We did not have a garden – other than flowers – on the small property in Souderton where I grew up. My Mom bought quantities of green beans and peaches for canning, apples for making applesauce, and corn for freezing and drying.
As an adult I’ve always lived in the city, on properties not suitable for growing vegetables. We did coax along raspberries in a flower bed for a couple years long ago – a special delight for Sam.
For years now, I’ve marked the growing season with farm markets and roadside stands. Touring the countryside for my favorite foods (and flowers) has long been one of the simple pleasures of my life. When I had a driver’s licence, setting out on my own gave me great joy. Now I still find such excursions satisfying, with my long-suffering husband doing the driving.
The season begins for us with local asparagus. This requires at least one trip directly to Barrie’s Asparagus Farm in rural North Dumfries Township. There I buy a $5 bag of the best asparagus I’ve ever eaten, and marvel at all the products Barrie’s makes with asparagus.
During the many years we lived in Waterloo, I tracked the harvest by weekly visits to Herrle’s Country Farm Market on the road between Waterloo and St. Agatha. They’re known for their corn, but there’s lots to get me there long before corn appears.
Herrle’s opens each June when strawberries are ready. So Sam begins with strawberries and continues through raspberries and blueberries. In the meantime we find new potatoes and new carrots, and eventually corn, green beans, beets, peaches, new crop apples and enormous sweet potatoes. The “first fruit” of each new crop tastes wonderful! And if I can no longer tolerate a particular food, I savour the memory of how it tasted.
We also regularly visit stands at the end of farm lanes, mostly for stems of gladiolas at 3 for $1.00. I look for bright colours wherever possible. One time recently I was especially pleased with the available choices. But when we settled ourselves back in the car to drive home, Sam killed ten ants, and we think we missed some! So unfortunately we had to ditch those bright glads. I decided the two loads of roadside glads I’d bought previously were enough for this year.
The lovely thing about the Kitchener Market, Martin’s Family Fruit Farm (north of Waterloo), and Stemmler’s Meat & Cheese (in Heidelberg) is that I can visit them in any season. Likewise with village bakeries. I especially favour bakeries owned by Old Order Mennonites. At Sittler’s Home Baking in Conestogo I head for the gingerbread figures, oatmeal bread and various kinds of granola. At Sunnycrest Home Baking, now in Hawkesville, I look for small pies (especially cherry), muesli bread and Christmas cookies.
I must admit that my very favorite Old Order Mennonite vendor is not in Ontario, but rather in Pennsylvania. We found Weaver’s Market and Bakery along the Susquehanna River north of Harrisburg. We’ve always stopped and bought preserves for the pantry and a large ginger cookie for sharing when we’ve traveled to my home community by that route.
Questions for Reflection:
- What is your relationship to the summer growing season?
- In what way – if at all – is the procuring (or preserving) of locally-grown food, or the procuring of local baking a simple pleasure for you?
Next week: TBA