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Food Column: Elton on Local Winter Eating

This week, we asked our food columnist Sarah Elton to come in and share with us the secrets of eating local in the winter. Sarah also happens to be the author of the national bestseller, Locavore: From Farmers' Fields to Rooftop Gardens, How Canadians Are Changing the Way We Eat.

Listen audio (runs 7:24)

Here's her Eat Local Toronto resource list:

What to look for at this time of year:

Choose the long lasters: Roots vegetables grown in Ontario like potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, garlic, onions as well as cold seller vegetables such as winter squashes, cabbages, leeks and fruit like apples and pears are plentiful at this time of year. If your supermarket sells American-grown carrots, tell them you want to buy carrots grown in the Holland Marsh instead.

Greenhouses grow all year round: There are greenhouses that produce vegetables all year round including lettuces, greens, sprouts, and cucumbers. Ontario greenhouse tomatoes and peppers will start growing in March and then after that, St. David's greenhouses grow lovely greenhouse eggplants!

Mushrooms don't care about low sun levels: Ontario is home to half of Canada's mushroom farms that produce more than 200 million pounds of mushrooms a year. You can find the standard button mushrooms grown here but also King, Shiitake and Enokis too. But don't forget to read the label because many mushrooms are imported, including from as far away as Korea.

That's grown in Ontario?: You can find Ontario peanuts , organic tofu made from locally grown soy beans, as well as Ontario greenhouse bitter melon . Most of the world's honey comes from China, but we produce a lot here too so again, read the label.

The Taste of Place: If you are looking for a taste of place in your dairy products, watch out for yoghurt, ice cream and cheese made with modified milk ingredients. This is a processed milk product that likely comes from far away.

Prepare ahead: Take the time to stock your freezer in the summer with produce such as peaches, tomatoes, rhubarb and green beans. If you have a cold corner, onions store really well too and you'll save a lot of money if you buy all the onions you need for the year for around $10.

Menu planning: Skip the long distance lettuce from California and choose to make a salad from what we have here. Grate some parsnips raw, beets, carrots and dress with either a creamy salad dressing or a vinegary one or chop add some cabbage and make a great slaw. Sarah's favourite salad these days is thinly sliced raw cabbage with Ontario peanuts and a fish sauce and lemon (don't forget to add sugar and a little water to taste) salad dressing.

Visit a Farmers' Market: There are nine indoor farmers markets open all year round. They are:

Appletree Market
Indoors in winter at the North Toronto Community Centre, 200 Eglinton West, 2nd Floor
Thursdays, 11-7 pm, Winter markets 3-7 pm Nov.10, 24, Dec. 8, 22, Jan.5, 19, Feb. 2, 16, Mar. 1, 15, 29, Apr.12, 26

Dufferin Grove Organic Farmers' Market
873 Dufferin St. (in Dufferin Grove Park)
Thursdays, 3 - 7 pm, In the rink house during winter

Evergreen Brick Works Farmers' Market
550 Bayview Ave (between Prince Edward Viaduct (Bloor/Danforth) & Pottery Road)
Winter markets, Saturdays, 9 am - 1 pm

Montgomery's Inn Farmers' Market
4709 Dundas West, Etobicoke
Winter markets 3-6 pm

St. Lawrence North Farmers' Market
92 Front Street East (at Jarvis)
Saturdays, 5 am - 5 pm, Open all year!

Sick Kids Hospital Farmers' Market
555 University Avenue
Tuesdays, 9 am - 2 pm, June 7 to October 25, 2011, some vendors indoors for the winter

Sorauren Farmers' Market
40 Wabash Ave. at Sorauren
Mondays, 3-7 pm, in the Field house all winter long

The Stop's Green Barn Farmers' Market
The Green Arts Barn, 601 Christie Ave. (entrance from Wychwood)
In the barns November-April

University of Toronto Scarborough Farmers' Market
Parking Lot 4, 1265 Military Trail (Morningside and Ellesmere)
Winter markets first Wednesday of the month November to April, 11-3

Order a Food Box:

FoodShare offers
Mama Earth Organics
Front Door Organics
Fresh City Farms

Winter Share CSAs and Food Co-ops:
Kawartha Ecological Growers
Plan B Organics
Karma Food Coop

Check out your local food stores: There are a number of stores in the city that specialize in local food, including butcher shops and cheese shops.

Bon Appetit!

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