If your plans for a 12-day Cheese Journey Tour of the French and Swiss Alps have been thwarted by COVID-19, fear not. Reliance Insurance “Hacks to Reli on” has your back: global eats on local beats. Cowichan Valley’s Haltwhistle Cheese Company produces both French Alpine-inspired milk cheese and goat’s milk cheese. They are available in markets and grocery stores on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. Hit up a local European deli featuring savoury smoked meats, and you’ll be picnicking in no time on a local coastal mountain that can easily stand in for the Alps. With a charcuterie board balanced in your lap, you’ll be singing Edelweiss at the top of your lungs because this picnic didn’t cost you $ 7000.00 per person, and you didn’t add thousands of miles to your carbon footprint.
Our worldly travel highlights often include memorable meals, and after a year of enduring the pandemic, we miss those occasions terribly, but we have curated global eats on local beats. From fine dining tours to tropical beach-side feasts to adventures in street food, those faraway sublime tastes, and intoxicating atmospheres still have to be put on hold a little while longer as we wait to be fully vaccinated and more countries safely open to foreign visitors. However, you’d be surprised at what foreign, delectable food items are grown and produced right here in British Columbia and other parts of Canada.
Our worldly travel highlights often include memorable meals, and after a year of enduring the pandemic, we miss those occasions terribly, but we have curated global eats on local beats.
Global eats on local beats
Avocados and citrus trees on Salt Spring. One thousand chili plants in the Cowichan Valley. Olive trees on Salt Spring and Pender Islands. The one thing these sumptuous foods have in common? They are not native to Canada. Against all odds, savvy, tenacious farmers are making it happen, BC style.
With the right tools and knowledge, Jan Squier grows four types of avocados, and over 35 cold-hardy citrus fruits in her six thousand square foot greenhouse on Salt Spring Island. With 40 years of experience operating small to medium greenhouse businesses and market gardens, she offers workshops that teach gardeners how to grow sub-tropical produce and flowers. Check Jan’s website (link below) for details on what’s available to purchase.
The Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island is a hotbed for local growers and producers of deliciousness, so we are not done with mentioning the region. Amongst the wineries of the Cowichan Valley, you’ll find Fat Chili Farm, which currently grows 1000 chili plants in their greenhouses and polytunnels, crafting a full line of sauces and syrups, including their original Wizard’s Choice cumin and honey-based habanero sauce. Fat Chilli Farm products are hot sellers at farmer’s markets around the lower mainland and Vancouver Island.
Kiwi fruit vineyard
Not only do Kiwi’s grow in Ladysmith, BC; Kiwi Cove grows a non-fuzzy version of their cousin. With twice as much sugar, these morsels can be eaten like a grape. In 1997, Doug and Peggy Kolosoff planted the kiwi vines; and now tend to 134 vines. Mature vines are capable of producing 100 lbs. of fruit and reportedly live for 40 years or more. Our ¾ acre vineyard holds 134 vines. When health authority zones open, head on over to the Kiwi Cove Lodge, stay a day or two and enjoy the beautiful property and some delicious kiwi. No plane ticket required. https://kiwicovelodge.com/
This is a bit of a twist, but did you know that over the years, Canada has been one of Italy’s main suppliers of durum wheat, the best wheat for making pasta? We grow the wheat and then we send the wheat to Italy. Then Italy makes the pasta, and sends the pasta right back to us! Could this be the summer to learn how to make your own pasta using Canadian-grown durum wheat? Vancouver’s own Pasta Boy Peter offers virtual classes instructing students on how to make their own pasta.
If you’d rather just buy the stuff, we look to the wonderful Cowichan Valley yet again for True Grain Bakery; they grow their own BC durum wheat on their farm, mill it themselves, make their own spaghetti, and package it for sale, along with a variety of other in-house grown and milled, ancient grains pasta including Red Fife, Einkorn, Emmer, Spelt, Khorasan, and Rye. The bakery is described as an old-world European bakery, so you’ll also find pastries like palmier, pain au chocolat, and Copenhagen swirls to add to your locally sourced “continental breakfast “menus. True Grain Bakery also has locations in Courtney and Summerland on Vancouver Island.
The olive farm on Salt Spring Island
Established in 2010, The Olive Farm has 1000 olive trees and produced Canada’s first 100 percent, extra-virgin olive oil – an achievement and task not for the faint of heart. Being a boutique farm, the yield and production of the oil vary from harvest to harvest, but “never give up” owners, George and Sheri Braun have an online shop that sells 200 ml bottles that proudly bear a gold maple leaf.
And the other one on Pender Island
He’s not quite there yet, but Andrew Butt’s goal is to produce 100 percent extra-virgin olive oil. He has 100 olive trees on Pender Island, BC, and shares jars of black and green olives with his friends and family. Using local kelp seaweed to build up the Olive trees’ resilience, Andrew is beating the odds at growing olives far, far away from their Middle Eastern/ Mediterranean origins and climate.
Little Quinoa on the Prairie
Native just to the Andes of South America? Not any more thanks to Tamarack Farms of Manitoba. They’ve mastered the art of growing quinoa, and are selling it like hotcakes at farmer’s markets in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, as well as email orders for 25 and 50-pound bags. They are currently sold out and looking forward to 2021’s crop.
The red gold: Saffron
Saffron, often considered the world’s most legendary and expensive spices, is grown in such Exotic locales as Greece, Iran, Morocco, India, and…Ste-Christine d’Auvergne, Quebec. Pur Saffron has been cultivating saffron in Quebec since 2012, and the “red gold” is available to purchase from their online shop (pistils in bottles starting at $20.00 for .25 grams), and a variety of processed delicacies including saffron mayonnaise, cider vinegar, dressings, oils, and honey. You can even purchase saffron bulbs to plant on your own. However, the complexities of growing saffron are numerous, so Pur Saffron also offers a learning academy for enthusiastic gardeners.
The life-changing banana tree
We must give mad props to the guy growing bananas and papayas in Ontario- now that’s impressive! Fifteen years ago, a serious car accident left mechanical engineer, Terry Brake with brain injuries. Not able to return to work, one of Terry’s doctors suggested gardening as a therapeutic activity and gifted Terry a banana tree. With some help from his caregiver, Laurie, Barry added pineapples, papayas, citrus fruits to movable greenhouse-style structures. They sell the fruits as well as plants, with the bananas being their biggest crop. Terry still has the original banana tree.
The current struggle for local farmers and producers is very real. Normally, a place like the above-mentioned Haltwhistle Cheese Company offers cheese tastings and tours, where you can marvel at their 100 frolicking goats. Like so many other boutique farms and producers, they are closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions but are still producing and selling their bounties.
We can’t stress this enough, but supporting local businesses strengthens our communities, and is good for the environment. Get on the local bandwagon while we are under restrictions; stores like London Drugs and Save-On Foods boast aisles filled with local BC products. Visit the websites linked below for the status of online shops, and farmer’s markets locations.
Once BC squashes the covid-19 cases, most of us are fully vaccinated, and inter-provincial travel re-opens, we can make plans again. Food and beverage tours of the Cowichan Valley, the Gulf Islands, or the Okanogan will be all yours to discover once again.
Resources for global eats on local beats
Insurance Resources for food processors