Monday, August 27, 2012

Food, Fun and Friends - Stokes Garden Visit

 Now I can think of no better way to spend a summer's day than with a group of good friends, like my garden writing colleagues, at the Stokes Seeds Trial Gardens in Niagara with a host of garden growers wandering the fields tasting right of the vine tomatoes and peppers. But boy was it hot as you can see by those who were smart enough to bring umbrellas. Each August a group of garden writers get invited to Stokes by Peter Cantley from Loblaws to help them select the next year's offerings of tomatoes, peppers and eggplants in their Gigantico Series of vegetable plants. Sometimes we see and taste a veggie that on first bite seems great like last year's Turkish eggplant, a small round striped orange eggplant that looked like a tomato but when grown and eaten on a regular basis was agreed by all to be less than best. So next season President's Choice will offer a new variety of eggplant.  Similarly this year we tasted the Kapello pepper (below). It was OK but there was another pepper with a much sweeter flavour. It's kind of neat to be a part of the selection process and to see our choices for offer the next season in the garden centres.

And after a trip through the fields tasting all those tomatoes and peppers, we are treated to a lovely lunch featuring fresh local produce from the Niagara region - fresh BLT sandwiches, a delicious salad with yummy chunks of peaches, a flat bread pizza with tomatoes and a young creamy goat cheese, pasta salad, bruschetta and large slices of delicious fresh peach pie with crumble topping and slices of sugar cube melon, accompanied by local Niagara wines. Yum! Yum! Yum!

And after lunch a group of us met with J.B. Hopkins, Parks Supervisor for Niagara-on-the-Lake who gave us a walking tour and talk on design, implementation and care of the beautiful floral displays that grace the streets of Niagara-on-the-Lake. As a provincial judge for Communities in Bloom I'm always interested to learn how communities fund and implement their displays so I can pass on tips to smaller communities who are interested in achieving similar displays. The displays are based on some years previous designs and some updates that are made on a yearly basis, sometimes colour themed as this year's tribute to the War of 1812 incorporating lots of red plant material. Displays are maintained by 2 fulltime staff and 2 seasonal staff. And for those who like flowers, these floral displays certainly draw visitors from around the globe.

We ended the day at one of the growers home to see his beautiful gardens and a few of us enjoyed BBQ burgers and a discussion on a potential new event at Stokes in the future. So needless to say, for us from Bracebridge it was well worth the  drive to Niagara. Thanks so much to Peter Cantley, Bob Martin and all the folks at Stokes Seeds for another great tasting event.

1 comment:

  1. It was a lovely day, wasn't it. Glad to hear about part 2&3 of the trip that I had to miss - sounds like they were terrific too.