Yearly Archives: 2010

  • Hitting too close to my veggie crisper

    Chard growing in my garden last summer.

    The headline was an attention grabber.

    “Fresh produce recalled because of salmonella scare,” it read.

    As an eater, how could I not be curious? How could I not need to know what, exactly, might be laced with illness-inducing bacteria?

    Granted, most times, I stop reading such stories, penned more and more frequently, after the first few paragraphs. By that point, I’ve determined that whatever the contaminated food is, it isn’t a threat to me because it’s either a product or particular brand I don’t buy.

    But a recall this week hit a little too close to my immune system. The produce being recalled was chard, kale, parsley and various other greens — my favourite vegetables, to boot — and the brand was one that my local grocery store carries.

    This is where I should I breathe a long, deep sigh of relief because I grow my own chard and buy my greens from a local farmer. Well, I do those things but red flags still went up over those greens.

    It’s late December and my garden is long gone. I have no cold frame to keep my greens growing in these current temperatures that inspire hibernation more than germination. I’ve moved my chard plants indoors where they have stopped growing and eased into their seasonal slumber, resting up to take off again outdoors in the spring.

    As for my purchases from my much loved veggie lady, Linda, they still happen but didn’t before Christmas. They got lost in the rush of getting things done and spending the precious few last days I had with a sick and dying cat. I simply wasn’t up to the 40 minute drive to Wainfleet to pick up the chard I would need for the chard gratin I had planned to serve on Christmas Eve, so I headed to my de facto green source: the grocery store. There, I found large bundles of leafy Swiss Chard, adorned with its Little Bear label straight from Texas. Far from desirable but given the circumstances, it had to do.

    So, it was a little tough not to be alarmed when I saw a story warning people about Little Bear chard this week and its possible salmonella contamination. Granted it was for leafy greens shipped to Canada between Nov. 30 and Dec. 7. Mine were bought on Dec. 22 (should I be relieved?) and if anyone still has greens kicking around from nearly a month ago, I can’t imagine it’s because they’ve been saving them for a special occasion to eat. They likely were forgotten about and given the recall, it’s a good thing. For those who had eaten their purchases, well, if you’re reading this, I can only assume you got through unscathed. Fortunately, my family seems to have.

    Still, there was more to my reaction, summed up by someone on Twitter, who thanked me for tweeting the story, letting other greens lovers know so they wouldn’t get green around the gills.

    “I had some of these greens in my fridge. Makes me so angry,” the tweep wrote.

    That’s exactly how I felt. Angry. Angry at the false sense of security I have when I buy food at the grocery store. Angry that my trust in what I’m being offered at said grocery store has been broken. Angry that I didn’t take the time to drive out to Wainfleet. And angry that yet another food recall has happened.

    If this is the price we have to pay to feed ourselves en masse, something is seriously wrong. How did this happen? What corners were cut in Little Bear’s large scale production to put me, my family and countless others in possible danger? Isn’t this yet another sign that something in our food system is not working? That the way the collective ‘we’ do things when it comes to producing food is broken and needs to be fixed?

    Angry is starting to sound like an understatement. Where do I sign up to rise up?

    The giants in the ag world might be cutting corners but lesson learned here. I’ll take those corners, thank you, especially if they’re en route Linda’s farm and her safe, conscientiously-grown greens.


  • Peach Tree
  • A (garlic) green Christmas

    My tofurkey is beckoning, as is my carnivorous family’s bird from Kent Heritage Farms in Niagara-on-the-Lake. (They maintain it’s the best turkey they have ever eaten, so I’ll just take their word for it).

    That means I’ll keep this short and sweet. I got an early Christmas this week when my experimental indoor garlic shot up four lovely, fresh beginnings of their future incarnations (will it be actual heads of garlic or only garlic greens?) and I wanted to share it since many of you are curious what my greenish thumb will reap.

    Your guess is as good as mine, but right now, my experimental garlic seems to be doing everything it should be. That is, it’s growing. Though I won’t be eating fresh, homegrown garlic or its greens for Christmas, who knows what Valentine’s Day will bring. Goodness knows there’s nothing more romantic than garlic breath.

    Merry Christmas everyone. I wish you and yours all the best.


  • Peach Tree
  • ‘Tis the season to share

    Food is for sharing. It’s about community, memories, ritual and comfort.

    With 2010 coming to a close, I’ll be bidding adieu to another year of food adventures and another 365 days of interesting times in agriculture.

    But enough about me. I want to hear about you. What was your favourite food or farming memory of 2010? Maybe you finally tried growing a garden and were successful. Perhaps you tried a new food that has become a fast favourite or made a concerted effort eat more local food β€” a change that has given you a fresh perspective. Did you find a new recipe that makes meal time that much better at your dinner table? Are Sundays spent in the kitchen experimenting?

    Did you meet a local food crusader who inspired you? Have you bonded with a farmer who now keeps you fed? Maybe you took your love of local one step further and joined a group or organization championing the food of your region or beating the drum of food security.

    Whatever it is, tell me about it. Write it and send it my way. I will post the entries I receive and award the top three with made-in-Niagara prize packs tailored to the winners.

    While I love good grammar and punctuation, I won’t hold a misplaced comma or the American spelling of flavour against anyone. What I care about more is something that is written with passion. If you have photos that you want to include, even better.

    So get writing and send your submissions to by Jan. 20, 2011.


  • Peach Tree
  • Growing Pains: Growing garlic indoors

    I don’t have much of a green thumb, but the other day, I thought I’d experiment with garlic that turned to seed. I’ve been asked to chronicle what happens. Here’s part one.