Salad Greens You Can Grow in Winter
A Guide to Planting and Harvesting Winter Salad Greens

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
October 7, 2017

If you like fresh garden salads, you’ll be glad to know you can grow a full range of salad greens throughout the winter in our moderate southern BC maritime climate. Leafy winter salad vegetables come in a variety of flavours, colours and textures—from peppery to earthy, crunchy to delicate. (Article and planting guide continue below slideshow.)

Spinach grows well throughout the winter when protected in a cold frame or tunnel. Low winter light slows the growth. Young tender spinach leaves have an earthy flavour that pairs well with fruit in fresh salads.
Lettuce thrives well into winter in a cold frame or hoop house. Choose cold-hardy varieties such as Romaine or Cos, Buttercrunch or Bibb, and loose leaf lettuces.  Harvest as baby greens for crisp, mild salads. Grows slowly in low winter light.
Mâche (Corn Salad,  Lamb’s Lettuce) germinates best when overnight temperatures are below 10ºC / 50ºF. Low-growing, with a small rosette of delicate leaves, mâche has a mild, refreshing flavour. Cut the entire plant and serve intact. Easily bruised.
Claytonia (Miner’s Lettuce, Winter Purslane) is a cold-hardy West Coast native. Its succulent leaves and stems make it a top choice for salads. Cut the stems, leaving at least 5 cm (2 inches), and the leaves will grow back.
Arugula (Rocket) grows quickly with frost protection in the low light of winter. This tender green has a distinctive sharp flavour, which is milder during cold weather. Use arugula to add bite to fresh salads, or as a pizza topping.
Radicchio, such as the Treviso variety (above), thrives in cool weather and tolerates light frost. The bitter leaves of this chicory become mellower in cold temperatures. Radicchio's pungent taste goes well with balsamic vinegar.
Endive (above), frisée, and escarole grow easily during cooler months. Frisée has distinctive narrow, finely pointed leaves. Escarole has broad, rounded leaves. These chicories taste mildly bitter and add accent to salad.
Red Mustard greens, with their striking green and red leaves, grow well in winter. Frost deepens the flavour and colour. Tender when young, the peppery taste of this cold-hardy brassica sharpens as it matures. Eat fresh in salads, or stir fry.
Baby Bok Choi and Tatsoi are small-size relatives of broccoli, collards, and kale, which also grow in winter. These frost tolerant cabbage-like vegetables have thick crunchy ribs and tasty leaves. Bok choi grows upright; tatsoi forms a rosette.
Mizuna, an Asian green with distinctive jagged leaves and a pungent flavour, grows quickly in cool weather. Mizuna has a peppery taste that adds spice to stir-fries and soups. The small pointed leaves of mizuna bring texture to fresh salads.
Baby Beet Greens, the leaves of immature beet roots, like cool temperatures and tolerate light frost. Clip only a couple of leaves from each plant to allow the root to continue to grow. These tender, slightly bitter greens add vibrant colour to salads.
Spinach grows well throughout the winter when protected in a cold frame or tunnel. Low winter light slows the growth. Young tender spinach leaves have an earthy flavour that pairs well with fruit in fresh salads.

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Pumpkin Apple Bread

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
September 21, 2017


This recipe for Pumpkin Apple Bread pairs two fall favourites, pumpkins and apples, in a deliciously spiced bread. Moist and full of flavour, this sweet bread works well with canned or fresh pumpkin and almost any kind of apple. To capture the taste of the season, try using a fresh pie pumpkin (sugar pumpkin)—just bake, scrape out the pumpkin’s flesh, and puree it in a food processor.

Pumpkin Apple Bread
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Home on the Bison Ranch
Helping to Keep Bison Genetics Strong

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
August 14, 2017

Ethical farming is helping to preserve bison on Vancouver Island.

Bison grazing on pasture amid stands of trees.

Today, it’s hard to envision the millions of bison that once thundered across the North American prairies. Continuous herds, hundreds of miles long, roamed the plains in a great migration from northern Mexico to Canada. These imposing animals grazed on native grasses, left droppings to enrich the soil, and disturbed the ground with their hooves, helping create a rich ecosystem that allowed prairie plants and animals to thrive.
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Canada’s Bees Will Have Their Day in Court
Lawsuit Says Failure to Enforce Regulations on Neonicotinoids Harms Bees

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
August 1, 2017

Canada’s bees have won a small victory: the right to have their day in court. In July, the Federal Court in Ottawa allowed a lawsuit to go forward against Canada’s Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) for failure to enforce Pest Control Products Act requirements.

A bee on clover flower. In Canada, bees will have their day in court to decide if failure to enforce regulations on neonicotinoids harms bees.

The pesticides in question are the neonicotinoids, clothianidin and thiamethoxam—chemicals widely believed to cause deadly harm to bee populations. The lawsuit, brought by four environmental organizations, asserts that the PMRA approved the use of neonicotinoids without fulfilling the Pest Control Products Act requirement that no pesticide significantly harm the environment.
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Tomato Sauce from Fresh Tomatoes
Make the Basics: Tomato Sauce from Scratch

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
July 2, 2017


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.
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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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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