"This market feels like home" Learn what makes this London, Ontario, farmers' market so special.
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
Blooming "Flours" in Chatham-Kent
Our visit to London was facilitated in part by Downtown London and we thank them for their support.
2/7/2015 03:15:27 pm
I would definitely like to plan a trip to London. The London Covent Garden Farmers' Market really looks welcoming!
3/7/2015 06:05:16 am
It really is a wonderful place!
3/7/2015 06:13:19 am
There's no way you can go wrong with chocolate and wine!
3/7/2015 01:32:09 pm
I love local farmer's markets! I'm really impressed with the selection available only a couple km outside of the city!
3/7/2015 02:48:27 pm
And the selection is only going to continue as we were there early in the growing season!
3/7/2015 02:57:59 pm
I LOVE our local farmers market, actually we will be heading there tomorrow morning. But what I love even more is how markets have evolved over the last several years to include a variety of vendors that cover all sorts of products, not just produce anymore.
4/7/2015 02:32:07 pm
Very true - we saw vendors selling crafts, soaps, and more.
4/7/2015 06:26:12 am
Farmer's Markets are always a boon.Actualy,our first activity together with my husband!
4/7/2015 02:33:20 pm
Who knew they were a good setting for romance too!
4/7/2015 07:15:43 am
Love the idea of such local produce and especially trying some garlic scape as I use lots of garlic in my cooking, but have never tried this. However, the brigaderios sound especially tempting....
4/7/2015 02:34:07 pm
I'm addicted to the sweet, savory flavor of scapes now. They are fantastic when pulsed or pureed into sauces.
4/7/2015 08:59:37 am
Vanessa, this blog post is right up my alley! I adore local farmer's markets and I'm so happy to see a thriving one in London where you can find organic produce and kombucha! There's a local kombucha maker at my farmer's market in Port Credit. It's really yummy and good for you. Though London is a little bit far for me, if I find myself passing through while the market is on, I'd love to stop by.
4/7/2015 02:35:01 pm
Another kombucha fan! Can you believe I hadn't even heard of it until a few weeks ago! So glad you enjoyed this post.
29/7/2015 06:30:44 am
But this isn't the only farmer's market in London... there are 3 others I can think of.
29/7/2015 10:58:16 am
Of course -like most cities, there is more than one farmers' market in London. I chose to highlight this one because of the diversity of vendors, the small size which generates a warm, community feel, and to highlight something amazing that is happening in the downtown core.
4/7/2015 10:44:37 am
That looks like a great market. I love walking around on a nice day, seeing all the new products and produce, and trying new stuff. I came across Kombucha at a farmer's market for the first time too. Now I make it myself at home. It's so good!
4/7/2015 02:37:36 pm
I am seriously impressed that you are making kombucha yourself - that's amazing! Maybe you need to set up a booth at your local market next.
4/7/2015 01:48:48 pm
I love farmer's markets! We are lucky to live in LA where every neighborhood seems to have their own special market. Are the markets there only open in the summer months? Always a great day out spent at the local market!
4/7/2015 02:40:20 pm
This market is open from May to December, so it goes beyond just the summer but the heart of winter is too cold in London to have the market outside for a few months of the year.
4/7/2015 02:49:48 pm
I love farmers markets. They are full of hidden gems like kombucha. It lets you try things that you would never buy in a store because you have no idea what to do with it.
6/7/2015 02:59:46 am
Wow- ginger wine is a rarity! It's always tricky when you fall in love with a product in your travels that you just can't get at home.
6/7/2015 03:00:56 am
Not so much like a tea beer but maybe more like a homemade flavored ice tea with a kick of something...... maybe a fizzy, fermented lemonade
20/7/2015 02:20:56 am
Very civilized indeed! We love the addition of wine to farmers markets.
8/7/2015 05:13:11 am
I love this market. So great to feature these local farmers.
20/7/2015 02:21:24 am
Thank you so much Margarita!
8/7/2015 05:53:22 am
Very cool. Love seeing successful Canadians like this. We are in Toronto so a road trip may be in order!
20/7/2015 02:22:26 am
Every time I'm in London I'm always reminded of just how close it is to Toronto. It's really only about 2 hours away so it would be perfect for a weekend road trip or even just a day trip.
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