As the snow melts away and the temperature rises, spring marks the perfect time to explore Toronto’s local farmers’ markets and take advantage of fresh, seasonal ingredients. From locally sourced produce to sustainably-raised meats and dairy, Toronto’s agriculture is thriving with opportunities for cooking and experimenting with flavours. Here are some tips and recipes for cooking with local Toronto ingredients in the spring:
- Visit local farmers’ markets Toronto boasts several farmers’ markets that are open year-round, such as the St. Lawrence Market and the Dufferin Grove Farmers’ Market. In the spring, outdoor markets open up around the city, including the Evergreen Brick Works Farmers’ Market and the Trinity Bellwoods Farmers’ Market. Visiting these markets not only provides access to fresh, seasonal ingredients but also supports the local economy.
- Check what’s in season. Spring is the time for ramps, rhubarb, asparagus, fiddleheads, and more. Checking what’s in season before heading to the market ensures that the ingredients are fresh and flavorful. Incorporating locally grown ingredients connects us to the land and builds a sense of community.
- Experiment with new cooking techniques. Spring produce lends itself well to lighter and more refreshing dishes. Grilling asparagus or radicchio adds a smoky flavour, while roasted rhubarb sweetens up a savory dish. Different cooking techniques can highlight the textures and flavors of local produce and inspire creativity in the kitchen.
- Seasonal recipe ideas… Spring brings with it a bounty of ingredients to explore in the kitchen. Here are three recipe ideas featuring local Toronto ingredients:
- Pasta with Asparagus and Lemon: Cook fresh pasta and set aside, then sauté asparagus in olive oil and garlic until soft, then toss with the cooked pasta. Finally, add a swirl of lemon juice and Parmesan cheese on top for added zest and flavour.
- Fiddlehead Quinoa Salad: Cook quinoa and let cool, then mix with chopped parsley, mint, lemon juice, and olive oil. Then, blanch fiddleheads in boiling water for two minutes, remove and rinse with cold water before adding to the quinoa mix.
- Rhubarb Compote: Chop rhubarb into small pieces and add to a saucepan with honey, lemon juice, and a small amount of water. Heat over medium heat until it becomes a thick, jam-like consistency, approximately ten minutes.
- Support local businesses. As well as farmers’ markets, there are many local shops, restaurants, and cafes that source ingredients locally. Support these businesses by choosing to eat and shop locally, thus showing the city’s artisans, farmers, and small business owners that their work is valued, appreciated and beneficial for the community.
In conclusion, finding ways to cook with local Toronto ingredients in the spring requires a bit of planning, experimenting, and exploring. However, by visiting local farmers’ markets, checking what’s in season, experimenting with new cooking techniques, and supporting local businesses, cooking with local ingredients can become second nature. Not only does local produce ensure the freshest and most delicious ingredients available, but it also supports the local community, the environment, and our Toronto food culture.
By Chef Julian Pancer, The Chef Upstairs