ABC Farm Retreat with “Canola Eat Well”

In a letter from Thomas Jefferson to George Washington in 1787, President Jefferson said “Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will, in the end, contribute to real wealth, good morals and happiness”.

Not a wiser word has been spoken about the farming industry and those loyal souls we call famers.  They understand what hard (physical) work is and do it daily, sacrificing so much to bring us goodness from our earth.  I moved to a farming community a few years back and I have come to appreciate everything they do for our community, and on a bigger scale, for our world.  So, when I was approached to go on a farm tour in Milton and learn all about farming rhubarb, asparagus and canola oil, I jumped at the chance.  And, what a day it was!

This Monday, a select group of us journeyed over to Andrew’s Scenic Acres Farm and were given many lessons from many different people in the farming business.  Our first lesson was from Farmer Bert, who educated us on rhubarb and asparagus.  So many interesting facts!

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Baskets in hand and hats on our heads, we were on our way for a wonderful adventure into the rhubarb fields!

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Did you know that rhubarb is packed with minerals, vitamins, organic compounds, and other nutrients that make it ideal for keeping our bodies healthy?  Some of these precious components are dietary fiber, protein, vitamin C, vitamin K, B complex vitamins, calcium, potassium, manganese, and magnesium.

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The only thing you have to be careful of is the leaf and the bottom tip (that part that is connected to the ground)…both of these parts of the plant are toxic so they should be discarded (don’t even feed it to animals).

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Although the asparagus was almost finished, some of the chefs found the last remaining stalks in the fields (the flowering stalks you see here are crucial for next years’ harvest as it creates nutrients for the soil to make for a better crop next year!)

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Rhubarb is so versatile!  As a kid, we used to pick it, dip it in sugar and eat it like celery (I know…pre-PlayStation entertainment!!).  It freezes beautifully so, if you find it, cut it into 1″ cubes and freeze it to use throughout the winter (start with this Rhubarb Cobbler to get your creative juices flowing!  And don’t stop at sweet stuff…think chutney and bbq sauce!!))

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And the oh so lovely asparagus!  At only 20 calories per cup, it is a good source of fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells.

Gifted with a bag full of asparagus and rhubarb to take home and “play” with, we met in the gift shop of Harvest Goodies, a company that manufactures fine quality salad dressings, jams, jellies, savoury products and pickles.  Before we left with a few of their goodies, we had a lesson from the ladies at Canola Eat Well  (which, by the way, have a fabulous website full of information and recipes!!).

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These black little seeds are canola seeds.  They are grown in a pod (similar to a pea pod).  Once they are removed, they must go through a testing process to ensure each batch is “good” (a bad batch means a huge loss to the farmers!)

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They are really tiny…think poppy seeds!!

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They scoop them up in a special plastic collector and then a piece of masking tape is put over the top to collect the seeds…

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The tape is pulled back and the seeds, which are now stuck to the tape, are tested.

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A small roller “squishes” the seeds to reveal what is inside…

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You are looking for mostly yellow (green means the oil will not be mature and may taste off); of course you will get a few green seeds, but there is a “safe” ratio of yellow to green in order for the batch to get the “A okay” to go for processing.

What an eye opener into the wonders of farming (and I mean big scale farming…not like my teeny attempt at farming!).  Canola growers across Canada plant roughly 20 million acres of canola each spring; and most of these farmers are multi-generational farmers who are university educated and continually learning best practices to ensure Canadians get the best product!

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Once the learning segment was over, we were able to sit down – and what a beautiful spread it was – in the midst of apple trees to enjoy a fabulous barbeque by the ever so talented Matt Basile of the famous Fidel Gastros and Lisa Marie Restaurant!  Aren’t we a lucky group of chefs!?!?

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Look at this killer menu…a barbeque lovers dream come true.  Thanks Matt for making it happen!!

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I call this shot “A Man and His Truck”!!  Matt Basile, the mastermind and owner behind Fidel Gastros, spread his love of food and his humour with us, all while he shared some of the best barbeque I have had in a long while!!  With that big smile, he went on to explain how he loves to use canola oil for it’s neutral qualities.

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And the lovely Canola oil that was the star of the show!  It is a chef’s best friend because of it’s neutral flavour and light taste.  It’s highly absorbent of any flavour (think herbs and spices) that you marry it with, it has a very high heat tolerance (which makes it great for the bbq!), and it’s full of goodness for your body (vitamin E and K, as well as chock full of Omega 3 fats which our bodies can’t produce on it’s own!).

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Our starter was red snapper ceviche that had minced onion and avocado served on a crispy chip!  Such a refreshing appetizer!!  We ate these as we mingled before lunch!


These cool little nibbles were accompanied by Estrella Damn Beer…a perfect combination in the hot summer sun!!

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When we all sat at the tables, which were beautifully set with flowers and cloth napkins, the lunch was creatively served atop craft paper and eaten family style….so perfect!!!  This, above, was Matt’s Tandoori potato salad and smoked lamb leg topped with a crispy veggie “pickle”…so good!

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The ribs were spectacular; carolina ribs and sticky ribs with a showering of green onions…sooo good!!

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Matt’s Famous Shaved Asparagus Spring Salad (this one topped with watermelon radishes and fennel fronds)

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The display was so good, we couldn’t stop photographing!!

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Yup…that’s how good the ribs were!!

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Applause all around for Matt, Marian and Sean from Branding and Buzzing, and the canola ladies!!

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And, finally, a sweet cornbread with a burnt rhubarb sauce (smoked in the smoker…fabulous!!) and a mint drizzle!

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And, of course, if you are offered the optional dollop of fresh cream, you take it!!

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Our fabulous lunch was served with Lacey Estates Wine… a fantastic red wine that rivals any Niagara blend!!

And to add another taste sensation, we sampled some incredibly fresh fruit wine from Scotch Block Winery, located at Andrew’s Scenic Acres.  We had some strawberry wine and a variety called Kinky Keltic, a mix of black and red currants, red raspberries and gooseberries (which was not sweet because of the currant undertone and quite lovely with lunch…What a refreshing change from regular white wine!).

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From all of the chefs and bloggers, here’s to a wonderful season of farm fresh food purchased from your local farmers who work hard for us every single day!!


Note:  All pictures above were taken by the fabulous Josh Tenn-Yuk…you can reach him here!


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