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Local products

On a dare, I've decided to eat only local foods for the next few weeks. It's a loose definition of local - I think we agreed on a 100-mile radius of Toronto - but still a challenge.

I need advice on where to find local produce, grains (and breads), dairy, eggs and tofu (or soy products). I'm vegetarian, so no meat, necessary - though you're welcome to discuss that amongst yourselves.

I know the Sobey's near me (on Dupont) has some local hothouse tomatoes, plus some Western brand yogurt. Any other tips?

Oh, and any ideas for restaurants?

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  1. St. Lawrence Market on a Saturday, in the North Building, has a lot of farmers and other retailers selling their products, and many of them are coming from a 100 mile radius. There are several stalls selling local hydroponic/hothouse veggies. The Monforte Cheese place is great. http://www.stlawrencemarket.com/shopp...

    The Big Carrot often has local produce, especially during the summer.

    Here's an earlier thread on restaurants: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/404593

    Cowbell has a lot of local (or at least Ontario-produced) products on its menu. http://www.cowbellrestaurant.ca/farme...

    1. Couldn't you wait until summer? Honestly, have you looked outside lately. :-)))

      Joke aside, I am very curious to see the suggestions. Eating local it's a great philosophy but I just don't see it happening in Ontario year-round if you want variety.

      19 Replies
      1. re: blue bike

        I admire Piccola in her enterprise and must ask just how much variety we need?

        We have abundant dairy, meat, poultry, fish, mushrooms and eggs available to us on a fresh basis locally, as well as pulses and grains. We have over-wintering potatoes, cabbage, apples, squash, carrots, turnips, parsnips, onions, leeks and other root vegetables.

        Imported, fresh products just don't make it, but in the off-season we have pickles, preserves and canned fruit to rely on - store-bought or home-packed.

        Taking on the dare should be no hardship.

        I admit to having my OJ each morning, some oranges in the fridge and off-shore spices along with some imported lettuce with a few other items.

        1. re: DockPotato

          You make a good point here, DockPotato, but I need my greens - spinach, broccoli, rapini, kale, swiss chard, bok choy and all the lettuce. And I am not vegetarian. I think it would be harder for a vegetarian. Not sure how much of this stuff you can get from a local hothouse. Probably the alternative would be sprouts.

          1. re: blue bike

            Lots of lettuce is grown in Ontario hothouses, but it's usually pricier than the imported stuff. The Boston Lettuce with the root attached, in the plastic container at grocery stores is usually grown in Ontario.

            Cookstown Greens supples a lot of higher end restaurants:

            1. re: blue bike

              My problem, aside from supporting locals right now, is that imported produce is so crappy.

              Your out-of-season wants are really pretty limited aren't they, bike. They're not an issue in any way. The rest of your meal, a really exciting meal, is possible using nearby ingredients which piccola is limited to along with a few other ingredients, no?

              1. re: blue bike

                Some locally harvested fruits, vegs and nuts are stored in warehouses and sold throughout the winter:Chinese cabbage,cranberries,potatoes, apples, kale, cabbage, turnips, parsnips, carrots, kraut, beets,pumpkins, horseradish, ginger, onions etc, plus nuts .
                The P.A.T. stores have locally made soy sauce, miso, kimchi, and tofu, which is also sold fresh daily from Soon restaurants.
                Grains will be difficult to source, but you can get Arva products from Thuet, or order direct www.arvaflourmills.com
                There are bulk grains and beans in the Bulk Barn and SLM,
                but ask about their sources (they'd better get used to these questions!) . S.W. Ont. grows a huge crop of soys, beans, and grains, but we need to know if they show up here!
                Bulk Barn identifies their honey: Burke's (Kawartha).
                In a few weeks you can gather water cress from our streams, but in winter your own sprouts will come in handy.
                Mushrooms are local, but I generally ask.
                I like Utopia canned tomatoes from Chatham, in Loblaws organic section.
                And could Niagara grape juice sub for OJ, Dock?

                1. re: jayt90

                  Thank you for the Arva link. I think I will have to check it out. I am finding it harder and harder to find unbleached flour!

                  1. re: jayt90

                    Right, so could Heinz tomato juice or apple juice, but I'm never judgemental when it comes to myself :-)))

                    Who's processing grape juice in Ontario now, jayt? I thought Welch was out of it.

                    1. re: DockPotato

                      I overlooked that (actually, I forgot about Welch's closing their plant in Niagara Falls, and now importing juice from western New York.)

                      I think E.D. Smith has established a jam plant in western New York, but still make jams in Thorold.

                      With tomato juice and apple juice produced all over, I check the label to buy local, although I don't have a problem with Rougemont QC, but Martins should be closer to home. Utopia tomato juice is definitely a local product.


                      1. re: jayt90

                        I thought Rougemont blended their apple juice with imported juice and only some local?
                        I only recently heard of this- but check to make sure.

                        I usually buy local apple cider instead.

                      2. re: DockPotato

                        You can still purchase Ontario Grape juice. Wellesley Grape Juice is great!

                        You can purchase it at Crunican's on Hwy 4 near Elginfield (if you're in SW Ontario), or from Fresh to the Farm if you're in TO. I would think the Big Carrot should also carry it.

                        1. re: DockPotato

                          I heard something recently about Apple juice labelled as Canadian that may actually be up to 49% Chinese.. I don't do 100% local by any means, but apples should be local. Anybody know about this?

                          1. re: julesrules

                            I heard the same thing from a farmer who owns an apple orchard near London.

                            1. re: phoenikia

                              I wonder if we safe buying 100% juice, not from concentrate. It seems odd that Canadian companies would have to import juice, but there might be incentive to add foreign concentrate if their labelling allows it.
                              We should look into this.
                              The more questions we ask, the better the disclosure...

                              1. re: jayt90

                                It's cheaper to import Chinese apples than to pay our own Ontarian farmers fair prices for their apples. The companies don't have to import apples for juice- they choose to do so because of their bottom line.

                                It doesn't help that so many of the orchards in the Niagara area have been converted into vineyards.

                                A lot of our honey is now blended with South American honey, too.

                        2. re: jayt90

                          Oh! Nostalgia flashback: it was my job to pick up our family's flour from the Arva Flour Mill in my little wooden wagon when I was little. The man who owned it used to give me a ride home in his truck every time to save me the walk back. I found out much later that the flour is actually reallly good and I know a few pro bakers that use it exclusively.

                          Thanks for the memory!

                          1. re: Manybears

                            Marc Thuet could not make consistently good loaves until he learned about Arva flours.
                            And yet, so many amateur bakers insist on King Arthur, and the hassle in getting it here!

                      3. re: DockPotato

                        Well, the point is to see whether it's a realistic lifestyle outside of, say, California.

                        Variety isn't my number one priority, assuming I won't be in danger of getting scurvy.

                        1. re: piccola

                          Does anyone have a local source for good pine needle tea? Preferably made with Ontario White Pine? Then, there'd be no danger of scurvy for those avoiding imported citrus during a wintertime locavore challenge;)

                          1. re: phoenikia

                            No, but you might want to try harvesting some sumac berries or rose hips. They're all high in vitamin C, too.

                    2. I know theres a store opening called "Culinarium" in a few months, which will carry all local products. Thats about all I know about it, I believe its going to be located around eglinton and mt.pleasant.

                      Keep your fingers crossed!

                      1. Dufferin Grove Farmers' Market - 3-7 pm Thursdays at Dufferin Grove Park. It's right by the skating rink indoors in the winter. You can get eggs, decent breads and other baked goods, lots of produce, local honey, meats, some prepared foods (potato dumplings, samosas). It's a bit pricier because it's all organic. Occasionally they have someone sell local flour.

                        Fiesta Farms, the grocery store at Christie(which is probably close to you!!!), north of Bloor, carries a lot of local foods as they have a partnership with Local Food Plus. Lots of dairy and cheese options. e.g. Saugeen, Mapleton, Hewitts, Ewenity, etc. Decent vegetarian products, produce, local mustard, etc. I love the place because they also carry some more unusual products. Their prices are better than most other places too!

                        Toronto Sprouts - www.torontosprouts.com - carries local grown sprouts.

                        Healthy Butcher - www.thehealthybutcher.com/ -Yes it's a butcher, but they carry loads of local foods - Niagara cheeses, prepared foods, local ice cream (Kensington Organics), butter, greens, breads, and other tasty goodies.

                        Here's a listing of the Canadian Soy Directory at http://www.soybean.on.ca/database/sea... from the Ontario Soybean Growers Association. A few of them are Ontario based. Not sure if the soybeans are actually grown in Ontario or if they are imported and just processed here. You probably would need to check with specific companies.

                        One more addition: The Sweet Potato, a local grocery store that apparently just opened at 2995 Dundas St W (w. of Keele). I've never been but you could call 416-882-5140 to see if they are open yet.

                        That's all I can think of right now.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: youeatwhatyouare

                          Oh, wow! Thanks so much! Both Dufferin Grove and Fiesta Farms are really close - in fact, I'm kind of in the middle of them. And sprouts... yum.

                        2. Fresh From the Farm has eggs and dairy products from local Mennonite farmers. Lots of local meat, too, but since your vegetarian, you can ignore those bits!

                          1. If you're up for a pub, the Bow and Arrow on Yonge at Davisville source locally grown and crafted foods and, of course, beer.

                            Cowbell, as mentioned already, is an obvious one. They even invite farmers to come and talk about their farms and produce at special events.

                            Fresh From The Farm
                            350 Donlands Ave, Toronto, ON M4J, CA

                            1564 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6R1A6, CA

                            Bow & Arrow
                            1954 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4S, CA

                            Fiesta Farms
                            200 Christie St, Toronto, ON M6G, CA

                            1. My summer CSA Plan B do winter boxes, they will customize them to be local-only (stored apples & root veggies, and local hothouse stuff). I believe in the winter you can order a single box instead of signing up for a longer period. I have not tried them in the winter but I loved my summer experience.


                              1. The Culinarium suggestion looks interesting.

                                I found their website.


                                1. Cheese shops in kensigon carry Niagra region goods. it's quite good cheese. If you can go as far as quebec the the choices are endless.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: gastronom

                                    youre right- its worth the trip to St Lambert; IVe been telling Loblaws execs for years about artisanal cheeses from Quebec- just as good if not better than their parisian counterparts

                                  2. Fantastic idea. I wish I could commit to doing something like this as well, but I can't live without my tropical fruits and Asian ingredients... If you don't mind sparing a few minutes, let us know how your efforts pan out, which I'm very interested in hearing, especially with the selection being limited by the season.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: vorpal

                                      Sure thing. I'm doing a little reconnaissance work this week before I actually take the plunge. But trust me, you'll hear all about it.

                                      1. re: vorpal

                                        yes we're the same, can't live without miso/soba/bok choy/ asian pears among other things...but love local produce.

                                        1. re: zed1984

                                          if you're interested in switching to ontario miso, there is a product that is virtually local but more focused on organic and exemplary base ingredients.


                                          tradition miso uses imported rice and salt but the beans are ontario grown.

                                          1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                            Does anyone know of a source for frozen Ontario grown edamame?I know Ontario grows a lot of soybeans, but most of them seem to be the smaller ones.

                                            It seems like all the frozen edamame I've found come from China.

                                            1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                              Funny enough we've always bought local miso and tofu! I never really realised until this year...lol

                                        2. Highline, producer of organic, pesticide-free mushrooms, is based in Leamington, which I believe is within the 100-mile limit -

                                          Highline Mushrooms
                                          506 Mersea Road 5, Leamington, ON N8H, CA

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: JamieK

                                            Actually it's just over 200 miles, but you can really fly along the 401!

                                            1. re: DockPotato

                                              clearly I'm geographically challenged. But pehaps it could be done with some manipulation of the time-space continuum, ala Star Trek.

                                          2. Hey, are foreign spices and/or condiments allowed? Just asking, since I don't think there's such a thing as Ontario salt.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: piccola

                                              Sifto Table Salt comes from the Goderich salt mine....http://www.siftocanada.com/about%20us...


                                              You might have a problem finding local sugar...turns out all the CDN sugar beets are grown in southern AB, according to Rogers http://www.rogerssugar.com/faq/index....
                                              But I guess you could rely on Ontario honey & maple sugar.

                                              1. re: phoenikia

                                                Don't forget Windsor - there is a mine right under the Detroit river:


                                              2. re: piccola

                                                Having read Mark Kurlansky's 'World History of Salt', I can assure you Canada is one of the world's largest producers of salt, much of it coming from Ontario, specifically Goderich.

                                                1. re: JamieK

                                                  Well, that's reassuring. Now if only I could find provincial spices... :)

                                              3. Here's a handy website that offers information, links and a map to farmers and producers in Peel Region - Brampton, Caledon and Missisauga-

                                                And here's an amusing story about Jacob Richler's attempt at a dinner party based on the 100-mile concept. In April in Toronto-

                                                1. I know it is many months along the line, and that things are growing now. But other than the leeks and asparagus, most of the things I bought were also available in the depths of winter.

                                                  Last Saturday, I made a 100 mile dinner for guests (and asked them to source local wines).
                                                  I shopped at the St. Lawrence Mkt North -- the farmers' market.

                                                  I was upfront with all the vendors that I was only buying things that were grown within 100 miles.

                                                  I found the farmers very accommodating about telling me where their produce was grown, and everything that I asked about was grown by the farmer who was there selling it except for the garlic at one stall, which was imported from the USA.

                                                  I even had one vendor tell me not to buy her leeks, because they were from down around Windsor, but to go two tables over to buy the wild leeks, because they were from Hamilton!

                                                  Anyway, the dinner was successful. It started with a chicken stock I made from chicken backs I purchased at Rowe Farms, and used that as a base for a potato-wild leek soup. Main course was braised lamb shanks (using some organic tomatoes I grew last summer and froze, and Niagara wine and sherry), and oven-roasted potatoes, carrots, parsnips, mushrooms and asparagus (it's asparagus season again)! Dessert was some sheep's milk ricotta cheese with some local raspberries, blackberries and blueberries I purchased and froze last fall, and a drizzle of maple syrup from Markham. Finished dinner off with some Montfort cheeses and icewine.

                                                  I don't know why the heck Jacob Richler didn't just hit the market.

                                                  1. You are probably in the easiest area to do this. Most products can be found in your area or not too far away. There are even 2 flour mills in Ontario, tonnes of organic and natural dairies, contact a CSA or food share for veggies, etc. I'm in Windsor, try doing this here. :D

                                                    1. sherway gardens has a farmers' market in the north parking lot every Friday morning; id like to suggest investing in a large chest freezer and blanching seasonal produce at its peak then vacuum sealing it prior to freezing it; ive been doing this for years