Thursday, March 1, 2012

Market Day in Tuscany

A bountiful array of fresh market produce in Pistoi, Tuscany.

Sometimes life rushes past you and you don't even realize. Such as been the case for The Cottage Gardener. This past fall my life has been taken up with our newest and most ambitious project for our humanitarian charity in Wongonyi Village, Kenya where we are just starting on construction of the Mghongo Leadership Centre, Eco Lodge and Demonstration Farm. But more on that another day.

Today as the snow softly drifts down is a great day to spend perusing the seed catalogues and making selections for our upcoming summer season. These photos from our trip last summer with Donna Dawson and to Tuscany are a delightful reminder of the fresh produce soon to be picked from our own home garden. Just looking at these photos I can already taste those sun warmed fresh tomatoes, oozing juice that drips down your chin. The squeak of fresh beans lightly steamed and drizzled with the olive oil we bought from Marco, our tour guide and a farmer who grows olives and produces delicious honey from his beehives.

I distinctly remember the day we happened upon this market. It was raining and we travelled down a little laneway coming out into this small market square where local farmers had brought in their produce from the countryside. It all looked so delicious as we passed through the square on our way to lunch that I had almost rather been able to purchase some of these delicious and new treats and find a kitchen in which to prepare them. I just wanted to linger and see all that was available, especially garden produce that I was not familiar with (can you tell that I'm a foodie).

I simply love to try new things and also to share that knowledge and love of food with others. Currently I am working with Susan Biehn-Smith, the local co-0rdinator of the Community Garden program and Fresh Food Basket program in Bracebridge. We meet with women once a month on the delivery day of the Fresh Food Baskets and we cook with items that arrive in the baskets. Although we choose a dish or two each month, we sometimes need to substitute with what we get in the baskets. It has been great to see these women embrace new foods and recipes as we have presented them ranging from African recipes like Vegetable Curry, Pojo (lentils with tomatoes and onions), Dovi (a chicken peanut butter stew), and sprouting lentils to this month's offering of Oriental Stir-fry, Sushi and rice paper wrapped vegetable rolls. On a trip to Toronto this week I loaded up on some unusual oriental foods for a taste testing session. And with oriental veggies a continuing trend, we'll be exploring the seeds they can plant in their garden plots this spring. As well we'll be showing them seed producers and sellers like Renee's Garden who package their seeds with 3 varieties in one package, perfect for those with small garden plots or limited space.

If you haven't got your seed catalogues yet or had time to sit down and take a look, it isn't too late to order some seeds. Just remember spring is right around the corner and soon we will be able to once again enjoy fresh produce from our own gardens. What can be better than produce that is simply picked, prepared and plated in only minutes. Yum!

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