts and/or butternuts, shelled and chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1 potato, peeled and chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 small cloves garlic, minced

6 c (1.5 L) vegetable stock, chicken stock or water

3 sprigs Italian parsley

2 whole cloves

1 bay leaf

2 tbsp (30 mL) dry sherry

35% cream

kosher salt and black pepper to taste

parmesan cheese

truffle oil

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add the butter and oil. When the butter foams, add the nuts, onion, potato, celery and garlic and cook, covered and stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes or until the onion is softened by not browned.

Add the stock and bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until the nuts and vegetables are soft enough to purée. Add parsley springs, cloves and bay leaf and simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove parsley spring, cloves and bay leaf.

In a blender (not a food processor), purée the soup until very smooth. Pour the soup back into the rinsed-out saucepan. Stir in the sherry and a bit of cream, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Keep warm until ready to serve. Top with grated parmesan cheese and a few drops of truffle oil.

What local foods do you gather and how do you prepare them?

2013 yielded bumper crop for Hidden Harvest and Ottawa Food Bank’s Community Harvest

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

Community Harvest grows food for Ottawa’s needy.
Photo by Jason Gray

Fresh, nutritious food is often seen as a luxury only the rich can afford.

In 2013, two food security organizations – Hidden Harvest Ottawa and the Ottawa Food Bank’s Community Harvest program —  turned that assumption on its head by producing, gathering and donating well over 100,000 pounds of fresh local fruit, vegetables and nuts to those in need.

Edible fruit and nut trees

Hidden Harvest was created less than two years ago to provide Ottawa residents with the knowledge, organizational support and legal means to access edible fruit and nut trees on public and private property. It connects tree owners with volunteer harvesters and with Ottawa Food Bank agencies that can make good use of the food, which includes apples, cherries, elderberries, plums, black walnuts, buttternuts and more. Community agencies, tree owners and volunteers all share in the harvest.

According to the organization’s results for 2013, volunteers harvested about 5,984 lbs of fruit and nuts from 142 trees and the food was likely shared among more than 7,000 people. Of the total harvest, more than 2,000 lbs were donated. This represents a huge increase over the 467 lbs harvested in 2012, of which 152 lbs were donated.

As Hidden Harvest co-founders Jay Garlough and Katrina Siks point out, the bounty of 2013 came from just 142 trees. As more of Ottawa’s 17,000 mapped, food-bearing trees become available for harvesting, how many more people could benefit?

Growing food for Ottawa’s hungry  

This past year, the Ottawa Food Bank’s Community Harvest program grew, gleaned and gathered donations of 104,710 pounds of fresh local fruit and vegetables for those in need. This yield is an 87% increase over 2012, and well beyond the program’s original goal of $75,000 for this year, says program coordinator Jason Gray.

Community Harvest obtains food by:

  • growing its own organic crops on the Black Family Farm in Stittsville
  • gleaning unpicked produce that would be thrown away otherwise or ploughed back into the soil at the end of the season
  • gathering donations from partner farms, urban gardeners and vendors at the Ottawa Farmers Market.

If the program’s past three seasons are any indication, Jason says, the program will keep on growing. “Every year, we get more positive feedback from the Ottawa Food Bank’s member agencies, and from Community Harvest volunteers, member agencies, and farmers.”

More land, bigger yields, added volunteers

Here are more program highlights from 2013.

  • The amount of land available for Community Harvest’s growing project at Black Family Farm expanded to 4 acres from 2.5, due in part to the success of the project in 2012.
  • Total fresh produce yield rose from 56,130 lbs in 2012 to 104,710 lbs. The yield from the growing project at the Black Farm alone jumped from 15,017 lbs last year to 53,561 lbs this year.
  • The total number of crops (grown and collected) increased from 7 last year to 14 this year. In addition to staples such as beets, broccoli, cabbage, potatoes, winter squash and zucchini, new crops included cucumbers, tomatoes, cantaloupe, peppers, herbs, and small plantings of Brussels sprouts, celery and tomatillos.
  • The number of crop varieties also increased (e.g., 7 types of potato). These varieties reached maturity at different times, giving Ottawa Food Bank member agencies a more diverse and even supply of fruits and vegetables.
  • 4 new farms joined the list of produce donors, bringing to 18 the number of partner farms. One of these, Shouldice Berry Farm, donated 2,781 lbs of day-old strawberries.
  • 489 volunteers worked 1,544 hours, up from 285 people who worked 1,219 hours in 2012. Corporate teams and school and community groups also participated. Volunteers help with most aspects of planting and harvesting the crops at Black Family Farm,  such as preparing beds, weeding, installing row covers and netting, setting up irrigation, storing equipment, loading supplies, and washing and boxing harvested produce.

Sign up to volunteer in 2014

Interested in helping either Hidden Harvest Ottawa or Community Harvest in 2014?

For Hidden Harvest, sign up a fruit or nut tree on your property or register as a volunteer harvester.

For Community Harvest, contact Jason to add your name to the volunteer list. As soon as farm work starts in the spring, you’ll start receiving notices about upcoming opportunities.

Read more about Hidden Harvest Ottawa and the Community Harvest program here, here and here.

Do we need to do more to get fresh, local produce to people in need? What approaches do you think would work best in your neighbourhood?

7 ways to dig deeper into local, sustainable food

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Brushing up your cooking skills is one way to deepen your appreciation of fresh, local ingredients. Photo by Amarpreet K via Flickr

 

You care about healthy food and protecting the environment. Maybe you’re a regular at the neighbourhood farmers market or you’ve joined a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm.  But you want to do learn more, and do more, to support the growth of a local, sustainable food system in the Ottawa region.

Where to start? Here are some ideas.

1. Grow some of your own food. Whether you plant a backyard vegetable  garden or tend a solitary pot of basil on the windowsill, you’ll develop greater respect for the work involved and the harvest that results. You’ll also enjoy edibles straight off the plant or in your kitchen steps away – that’s about as local as it gets.

2. Brush up your cooking skills. Getting culinary basics under your belt, or honing the skills you already have, will deepen your appreciation of food and reinforce the importance of fresh, quality ingredients.   Knowing some simple techniques will also make it easier to prepare no-fuss, nutritious alternatives to fast food and other convenience fare.

Check out The Urban Element’s schedule of cooking workshops this fall. C’est Bon! Cooking also emphasizes local, seasonal food and offers gourmet tours of Ottawa farmers markets and local food artisans.

3.  Help bring healthy fresh food to low-income people who may not otherwise have access to them. Volunteer to plant, weed and harvest organic vegetables with Ottawa Food Bank’s Community Harvest program or glean seasonal fruit with Hidden Harvest Ottawa.

4.  Eat less meat. Not only is it better for your health, it’s easier on the environment. Meat production – mostly industrial — is set to double by 2020 due to a growing global population and increased meat consumption.

Why is this a problem? Large-scale livestock production accounts for 18%-25% of greenhouse gas emissions. More than two-thirds of all agricultural land grows livestock feed compared with just 8% that grows food for direct human consumption. And there are other downsides to industrial meat: it depletes already declining supplies of fresh water; damages forests and grasslands; erodes soil, and; produces runoff from fertilizers and animal waste that creates dead zones in coastal areas. In addition, the routine use of antibiotics in livestock production has been linked to rising levels of antibiotic resistance in humans.

Eating a bit less meat is a simple, effective way of making a difference. Check out Meatless Monday for more information and ideas   for meat-free meals.

5.  Dining out? Choose restaurants that source from local, sustainable producersSavour Ottawa lists restaurant, hotels, caterers and B&Bs that source a set minimum of food from local farmers. Some of Ottawa’s new food trucks also serve local, seasonal food.

6. Read more about the food system and ways to change it. Dip into these books from Canadian writers:

Margaret Visser’s Much Depends on Dinner, the pioneering 1986 classic that explores the history and mythology of a basic meal, touching on the environmental, economic and political implications of food

Sarah Elton’s latest book Consumed: Sustainable Food for a Finite Planet, or her 2010 best seller Locavore: From Farmers Fields to Rooftop Gardens – How Canadians are Changing the Way We Eat

Jennifer Cockrall-King’s Food and the City, which looks at the rise of urban agriculture in Vancouver, Toronto and other urban farming hubs in Europe and the U.S.

7. Go to Netflix or iTunes to download some of the best food documentaries to come out in recent years. Although these films cover the U.S. and Europe, the issues they explore apply to Canada, too.  A few examples:  King Corn, Our Daily Bread and Food Inc. probe the effects of industrial food and high-tech farming. Farmageddon shows what happens when small-scale farmers who produce safe, healthy food run up against government bureaucracies. Dive! demonstrates the scale of North American food waste by following a group of friends as they dumpster-dive behind L.A. grocery stores.  The Harvest investigates the use of agricultural child labour. For other ideas, try sites such as First We Feast and Organic Authority.

Share what you’re doing to  learn about local, sustainable food. 

Related posts: Hidden Harvest Ottawa; Community Harvest grows fresh produce for Ottawa’s hungry; 8 reasons to grow your own food; Ottawa’s new food trucks boost sustainability; Join a CSA in 2013

5 gifts that support local food

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Still have holiday shopping to cram into the next few days? Whether you’re buying for the locavore on your list or simply want to show your support for Ottawa’s local food economy, here are five sure-fire gift ideas.

  1. Food and drink from Ottawa artisans

Many Ottawa food artisans handcraft unique, tasty products using local ingredients.  I list several here, but you can find lots more by checking out websites such as Savour Ottawa, the Ottawa Farmers Market, the Ottawa Specialty Food Association, and the Ottawa Locavore Artisan Food Fair (LAFF).

Carolina’s Box of Goodness: artisan brownies, custom cakes

Gourmet Sauvage: jellies, syrups, marinades, condiments

Heavenly Honey: gourmet honey, beeswax candles

Hummingbird Chocolate: small-batch artisanal chocolate from ethically sourced cocoa

Kawalsa Salsa: spicy, low-sodium salsas

Major Craig’s: aromatic chutneys

Pêches & Poivre: desserts, handcrafted cheeses

Tea & Ginseng: 120 types of tea

ThimbleCakes: organic, nut- and egg-free custom cakes and cupcakes

2.    Home-cooked meals

Know someone who doesn’t have time to cook or who needs a break from cooking? Here are two meal service businesses that source ingredients as locally and sustainably as possible:

The Red Apron (read the Earthward profile):  Menus feature sophisticated, seasonal comfort food. Dinners can be ordered by the day or the week, for pick-up or home delivery.

Scratch Kitchen: A local Ottawa family-owned and operated business, Scratch Kitchen prepares gourmet frozen meals for home delivery.

  1. Restaurant dining and catering services

Visit Savour Ottawa for a list of restaurants and caterers who use seasonal local ingredients. Many of them sell gift certificates, including Absinthe, Beckta Dining & Wine, John Taylor at Domus Café, Eighteen, The Urban Pear, Thyme & Again Catering and Take-Home Foods and Zen Kitchen.

  1. Hands-on cooking classes

Knowing some cooking basics is key to healthier, more seasonal eating. And besides that, cooking can be fun. A gift certificate for a workshop at either of these learning kitchens would please an experienced cook as well as a beginner.

Credible Edibles: Provides eco-catering and hands-on, plant-based cooking workshops. Discounts on classes are available for kids, students and seniors.

The Urban Element: This cooking and culinary event studio supports local chefs, producers, farmers and restaurants.

  1. Make a donation

Everyone should have enough to eat, yet many adults and children in this city do not. For example, each month, 45,000  people – about 37% of whom are children — turn to the Ottawa Food Bank.  Instead of buying more stuff for a friend or family member, make a donation in their name to one of the many organizations out there that feed people in need. Here are two possibilities:

Ottawa Food Bank: Did you know that, in addition to food donations from individuals, supermarkets and restaurants, the OFB grows and gathers an impressive amount of fresh, local food? Its Community Harvest program grows vegetables, gleans produce from farmers’ fields that would otherwise go to waste, and collects donations of fresh food from local farmers and Ottawa farmers’ markets. In 2012, food from Community Harvest’s combined sources totalled more than 56,000 lbs.

Hidden Harvest Ottawa: This organization plants food-bearing trees in backyards and community spaces, and picks and shares fruit and nuts that would otherwise be wasted. Buy a tree for a friend, family member or community group.

What local food gifts are you buying this year?

Have a wonderful Christmas and best wishes for 2013! Earthward will be back in early January.