"This market feels like home"
The owners of Booch Organic Kombucha don't look like your typical farmers' market vendors. They haven't been tending a farm for decades, nor were they up at dawn to pick bushels of tomatoes. But, like their fellow vendors at the London (Ontario) Covent Garden Farmers' Market, Shannon and Shawn are highly passionate about their product.
In their case, that product is kombucha. Kombucha, for those who don't know (and that included me until recently), is a lightly effervescent, fermented tea beverage that uses bacteria and yeast in the fermenting process. And at Booch, organic produce is employed to create incredible flavor combinations.
Their homemade kombucha is just one of the many diverse products that are part of the market's "grow it, raise it, make it, bake it" philosophy. And while Shannon and Shawn have only been in business for a few months, they're the embodiment of all that's fantastic about this market: they are committed, ambitious, welcoming, and hold themselves to a high standard.
While kombucha was admittedly one of the more unusual items we found at the Covent Garden Farmers' Market, we were still eager taste testers - just as we had been at so many other booths! Here are some more of the people and products that inspired us.
Dolway Organic Garden
Just how local can the local, organic produce get? Try just 14 kilometers down the road. That's how far the team from Dolway Organic Garden -John, Christine, and their lovely daughters-slash-farmhands- are from the city center. If that's not local, I don't know what is! But you don't have to take my word for it.
Dolway is just one of many participants in the My Pick program. My Pick participants agree to have Farmers' Market Ontario visit their farm to certify that it is indeed local and that they are actually selling things grown on their farm. When you specifically go to a market to support local farms, it's so nice to have the extra reassurance that you really are buying directly from the producer.
So what exactly comes from a local farm in London, Ontario? Just about everything! During our visit to the market, John and Christine were showcasing seasonal greens, fragrant herbs, and ruby red rhubarb. We were just a touch too early for tomato season but we were able to pick up one of our favourite treats - garlic scapes!
Garlic scapes are the long, green, curly stem and unopened flower bud of garlic and they are sweeter than your traditional garlic bulb. Our conversation with John motivated me to be more adventurous when cooking with scapes and I found a fantastic garlic scape pesto recipe here. I can't even begin to explain how amazingly delicious it was and I even made extra to freeze for winter. (Recipe note: our favourite variation was a blend of garlic scapes and basil).
My cooking mojo was elevated even more when I saw the Sweet! Brigaderios stand. Brigadeiros are a kind of Brazilian bon-bon, with a soft base of sweetened condensed milk that is an easy host to a wide range of ingredients - especially chocolate! I had never heard of them until a month ago, when I made them for the first time and we added them to the menu of the Blogcation Retreat. Making them from scratch was one of my most delicious - and messy! -experiences. And it left me hungry for more.
Even when they're made by amateurs like me, brigaderios are delicious. And when they're made by more skilled hands, well, they're absolutely divine! The team behind Sweet! Brigaderios have their roots in Brazil and their hearts are in every aspect of the operation, from making pretty homemade paper boxes for nestling their candies to carefully topping each delicate sweet with eye catching confectionery. Their brigaderios are almost - almost- too pretty to eat. They're my new favourite treat and I can't wait to have more!
The Ultimate Treat Of All: Wine!
What's the perfect compliment to a spicy garlic pesto and a sweet chocolate brigadeiro? Wine, of course! But in Ontario, sometimes local wine isn't so easy to come by. This might surprise my readers who are used to shopping in farmers markets around Europe, but wine hasn't always been so readily available at Canadian market stalls.
This is only the second year that wine has been sold at Ontario farmers markets - and, as you can see from the 'bean poll' above, consumers are still being educated about the availability. There are strict rules and regulations about where and how alcohol can be sold in Ontario and, until recently, many wineries could only sell their product directly from their property. Expanding the regulations to include farmers markets means that local wines are now reaching a much wider audience.
The inclusion of wineries at farmers markets has certainly paid off for Tawse Winery, an award winning winery near Beamsville, Ontario. They are now so involved with the regional farmers markets they have a full time staff member to manage things!
So what's it like to sample wine at 9:00 am? Well, it's fantastic, of course! It makes so much sense to have wine available at the same place you can buy your produce, your cheese, your breads, your fish, and your sweets. It's kind of like your dinner party just plans itself!
I'm a huge believer in trying local wines and embracing new wineries and I think the Covent Garden Farmers' Market is the perfect relaxed, homey atmosphere to encourage this. So many of the vendors we spoke with commented on the great vibe they feel at the market, how it feels like they are among family, and I couldn't agree more.
They're right! This market DOES feel like home!
When Shannon and Shawn described the market as feeling like home, they were spot on. There are so many wonderful homey touches, like kids twirling around with balloons. And a folk music band playing "Sonny's Dream", and a special booth offering recipes, nutrition information, and gourmet samples of that weeks' produce. The nicest bonus of all is that the outdoor farmers' market is just one small part of the Covent Garden Market complex! There's still an entire indoor market to explore, with restaurants and coffee roasters and fine food vendors. I can't think of a more enticing - or delicious- place to be!
We tried kombucha - what's the most interesting thing you've seen at a farmers' market?
Planning a trip to London, Ontario? Here's what else you should check out!
Hotel Review: London's Hotel Metro
Banting House National Historic Site
Behemoth Butter Tarts in Ontario's Elgin County
Our visit to London was facilitated in part by Downtown London and we thank them for their support.