As I write this post on July 30th, I am celebrating Food Day Canada with a picnic featuring local Prince Edward Island food products. Food Day Canada is a day set aside to celebrate all the wonderful foods that we, as Canadians, enjoy.
For today’s picnic location, I have chosen the iconic Fort Amherst site, just across the harbour from Charlottetown. The building in the background of the photo above is known as the Blockhouse Point Lighthouse. The beacon for sailors was established in 1851 and is the second oldest lighthouse on the Island. Automated in 1962, no one lives in the lighthouse anymore but it was built with a two-story dwelling attached for the lighthouse keeper and his family.
We like to travel the Island in the summer and often pack a picnic lunch.
I like to sometimes pack individual picnic boxes or baskets, as I have done today. Each basket is like a personalized gift and it’s great fun to see picnic guests unpacking their baskets and discovering what surprises await them. It’s also a great way to customize the baskets to accommodate those with special dietary needs and food preferences since their lunch basket can be prepared especially for them. Nothing makes a guest feel more special than when the host/hostess plans and prepares for their special food needs!
The only downside to this style of picnic is that the baskets are obviously not insulated so, for travel purposes, I recommend they be transported inside a large insulated cooler with ice packs.
I have named this picnic the Locovore’s Picnic since I have selected Island products for the basket contents. Here’s the menu:
Sandwich – Larkin’s smoked chicken breast with Schurman Family Farm organic tomatoes and lettuce from the garden all on bread from Mary’s Bake Shoppe
Tossed green salad with lettuce freshly picked from our garden and peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes from Schurman Family Farm
Homemade Rhubarb Cordial
Anne of Green Gables Island-made chocolate
Here’s a closer peek into the lunch baskets, each of which is lined with a white cloth napkin. I had just poured the lemon-lime soda into the rhubarb cordial (recipe here) before this photo was taken so it is still quite fizzy!
And, here’s a closer look….
I love packing the salads in these little glass jars. I have separate small containers for the vinaigrette which, of course, should only be added to the salad at the time of serving.
Choosing a good quality bread will help the sandwich to hold together, especially if adding a number of ingredients as I have done here. Mary’s Bake Shoppe in Kensington, just outside Summerside, makes great bread and a number of different kinds. The one in the photograph below is oatbran bread, one of my all-time favorites.
I wrapped each sandwich in parchment paper secured with twine. This helps to keep it intact.
I have used a turquoise color theme for today’s picnic – it has a real summery feel to it!
The flowers were picked from our own garden. It’s the little touches that make the event more special!
Time to stop photographing and eat lunch!
Curious to know what’s in that tiny white box with the pretty turquoise ribbon?
These chocolates are hand-made right here on Prince Edward Island and they are quite divine!
So, there you have it! This is how I spent Food Day Canada 2016!
Great food with a lovely view! A perfect PEI summer day!
Thanks for coming along on my picnic this afternoon!
With its beginnings in 2003, Food Day Canada has grown and evolved. Today, it is a country-wide initiative designed to showcase how a delectable entire meal can be made using Canadian-produced food. It’s a tangible and visible way to celebrate the wonderful variety of foods produced in Canada and recognize our farmers, fishers, other food producers, chefs and, indeed, those of us who are home cooks bringing locally-produced food to our tables on a regular basis. I like to use fresh locally-produced food products which have not traveled days to reach us and, at the same time, it gives me the opportunity to put dollars into the hands of local food producers to keep the local food movement alive and sustainable.
Preparing a meal using Canadian food items is no great challenge for me since I use local food products every day of the year. In summer, our garden is the source of much of the food we eat. Off season, I patronize my local farmers market in Charlottetown. We have a number of farmers who grow produce year-round in their greenhouses so it’s great to have that ready source of local, fresh produce. If you follow my blog regularly, you will have read stories I have written on several PEI food producers.
Living in PEI, I have lots of choices of foods that are representative of the Island. For my 2015 Food Day Canada menu, I have chosen items from both land and sea and, as a tribute to our Island potato industry, am featuring potato salad, an all-time favorite summertime dish on PEI. Potato salad is often found at backyard barbeques, picnics, and other summer get-togethers across the Island. You can get my recipe here.
So, today, I am happy to share with you the menu I have prepared and photographs of the PEI foods that are on my table for Food Day Canada 2015 along with the sources of the products. This is my version of a typical down home PEI lobster supper.
Food Day Canada Menu 2015 Starter
PEI Mussels steamed in apple juice, garlic, and a medley of fresh herbs
and dipped in melted butter
Fresh Homemade Rolls
PEI Lobster in the Shell
PEI Potato Salad
Green Garden Salad with Cranberry-Pear Vinaigrette
Glazed Strawberry Pie with Whipped Cream
Little Sands White Wine, Rossignol Estate Winery, Little Sands, PEI
Pre-dinner Beverage: Product and Source: Rhubarb Slush made with rhubarb from our garden
Rhubarb Slush is my latest drink creation and it is my signature drink for summer 2015. It’s very tasty and refreshing on a hot summer day. We have a large rhubarb patch and it’s another way to use the rhubarb.
Starter Products & Sources: Mussels – Prince Edward Aqua Farms Inc., Springbrook, PEI Butter – Amalgamated Dairies Limited (ADL), Summerside, PEI
Mussels are one of the main products harvested from PEI waters. While they are used in different ways such as in chowders and even salads, they are most often steamed and eaten right out of the shell, dipped in good PEI hot melted butter.
Today, I simply steamed the mussels in a small amount of apple juice, some garlic, and a small handful of mixed herbs from my herb garden. The key to good steamed mussels is to use as little liquid as possible to steam them as too much liquid dilutes their flavor.
I made a fresh batch of rolls this morning and, with a good slather or ADL butter, they make a lovely accompaniment to the mussels.
Main Products & Sources: Lobster – Fished off of Tignish, PEI, and sourced through MR Seafood in Charlottetown, PEI
Butter – Amalgamated Dairies Limited (ADL), Summerside, PEI Potatoes– Jewell Produce, York, PEI Lettuce – From my own garden Tomatoes– Vankampen Greenhouse, Charlottetown, PEI English Cucumber – Schurman Family Farm, Spring Valley, PEI (these are the absolute best flavored cucumbers I have ever tasted!)
We are truly blessed on PEI to have fine quality lobster. The lobsters on my table today were fished off the shores of Tignish in the western part of the province. One of my favorite places to buy fresh seafood is at MR Seafood on Thompson Drive in Charlottetown and that’s where these were purchased. Lobster may be eaten hot or cold. My preference is to eat the lobster meat cold but dipped in melted butter.
The potatoes that I used to make the potato salad came from Jewell’s Produce in York, PEI, just outside Charlottetown.
Our lettuce has been very slow to grow this year but I was able to get enough from the garden to make a green salad for our dinner.
Dessert Product and Source: Strawberries from the Schofield Farm in Lady Fane, PEI
Strawberries are nearing the end of their season here on PEI but, as a finale to the strawberry season, I am including my glazed strawberry pie for dessert.
My wine of choice for today is Little Sands White Wine that comes from Rossignol Estate Winery in Little Sands in the Eastern part of PEI. Rossignol is PEI’s oldest winery. Click here to read the story I previously wrote about my visit to this winery.
So, this is how I am celebrating Food Day Canada 2015. What Canadian-produced foods are on your table today?
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Winter 2015 has been a true old-fashioned winter for PEI. Blizzard after blizzard has left the Island buried under mountains of snow. In fact, more than 500cm has fallen – that’s over 16 feet of snow this winter!
As I write this posting in early April, most of the snow, unfortunately, is still around (and more keeps accumulating) so it’s going to be a long time before PEI sees any plants growing outside in the rich red soil for which our Island is known. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t vegetables growing on PEI – even in the dead of winter.
Between tunnels of snow banks (some of which were more than twice the height of my car) and sometimes through side roads barely one lane wide in places, I made my way to Spring Valley to visit the Schurmans who operate a large greenhouse where they grow organic vegetables for sale year-round. In fact, if you live in Atlantic Canada and shop at Sobeys and/or the Atlantic Superstore, you have access to their Atlantic Grown Organics brand organically-grown tomatoes and cucumbers because both stores carry produce from the Schurman greenhouse.
So, this year, while I’m not going south, I did spend an afternoon with Krista and Marc Schurman in their greenhouse which almost seemed tropical!
Spring Valley is a rural community that is located just outside the town of Kensington on the Island’s north side. The Schurmans, former livestock producers, built the greenhouse in 2001 when they made the decision to diversify their farming operation from livestock to vegetable growing. The Schurman greenhouse is home to close to one (1) acre of produce grown year round. Marc, a third generation farmer, has a degree in plant science from the Nova Scotia Agricultural College (NSAC) in Truro, Nova Scotia. From the time he was a wee lad, he has had a keen interest in growing vegetables so his career choice was a logical one. His wife, Krista, has a degree in animal science, also from NSAC. Farming is clearly in the blood of the Schurman couple and it is evident from chatting with them that farming is their passion and they are committed to producing quality food for market.
In 2006, the Schurmans, who market their produce under the label “Atlantic Grown Organics”, became a 100% organic greenhouse operation.
Farming organically is not without its challenges since it operates differently than conventional farming. One of the biggest challenges is to create a mini-ecosystem versus using chemicals to control for insect pests and plant disease. Insect packets (like those in the photograph below) are hung on the vines of the plants throughout the greenhouse. These packets release beneficial insects that, essentially, eat the bad insects that can destroy plant leaves and vegetables.
To simulate a natural environment, every six weeks, new hives of bumblebees are introduced into the greenhouse.
The bees buzz around, doing their job to pollinate the tomatoes. New hives are brought into the greenhouse every six weeks so that, as the hives age, there will always be young productive bees available to carry the load of pollinating thousands of flowers every week. Earthworms are used in the plant pots to keep the soil loose – essentially, they work and till the soil.
While greenhouse farming means more control can, in some respects, be exerted over growing conditions, there is a challenge to constantly balance the humidity and ventilation in the greenhouse as too much humidity can breed plant disease. The greenhouse relies on a computer system to indicate when there is too much humidity, at which time it tells the greenhouse roof to open slightly to let in some ventilation. When the humidity is once again balanced, the computer tells the roof to close.
Large pipes filled with hot water circulate throughout the entire greenhouse keeping the plants toasty warm and providing optimal temperature for plant growth.
A wood waste burner heats the water and a back-up generator provides assurance of a heat source should there be a loss of electricity. It wouldn’t take many hours without electricity in a PEI winter storm, for example, for the farm’s entire crop of producing plants and tiny seed plantings to be destroyed.
The series of hot water pipes also function as a sort of railway track for a cart and workers to move between the rows of plant pots so the plants can be pruned and harvested. The farm functions with a staff of three full-time employees and the couple’s three children help with picking the tomatoes from the vines.
Each plant pot is individually hooked up to the water sprinkling system that is triggered by readings from a weather station on the greenhouse roof as watering is measured by the amount of natural sunlight.
These water tanks are not your ordinary watering cans!
The main business of the greenhouse operation is to produce organic tomatoes and cucumbers for wholesale to Sobeys and the Atlantic Superstore in Atlantic Canada.
However, the Schurmans also direct market their produce at both the Charlottetown and Summerside Farmers Markets. Here (in addition to the tomatoes and cucumbers), you may also find special treats like fresh greenhouse-grown strawberries in winter along with lettuce, kale, herbs, peppers, beets, green onions, and even eggplant, grown especially for their Farmers Market clientele.
From early spring to late fall, the Schurmans also have a vegetable stand at the farm gate on Route 104 in Spring Valley.
The Schurmans find great satisfaction from their greenhouse operation. They say that producing big boxes of fresh, organically-grown, red tomatoes in the dead of winter on PEI, when there is little if any vegetation growing elsewhere, is deeply satisfying.
They also find it gratifying to connect with regular customers each Saturday at the local Farmers Markets as this opportunity provides them with feedback on their produce and appreciation from customers seeking good quality organic produce that is locally produced year round.
I believe it is always good when consumers can meet and connect with those who work hard to locally produce our food. So, if you are lucky enough to live in PEI, you can meet the Schurmans, face-to-face, on Saturdays at the Farmers Markets. Otherwise, be sure to look for the purple label “Atlantic Grown Organics” on the organic tomatoes and cucumbers when shopping at Sobeys and/or the Atlantic Superstores in Atlantic Canada. Buying these Island products not only supports local farmers and helps them to be sustainable operations but you’ll know you are buying quality, safe, fresh organic produce.
I think, if I had been working inside this greenhouse this year, I would hardly have noticed it was even winter (well, maybe not until I stepped outdoors)!
For more information on the Schurman Family Farm, visit their website.
The recipe in which I have chosen to feature tomatoes and cucumbers from the Schurman Family Farm is a colorful pasta salad with herb dressing. While it is always important to use quality fresh ingredients in any recipe, it is doubly important when making salads because this is where the raw veggies star and you really taste their flavour.
I couldn’t have gotten vegetables any more fresh than these that were just picked off the vines in the greenhouse.
The quality and flavour of olive oil and balsamic vinegar is also important in the salad dressing. For this reason, I have used products from the Liquid Gold and All Things Olive store here in Charlottetown, PEI. You can use any olive oil and balsamic vinegar – either flavored or plain – that you wish; however, it will obviously change the flavour of the dressing. For this recipe, I chose to use the Wild Mushroom and Sage Olive Oil which I paired with a Honey Ginger Balsamic Vinegar.
You can use any kind of bow tie pasta for this recipe.
I’ve chosen to use colored Durum wheat semolina from Italy because I love the tri-colored pasta which makes a colorful salad!
8.8 oz (250g) bowtie pasta
1½ tsp cooking oil
2 tbsp onion soup mix
2 cups coarsely chopped English cucumber
1 cup diced tomatoes or halved cherry/grape tomatoes
½ cup chopped red onion
2 tbsp sliced black olives (optional)
3½ oz cubed feta cheese
1½ – 2 tbsp shredded Parmesan, Romano, and Asiago cheese mix
Fresh parsley (optional)
Cook pasta, for length of time and in amount of boiling water and salt indicated on package, adding the oil and onion soup mix to the cooking process. Drain pasta, rinse in cold water, and allow to cool completely.
Cut ends off small cucumber and slice in half, horizontally. Cut cucumber into ¼ inch pieces.
Coarsely chop the tomatoes and red onion.
Place pasta into large bowl and add the cucumber, tomatoes, and onion. Toss to mix, being careful not to tear pasta. Drizzle with just enough dressing to coat all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours to allow flavours to mix.
At time of serving, mix in olives and add more dressing if needed/desired. Transfer to serving bowl. Sprinkle with cheeses and fresh parsley.
6 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1½ tsp Dijon mustard
1½ tbsp sugar
½ tsp Italian seasoning
½ tsp celery seed
Pinch dried dillweed
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
Mix all ingredients in glass jar. Cover jar tightly with lid and shake jar vigorously to fully mix and incorporate all ingredients. Refrigerate until use. Remove from refrigerator to allow dressing to come to room temperature (5-7 minutes). Shake jar to mix dressing, then drizzle over salad.
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