Tomato Sauce from Fresh Tomatoes
Make the Basics: Tomato Sauce from Scratch

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
July 2, 2017

RECIPE

This homemade tomato sauce has a sweet freshness you’ll never find by using canned tomatoes. Simmer fresh tomatoes into sauce when they are at their peak of ripeness. Choose a single kind of tomatoes or mix together many sizes and colours of heirloom tomatoes. Each combination has its own unique and delicious flavour.

This chunky tomato sauce goes well with pasta, meat, grilled vegetables, and is good on homemade pizza. You can double or triple the recipe to make extra sauce to freeze. Even after freezing, this sauce is like a bite of summer. So worth it!

Tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes.
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Who Are the 21st Century Farmers?
British Columbia’s Agricultural Future

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
June 10, 2017

Who Are the 21st Century Farmers? Candace Thompson of Eagle Paws Organics in Sooke is one of a growing number of women farmers in BC.

Candace Thompson of Eagle Paws Organics in Sooke is one of a growing number of women farmers in BC.

A new report from Statistics Canada provides a snapshot of farmers and farming in Canada. In a year that has seen baby boom generation farmers retire at a rapid rate, it comes as no surprise that the average age of farmers in Canada is 55-years-old. Nationwide in 2016, older farmers, 55 to over 75 years old, comprised the largest share of farm operators.

In British Columbia, where the local food movement is growing, Statistics Canada’s latest profile of BC agriculture provides a window into trends that are shaping 21st century farming.

Most notable, perhaps, is that of all the provinces in Canada, BC has the largest proportion of small farms—nearly 42 percent. Almost half of BC’s small farms sell directly to the public.

Also of interest is the increasing number of women farmers. BC has the highest proportion (37.5%) of female farmers in Canada, and is changing the face of what we think of when we picture North American farmers.
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Weeds that Indicate Soil Conditions
Four Season Garden: How Weeds Can Help Identify and Correct Soil Problems

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
May 16, 2017

Recognize these weeds? Weeds can tell you a lot about the condition of your soil. Not only that, weeds, when composted, help improve the soil by releasing into it the very minerals and elements it needs.
(Article and Weed Guide to Soil Conditions continue below slideshow.)

Cat’s Ear, also called False Dandelion, has tall yellow flowers similar to dandelion, and rounded, hairy leaves (unlike dandelion). Cat’s Ear typically indicates dry, free draining soil, but will also grow in moist areas.
Dandelion typically indicates heavy, compacted, acidic soil, but also grows in fertile well-drained areas. Dandelion's long taproots bring up calcium and other minerals from the subsoil. These can enrich the garden as dandelion decomposes.
Daisy (Bellis perennis) indicates dry, well-drained soil with low fertility. This low-growing plant with lobed leaves and small flowers is commonly found in lawns with worn-out neutral or acidic soils.
Plantain indicates acidic, compacted, low-fertility soil. Rich in calcium and magnesium, this wild plant also accumulates silicon, sulphur, manganese and iron. Decomposing plantain helps to alkalize the soil.
Buttercup indicates acidic, poorly-drained soil. Buttercup produces a toxin called protanemonin that may suppress growth of adjacent plants. Creeping buttercup draws potassium from the soil.
Horsetail indicates light, sandy, slightly acidic soil, and grows in moist conditions. Horsetail accumulates silicon, calcium, magnesium, and iron, which it releases back into the soil as it decomposes.
Chickweed grows in neutral, moist, sometimes heavy soils. Healthy chickweed indicates cultivated, fertile soil. Chickweed accumulates potassium and phosphorus which enhances the soil when it decomposes.
Purple Deadnettle, a member of the mint family, often indicates neutral, nutrient-rich soil. Deadnettle can grow in heavy clay areas, but prefers loamy soil. Purple Deadnettle is a valuable attractor of pollinators in early spring.
Sheep Sorrel indicates acidic, low fertility soil. Sheep sorrel accumulates calcium and phosphorus, minerals that de-acidify the garden. Composting sorrel helps to alkalize the soil.
Thistle indicates compacted, heavy, acidic soil. Its roots penetrate deeply and  help break up the subsoil. Thistle’s roots bring up iron and moisture for use by shallow-rooted plants. Thistle is often indicative of dry areas.
Bindweed indicates poorly drained, compacted, often crusty soil. Bindweed has a deep and extensive root system which stores nutrients for regrowth. Although it can grow in a range of conditions, bindweed prefers heavy clay soil.
Hairy Bittercress, a member of the mustard family with tiny white flowers, indicates poorly-drained, moist soil. Hairy Bittercress commonly grows in disturbed areas and is most prolific in early spring.
Dock indicates heavy, poorly-drained, waterlogged soils with increasing acidity. Dock has deep taproots that break up the subsoil. Dock draws up calcium, potassium, phosphorus and iron which is released into the soil when composted.
Quack Grass indicates heavy clay or crusty soil with poor drainage. Quack Grass has a net-like root system that helps control erosion on steep banks. Quack Grass accumulates potassium, silicon and other minerals.
Clover typically indicates moist, poor-fertility soil, that is low in nitrogen. It also indicates soil that is rich in potassium. Clover draws nitrogen from the air and fixes it into the soil when tilled under.
Vetch indicates poor fertility soil, low in nitrogen. A member of the pea family, vetch obtains nitrogen from the air and fixes it into the soil when tilled under. Vetch accumulates phosphorus, potassium, and other minerals, which can enrich the soil when composted.
 
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Cat’s Ear, also called False Dandelion, has tall yellow flowers similar to dandelion, and rounded, hairy leaves (unlike dandelion). Cat’s Ear typically indicates dry, free draining soil, but will also grow in moist areas.


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Happy Birthday Agricultural Land Reserve
Next Steps for the ALR: Achieving Food Security for BC

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
April 18, 2017

The Agricultural Land Reserve gave British Columbia the potential for food security with two objectives: preserve farmland and encourage farming. Today, the second half of that goal remains unfulfilled. However, a study of the economics of small-scale farming points the way….

Agricultural Land Reserve view of farm fields and mountains bordering on city houses in the Blenkinsop Valley in Saanich, BC.

Agricultural Land Reserve farms in the Blenkinsop Valley, near Victoria, border on urban city lots.

The Birth of the Agricultural Land Reserve

Forty-four years ago, on April 18, 1973, the BC Land Commission Act came into effect, with a mandate to form the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) in British Columbia. Established by the newly-elected New Democratic Party government, and considered the most progressive legislation of its kind in North America, the Act created a provincial agriculture zone to protect BC’s limited cultivable lands from non-farming uses.
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What Exactly is Bone Broth?
Stocks, Broths and Super-Nutritious Bone Broth

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
March 28, 2017

Something unusual happened to stocks along the way as a base for soups, sauces, and stews. They evolved into a highly-prized health food and healthy-eating trend called bone broth.

What is the difference between stocks and broths? (Article continues below video.)

Video: How to Make Bone Broth (or Stock from Bones)



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Local Food You Can Eat All Winter
A Guide to Local Foods — November to March

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
February 27, 2017

It’s called the shoulder season — the cold months after the fall harvest and before the new planting season in spring. When you don’t see much growing outside, you may be wondering: What kind of local food is available in winter?

During the cold season, fresh local farm crops consist mainly of hardy greens and root vegetables. Add in local food that has been stored, dried, frozen, processed, or is grown indoors, and there is a surprising range of available local food in winter. (Local food guide continues below slideshow.)

Slideshow: 10 Ways to Eat Local all Winter in South Coast BC

Local winter vegetables are staples for winter slaws, braising, soups and stews. These hardy greens and root vegetables include arugula, beets, bok choy, chicory, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (above), carrots, kale, mache, mustard greens, parsnips, rutabagas and turnips.
Dried vegetables and fruits — especially dried beans and lentils — are basics for hearty soups and snacks. Dried foods from south coast BC (above) include: red lentils, white beans, kidney beans, dried cranberries, sun-dried tomatoes and Orca beans. Look for local dried beans, grains, fruits and vegetables from farmers and farm markets.
Sprouts may be the freshest food you can eat in winter (especially if you grow them in your own kitchen). Full of nutrients and enzymes, sprouts are available from many kinds of seeds, such as alfalfa, broccoli, mung beans (above), garbanzo beans. You can buy finished sprouts, or find seeds for sprouting in many grocery stores. A great boost to winter salads.
Microgreens, like sprouts, are tiny greens grown only until they open their first true leaves. These fresh greens bring an intense flavour and colour to salads and sandwiches. Microgreens grow from seeds such as arugula, broccoli, beets, cabbage chard, kale, basil, cilantro, radish, and mustard. Grow them indoors or look for microgreen farmers in your area.
Fresh winter herbs and leeks provide aromatic seasonings for cold weather cooking. Leeks, rosemary, thyme, parsley, winter savoury, chervil, sage, and bay leaves are available fresh during the cold winter months. Potted basil, a warm weather herb, will thrive all winter in a sunny window. Look for fresh and potted herbs in the produce section of grocery stores.
Frozen fruits and vegetables retain good taste and texture especially when preserved at peak season. Buy up or pick berries and other fresh produce in the summer to pack away for winter smoothies and cereal toppers. In winter, look for local frozen produce at farm markets, or direct from orchards and berry farmers who freeze extra fruit after the harvest.
Local preserves and canned goods come in many delicious and unusual combinations. Look for farmer preserved jams, jellies, pickled vegetables, chutneys, sauces, fruits, syrups, vinegars, honey and fermented foods. Locally preserved foods are available at farmers markets and food stores (or from your own pantry, if you like to can your own).
Mushrooms, foraged or locally grown indoors, are available year-round. Local edible varieties include: chanterelles, crimini (brown button), lobster mushrooms, morels, oyster mushrooms, portabellas, porcini, shiitake and white (button) mushrooms. Mushrooms add flavour to everything from pastas to meats, and stand out as a vegetarian main course.
Stored produce provides a stable supply of fruit and vegetables during the cold season. Kept in cool storage, many crops will last through the winter. Locally grown stored foods include apples, beets, garlic, onions, shallots, potatoes, rutabagas, winter squash, and turnips. In addition, local grains and nuts (hazelnuts and walnuts) are available throughout the winter.
Local meat, dairy and eggs are available throughout the winter. This includes poultry, beef, bison, pork, lamb and dairy products of all kinds. Pacific winter seafood and fish includes clams, cod, crab, flounder, mussels, oysters, scallops, and shrimp. Fresh wild-caught salmon is limited to summer season, but is available canned in winter.
 
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Local winter vegetables are staples for winter slaws, braising, soups and stews. These hardy greens and root vegetables include arugula, beets, bok choy, chicory, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (above), carrots, kale, mache, mustard greens, parsnips, rutabagas and turnips.


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Harvesting Sea Salt — The Canadian Way
Vancouver Island Artisan Sea Salt

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
January 20, 2017

Hand-harvested Canadian sea salt pours from the harvester's hands.
In waters off the coast of British Columbia, a small number of culinary-minded farmers are doing what people dwelling near the sea have done for thousands of years—harvesting sea salt.
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Sultans of Salt
Harvesting Sea Salt on Vancouver Island

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
January 20, 2017


Jeff Abel takes us on a tour of Saltwest Naturals Sea Salt Harvestry on Vancouver Island, where he and his partner, Jessica Abel, use steam evaporation to harvest flaked fleur de sel and fine grain sea salt. The tour includes a look into Saltwest’s unique solar greenhouses, which produce sun-dried sea salt—a rarity in Canada’s Pacific maritime climate.
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Rosemary Sea Salt Crackers
Make the Basics: Homemade Flatbread Crackers

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
January 4, 2017

RECIPE

Crisp rosemary sea salt crackers capture the delicious taste of the best artisan bakery flatbreads. With accents of lemon, rosemary and flaky sea salt (seriously addictive!), these homemade crackers will quickly become favourites for every day and special occasions.

Homemade crackers are surprisingly easy to make and cost only a fraction of the price of the crackers you buy at the store. Baking at home, you can use high-quality ingredients, make and freeze batches, and experiment with flavours of your choice. Fresh from the oven, I predict you’ll be eating these before they have a chance to cool.

Fresh homemade rosemary sea salt crackers
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Can Local Agriculture Drive Economic Development?
Surrey Study Shows What is Possible

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
December 6, 2016

fresh vegetables at a farmers marketBritish Columbians often give several reasons why local food is the best choice for everyone: Locally grown food tastes better, has greater nutritional value, protects the environment, strengthens genetic diversity, and develops the local economy. The last point raises an important question. How much can local agriculture do for a local economy?

A comprehensive study released in 2013 by the Institute for Sustainable Food Systems at Kwantlen Polytechnic University delivered a definitive answer—local agriculture can do a lot.
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How Oregano Can Help Fight Global Warming
Culinary Herb Reduces Cow Belches and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
November 29, 2016

oregano, a culinary herb that can help reduce methane emissionsCan a simple herb help fight global warming? The aromatic herb oregano, a staple in most modern kitchens, commonly meets our taste buds mixed with tomato sauce as a topping on pizza. This versatile plant’s virtues, however, extend beyond the kitchen into human and animal medicine. In 400 B.C., the Greek physician Hippocrates used oregano as an antiseptic and an aid to digestion.

Flash forward to today where oregano has emerged as a promising digestive aid for cattle. If you think this is not a major issue, consider the numbers. According to a UN report, livestock worldwide release 80 million metric tonnes of methane into the atmosphere. In the United States each year, 100 million cattle release 5.5 million metric tonnes of methane into the atmosphere — a significant 20 percent of U.S. methane emissions.
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