When it comes to edibles and
comestibles, more than a few orphans are kicking around out there. By “orphans”
I mean the overlooked, the neglected, the misunderstood; the things we never
try because we think we don’t like them, or we don’t know how to use them and
are too afraid of looking food-stupid to ask.
So last week I asked vendors at
Whistler’s popular farmers’ market to open our eating horizons and palates and
wax eloquent about one item they thought people should give a try, or try again
with a fresh approach. The choices were beets, rutabagas and the natural
I’m guessing I could write an entire
book on the topic, because I had so many responses to my query that I felt I
had to run the rest of the suggestions this week lest I compound any
inferiority complex these overlooked foodstuffs might have.
So in the name of culinary adventure
and open-minded eating, please delve deeper into the unexplored side of the
Jordan Sturdy, a long-time market
stalwart who owns and operates North Arm Farm in Pemberton, admits that arugala
isn’t exactly an orphan. In fact, it’s a pretty hip item right now. But for
many people, like my dad, who seldom venture off the lettuce path for their
salad greens, trying arugala can be a real palate-popper.
This member of the cole family,
sometimes known as roquette or garden rocket, produces tender, lobed leaves
with the most amazing flavour — a combo of peppery spiciness and
nuttiness. The key word here is “tender”. For as Jordan points out, the leaves
must be picked at just the right time, before they get tough and when they’re
at the peak of their flavour.
When it comes to picking out just-right
arugala, Jordan has a few other tips he’d like to share.
“It should be fresh and bright green,
not wilted or dry. And it shouldn’t look wet — if it’s wet it gets all
slimy and black,” he says. That you don’t want.
“And I have to talk about holes. If
your arugala has holes in it, you know it hasn’t had a pesticide applied to it.
Look at it as diet arugala or something. You’re paying by the weight, so don’t
worry about the holes.”
North Arm Farms plants arugala
successively every two weeks from spring through to fall, so you’re sure to get
the best in tender pickings. When you get it home, wash it then dry it with a
salad spinner — the world’s best invention according to Jordan.
Most commercial salad mixes have
about 5 per cent arugala in them, but Jordan and his family like to mix arugala
and their salad greens 50/50.
His favourite approach: make a nice
bed of greens, half lettuce and half arugala. Top it with potatoes or rice and
a nice piece of grilled fish or chicken. Drizzle it all with a buttermilk/mayonnaise
dressing: Jordan mixes equal parts buttermilk and mayo. Add a bit of fresh
garlic or finely chopped or gently sautéed garlic scapes (those little curly
flower tips that form on hard-neck garlic plants). Add salt and pepper, and/or
dry mustard to taste. Enjoy.
Swish Swiss chard
On the basis of visuals alone, it’s
worth trying a fresh bunch of Swiss chard these days. The beautifully coloured
ribs come in a rainbow of colours — red, yellow, orange and pink —
that contrast beautiful with the lush dark green of the leaves. If that weren’t
enough incentive, Bruce Miller of Across the Creek Organics in Pemberton says
Swiss chard has a great flavour, even when simply steamed with butter, salt and
You can also use the smaller, more
tender leaves raw in salads. But it’s the bunching Swiss chard, with the
larger, heartier leaves that we most often see for sale, and those are better
suited for cooking.
“Those stems are a little heavier, so
you want to cut them out separately, chop them up and give them a little bit
more cooking time than the leaves,” Bruce says. If you’d like to take it one
step beyond steaming, try them in a stir-fry. You can add virtually anything
that takes your fancy — snap peas, baby carrots, and even arugala are
In either case, anything dried out or
wilted-looking is a no-no. Pick out leaves that look fresh, beautiful and
“The nice thing about buying at the
farmers’ market is that you’re getting product that has probably been picked
the day before, so that’s about as fresh as you’re going to get,” says Bruce.
Succulent secret condiments
You can hardly call Jean-Pierre
Cote’s products orphans. If anything, they’re exotic creatures, the product of
experience and imagination. Besides the Whistler Farmers’ Market, Jean-Pierre
sells his original and highly tempting Maison Cote mustards, vinaigrettes and
spice blends at two other markets. As well, he runs his wholesale business and
factory in Vancouver, where he’s always coming up with ingredients that don’t exist
“I love to create a new flavour for
your palate,” he says. “That’s what I do.”
Jean-Pierre comes by his craft
honestly. Not only is he a chef by trade, his family has been in the food
business for 17 generations. He produces so many interesting products, I
couldn’t possibly limit him to one.
“Try our balsamic jelly. It’s amazing
to put on a cheese or terrine and a cracker or to deglaze a chicken. It’s very
fantastic and very different,” he says.
“The other one that’s very, very
different is our basil sugar. It’s fantastic to mix with mascarpone cheese and
pipe inside a hollowed strawberry or Italian plum.”
If those don’t tickle your fancy, try
his raspberry and rosemary sea salt — great on duck or chicken, or on a
spinach salad with a bit of toasted pecan and gorgonzola cheese, drizzled with
If that doesn’t get you to the
market, nothing will.
Check out all the fine offerings,
common and not-so-common, at the Whistler Farmers’ Market. It offers a huge
range of products every Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
from Father’s Day
through to Thanksgiving weekend, Oct. 7 and 8, when a special Saturday market
is held. The market is located in Whistler’s Upper Village next to the Fairmont
Chateau Whistler. Contact Nicole Ronayne at 604-932-5998 or firstname.lastname@example.org