It’s Pick-Your-Own season in Ottawa and the region is full of options for you to get out and get your hands dirty. Pick-Your-Own farms offer you an opportunity to connect with your food and your farmer, and truly appreciate the joy of eating locally. Children involved in growing and picking their own food are more adventurous eaters and are more willing to try new things. Many of these facilities also have animals, activities, market stands, and much more. They are all ‘picnic friendly’ which means you can pack a cooler and blanket and make a day of it.
Our favourite farms in this category are listed below. In all cases it’s better to call or visit their website before heading out to make sure that they are open for picking. In some cases you can buy items already picked!
The Vandenbergs are one of our regular suppliers and they grow everything from berries to Brussels sprouts. Call first to check what’s in season or visit their website.
The Rochons are a fixture at the Ottawa Farmers’ Markets and they also grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Berry picking starts the end of June and continues through the summer
In addition to a variety of items you can pick, they have lots of fun activities for the whole family. Throughout the month of August they host a number of farm to table dinners as well.
Miller’s Farm & Market
6158 Rideau Valley Drive, Manotick
Phone: (613) 692-2380
We have visited this farm with a bus load of people in the past and they are well equipped for large groups with a market, garden center and lots of items for picking.
One concern that people have about picking your own is what to do with all that produce. There are so many ways to preserve the harvest but the easiest is to freeze items for later use. Berries are easy to work with. Wash and dry them, then remove any stems or hulls, and then lay them on a baking sheet and freeze them. Once frozen, you can store them in large freezer bags for later use in baking, smoothies, jams and on your morning yogurt.
Most vegetables are best frozen when blanched or cooked into a meal. Soups and stews freeze very well so make a big batch and freeze in dinner size containers.
If you love to pickle and preserve, then picking your own fruits and vegetables is the way to go. One of our colleagues at the Red Apron has a very engaged foodie family, and they make great parties out of preserving the harvest. During tomato season you can find the entire family in their backyard with all the gear, peeling and cooking tomatoes for sauce. There are many online resources showing you how – including this lovely post on nonnasway.com/canning-tomatoes/ and you can buy all the gear at Preston Hardware in Ottawa.
If you can’t make it out to the farm yourself, it’s always worth talking to the farmers at the markets. As the volume of produce goes up, the price goes down, and at the peak of the growing season it’s possible to get really great deals on large volumes of berries, tomatoes, and pretty much everything else. If you are preserving or pickling, you can ask for ‘seconds’ if they are available.
The first recipe this month is two variations on a basic crêpe recipe. I included this recipe because I find crêpes so versatile in the summer. For breakfast, it’s easy to make a batch and top with fresh berries or fruit, a drizzle of maple syrup and some whipped cream or yogurt. For lunch you can fill your crêpe with sliced tomatoes, farm fresh eggs, and sliced ham or bacon. For dinner you can fill your crêpe with a ratatouille of summer vegetables and crumbled feta cheese. The possibilities are endless!
The second recipe is one that my mother found when combing through her mother’s letters and files. It’s the perfect harvest recipe as it makes use of a number of items that will be at their peak in August, and you can preserve them for the months to follow.
Basic Crêpe Recipe
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted
I make my crêpes in a blender but if you don’t have a blender you can use a large mixing bowl. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and the eggs. Gradually add in the milk and water, stirring to combine. Add the salt and butter; beat until smooth. If using a blender, add all ingredients and blend until smooth. I find it best to let the batter sit for a few minutes (up to 20) before you start cooking.
Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium-high heat. If you think you ill do this often, invest in a crêpe pan – it’s well worth it. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each crêpe. Tilt the pan with a circular motion so that the batter coats the surface evenly.
Cook the crêpe for about 2 minutes, until the bottom is light brown. Loosen with a spatula, turn and cook the other side. You can stack your crêpes and keep them in a warm oven until you are ready to serve with a variety of options I have mentioned above. Mmmmm…..
If you want to get adventurous you can follow the same process but use the following ingredients:
1/4 (1/2 stick) cup butter
1 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1-1/4 cups whole milk
Gramma Sybil’s Chili Sauce (zesty)
Makes 6-8 pints
18 large ripe, peeled, coarsely cut/chopped tomatoes
4 large onions, peeled and diced
6 green peppers, minced or diced
4 hot red peppers
2 cups cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoon each salt, ginger, cinnamon
1 tablespoon each allspice & nutmeg
Place ingredients into a large pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 hour, stirring frequently.
Put into sterilized bottles and seal. Rather than providing you with detailed instructions on how to do this I am including a link to a blog site that is very detailed.
Written by: Jennifer Heagle, Chef, foodie & co-owner of the Red Apron