When Saskatoon's Christie Peters is deciding what to prepare in her restaurants, she does not consult an old book of recipes or go online for new ideas.
Instead, she heads into her garden to see what's ready to harvest.
"I feel like it just gives us meaning and we're really trying to cultivate food in our time and place." - Christie Peters, Head Chef of The Hollows and Primal restaurants in Saskatoon.
Peters is the head chef at The Hollows and Primal restaurants in Saskatoon. Both places are known for their creative menus, and Peters credits her large garden in the city for the inspiration.
"Things that are very perishable and very expensive we like to grow ourselves. So things like the heirloom tomatoes. The more exotic, the better."
Peters' home is on a corner lot in Saskatoon. The backyard is taken up by a diverse garden, as well as a big and strong smelling compost heap.
This year, Peters approached the city with an idea to expand the garden.
"We've received the city's permission to turn the boulevard into a food space. We've maximized the space and maximized the output of the space by using drip irrigation."
Peters said that style of irrigation really helped this summer because of the dry conditions.
Help in the garden
What also helps is having a horticulturalist on staff to help design and tend to a garden.
Peters employs Lisa Taylor, who studies at the University of Saskatchewan, to not only make sure everything is growing well, but to decide what is planted in the spring.
"She does most the work in the garden and also helps us deal with our composting and making sure that it's actually going to go back into the earth in a proper way."
Hard but rewarding work
It is a lot of work tending to a large garden while running two kitchens, but for Peters, who grew up in Saskatoon, she would not have it any other way.
"I feel like it just gives us meaning and we're really trying to cultivate food in our time and place. Which is in the heart of Saskatoon and in Saskatchewan. We're really trying to understand the seasons of Saskatchewan."
A new season is about to begin in Saskatchewan as fall is just around the corner. That means Peters is spending long hours harvesting what her garden has produced.
It also means thinking outside of the box when it comes to making the vegetables last throughout the winter.
"We've been using the entire plant. So in the case of beets, we will root cellar the root part and then pickle and can it. We will blanche the leaves and freeze them to use in sauteed greens. And then there's a stem that nobody eats, but we've made a beautiful conserve out of it that we'll crack open in winter," said Peters.
Peters has worked in restaurants before that have their vegetables delivered to them everyday. But creating her menus in this way, based on what happens to be growing in the garden at the time, continues to be rewarding for the young chef.
"I feel like by having this garden right in our backyard, we're able to truly capture those little moments of the season as they come and really understand the meaning of the food that we eat."