For fresh food aficionados, nothing beats local produce picked when perfectly ripe, it is the highlight of our year and the fleeting nature of it is one of its charms, part of its allure. You missed ramps this spring? Too bad; you will have to wait until next spring! To help you plan ahead, sites like Harvest Ontario and Foodland Ontario have provided a handy guide to determine growing and harvesting seasons for our favourite fruits and veggies, and this page from www.pickyourown.org directs you to farms around Toronto where you can do just that; pick your own!
One of the more overlooked Ontario crops is potatoes. This may be because potatoes are such a staple in Canada; they are the largest fresh vegetable crop in Ontario, and the fourth largest food crop in the world. We store them in the cellar in the middle of winter and we have them all four seasons, mashed, smashed, boiled, baked, fried, sliced and diced, in clunky summer slalads and in refined dishes like the perfect chilled summer soup, vichysoisse.
Food 52 makes a vichyssoise with Yukon Gold potatoes, lobster and sweet peas – doesn’t that sound incredible? Bon Appetit offers a new spin on the humble potato salad with this version that incorporates sour cream and blue cheese into the mix. Organic Authority offers a bunch of delicious alternatives to mayonnaise for your next potato salad – mix it up, try something new. Another great potato recipe comes from Fine Cooking with their salad nicoise that uses parboiled and grilled potatoes.
It’s hard to get excited about a spud, until you have a dud, or until you have a just-harvested, delicious new potato. The difference between a just picked Ontario new potato and the spuds you have been eating all winter and spring is like the difference between lamb and mutton, or a vine ripened tomato from a farmer down the road versus a bland, waxy red-like sphere from Florida.
Of course, there are many varieties of potatoes grown in Ontario and most folks have a favourite spud for a favourite occasion; yellow-fleshed Yukon Gold for example, are best for mashing, white and red-skinned spuds are great for simple boiling and eating tossed with butter and fresh herbs, and russets are our go-to for baking. And, as our own Sarah Battersby has reported, you can even grow your own potatoes at home. In a bag!
Containing no fat or cholesterol, and high in potassium and vitamin C, potatoes are nutritious, delicious, economical and ridiculously versatile. And a new potato is like nothing else, and the best way to serve then is also the simplest. Boil up a batch of well-washed, small new white, red or Yukon potatoes, uncut and with the skin on. When the skins start to break they are done. Drain and let cool for a few minutes, break them slightly then toss with butter and a handful of fresh chopped herds, like parsley, dill and chives. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.