Celebrate Canada 150 with homegrown eats By Stacey Stein Canada’s much-loved traditions take on a deeper significance this summer as we ring in the country’s 150th birthday, and celebrate what it means to be Canadian. Given the central role of food when it comes to summertime celebrations, now is the perfect time to incorporate local, homegrown products into your festivities. Why buy local? There are many reasons to buy and eat locally: Helping local growers: When you buy local, you’re supporting local farmers and the local economy. “That’s probably the biggest benefit of eating locally,” says registered dietitian Shannon Crocker. Freshness factor: At a farmer’s market, you can buy produce that was picked that morning, so it will have a fresher and more flavourful taste. Higher nutritional value: For some foods, less time in transit or storage means they are likely to retain more nutrients. Crocker notes this is especially true for foods high in vitamin C, such as tomatoes and peaches. Environmental benefit: When you buy and eat locally, you reduce your carbon footprint, which helps the environment. Crocker points out that while most people associate eating local with buying fresh fruits and vegetables at farmer’s markets, local products go beyond homegrown produce. Canadians have access to local dairy products all year round, for example. “This is one of our greatest foods and each province has its own local dairy,” says Crocker. Enjoy summer’s bounty nationwide Whether your summer plans include taking part in local festivities, hosting family and friends at a barbecue, or enjoying the great outdoors at one of our country’s national parks, be sure to stock up on local summer foods. The season brings a cornucopia of delicious local produce and other homegrown products. Here are some ideas on how to include regional foods into recipes you can enjoy with family and friends as you celebrate the country’s sesquicentennial, no matter where you live in Canada. You live in Ontario Buy local: Corn is a summertime staple in the nation’s most populous province and corn roasts are a popular pastime, particularly in rural communities. Field tomatoes are also abundant in Ontario, and are grown from July to October. There’s even a tomato festival held every August in Leamington, Ontario, to celebrate the area’s tomato harvest. Fun food facts: For optimal taste, cook corn as soon as possible after it’s picked (keep the husk on and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook – it only keeps two to three days post-harvest). It’s best to store tomatoes on the counter, as a cold fridge can make them mealy. How to enjoy it: This roasted garlic butter pairs perfectly with corn, or try making this unique corn risotto casserole – simply boil the cobs and then cut off the kernels. Tomatoes are the star ingredient in these provençale tomato squares – cut them up into large squares and serve at lunch or for a light dinner. You live in Quebec Buy local: Blueberries are so popular in Quebec that there’s an annual blueberry festival held every August in the city of Dolbeau-Mistassini to celebrate the nutrient-dense fruit – festivities include baking a giant blueberry pie. Most of Canada’s wild blueberries are grown in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, with harvesting typically beginning in August. Fun food facts: Blueberries are known for their antioxidant properties, which have many health benefits, including anti-aging effects. How to enjoy it: Blueberries can be enjoyed many different ways – add some to this Halloumi and watermelon salad, or mix up some blueberry butter and serve with pancakes or French toast canapés in the morning. You live in British Columbia Buy local: Peaches are an iconic summer fruit, and they can be found in abundance in British Columbia, where they’re in season in July and August. You can enjoy all things peachy at the Penticton Peach Festival, a free family festival held every August. Fun food facts: Peaches belong to the rose family – their fragrant aroma can help guide you when choosing the perfect peach. How to enjoy it: Peaches add a summery note to this white tea and peach smoothie, while cottage cheese adds a hit of protein to this refreshing drink. Sweet peaches also work nicely in a savoury salad – try tossing sliced peaches with red onion, basil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil and top with some crumbled goat cheese. You live in the Prairies Buy local: While the Prairies are where many of Canada’s grains and legumes – including barley, lentils and chickpeas – are grown, this region is also known for the sweet-tasting Saskatoon berry, which resembles a blueberry. You can substitute Saskatoon berries in recipes that call for blueberries, including pies and yogurt parfaits. Fun food facts: Saskatoon berries are an excellent source of fibre, calcium, potassium, manganese, and magnesium. They are also rich in vitamin C and contain more than three times as much copper and iron in the same weight as raisins. How to enjoy it: Saskatoon berries can easily be incorporated into a variety of dishes. If you’re craving a simple, healthy lunch, you can toss them into a grain salad made of barley, chickpeas, chopped red peppers, green onion and feta, drizzled with a lemony vinaigrette. You can also add Saskatoon berries to this quinoa salad with grilled veggies and cottage cheese to kick up the flavour, or try swapping Saskatoon berries for blueberries in this cottage cheese fruit salad topper. You live in the Maritimes Buy local: Canada’s East Coast is known for its seafood – lobster in particular ranks high as one of the most popular foods in the region. Lobster is so well-loved by Maritimers that the New Brunswick town of Shediac has been dubbed the “Lobster Capital of the World” and will be hosting its 68th annual lobster festival this July. The lobster season in Atlantic Canada peaks twice a year, from April to June and then again in December. Fun food facts: Canada currently supplies more than half of the world’s hard-shelled Atlantic Lobster. How to enjoy it: There are a variety of ways for lobster enthusiasts to enjoy this well-loved seafood, but the lobster roll is especially popular. A traditional lobster roll consists of lobster salad served atop a hot dog bun. Other ways to prepare lobster include this baked stuffed lobster au gratin, or you can add cooked lobster to a citrusy salad consisting of oranges and grapefruit. Sidebar: In honour of Canada’s 150th birthday, Gay Lea is launching a special edition Canada Black River 150 maple cheddar cheese. This artisan cheese is made with real maple syrup from Prince Edward County, Ontario. Try it with a fruit platter, in a grilled cheese sandwich, added to a scone (try swapping blueberries for the apples) or mix the cheese into a salad, like this Waldorf salad.