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Food and Drink

Pick a peck of perfect produce

Ever pick a bright nasturtium blossom, bite the end off the little tube at the back of the flower, then suck out the hidden nectar? Or yank a baby carrot straight from the garden and munch it down faster than you can say "wabbit"?

Then you're over the moon like the rest of us fresh fruit and veggie junkies. Summer has finally landed, bearing that sweet local produce we crave year-round.

For our friendly neighbourhood farmers in Pemberton these are high and highly intensive times, when months of labour and decision-making start paying off.

I'll feature more on these producers later but to whet your appetite, here's a round-up of some fine Pembie producers. Check them out on their farms or at one of the many farmers' markets dotting Sea to Sky Country. A full list of markets, with the ones noted that Pembie farmers attend, appears at the end.



A river land of veggies and seed

Jesse Fromowitz cut his eyeteeth farming 13 years ago through WWOOF Canada - Willing Workers on Organic Farms. After doing his own market garden in Pemberton Valley, he hooked up with Riverlands to develop an organic market on four acres. There, he and his brother, Elliot, now harness the "power of Nature" and apply traditional, organic farming techniques, such as using herbs and plants like stinging nettle and horsetail to provide nutrients and control pests. The results are amazing: Riverlands Market Garden was selling impressive zucchinis at farmers' markets when most local producers only had ones the size of your baby toe! Check out their heirloom tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers, lettuce, squash, carrots and much more at markets. And get in touch for Riverlands own heirloom seeds by contacting the Pemberton Farmers' Institute website ( ).



A Sturdy supply from North Arm

From their 60-acre, organic North Arm Farm, Jordan and Trish Sturdy provide a huge array of fresh fruits, veggies and great field-to-fork experiences. Professional chefs from Vancouver to Whistler depend on their produce, from buttery sunchokes to amazing flower blossoms and spring greens, and the fresh baby root veggies now popping up. Match them at their game or, if you missed last Saturday's Outstanding in the Field long table event (picture a very long, pretty dinner table in the midst of green fields set for 100+ people), then drop by the farm and gather your own fixings. Visit 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and pick your own fresh berries and, soon, peas and beans. Or buy fresh produce right from the field or at the markets, including spring greens sprinkled with edible flowers. If you need a break, The Pony Espresso has teamed up with North Arm to serve full meal deals in the barn. Or share the next long-table moment, starring Araxi chef, James Walt, who proved his outstanding talents at the Outstanding event. Sign up for fresh sheets and more at .


Perfection in Pemby potatoes

Chieftan. Desiree. La Ratte. Pontiac. Warba. White rose. Have potato names ever sounded so poetic? They're but a few of the 18 varieties the family-run Helmers' Organic Farm is focusing on this year - a case of returning to their "roots." The potatoes won't all be ready at once, but like a good wine taster you can start sampling your way through them, along with honey, farm-fresh eggs and other veggies, when ready. Starting in late July they'll be at the farmers' markets noted below. Or watch for them for sale at Whole Foods stores or on menus of great eateries, including Mount Currie Coffee Co. and Bishops. The farm gate will be open August 21 for the sumptuous annual Slow Food Sunday Cycle ( ). And check out the Helmer farm website ( ) for great potato recipes, tried and tested by the best chef who ever cooked on a wood stove, Jeanette Helmer. There's even a recipe for easy-make potato pancakes.



Three women and a farm

Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a terrific concept: you pay your favourite farmers up front and then share in the bounty as it rolls in. If you haven't already, sign up now for a share of next year's harvest from Rootdown Organics, a progressive, cooperative farm run by three talented women: Simone McIsaac, Niki Strutynski and Sarah McMillan. You'll get a harvest box brimming with sumptuous veggies. Check out the outrageously brilliant red Romaine lettuce or the gorgeous rainbow chard, and that's only the beginning. Carrots, onions, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, parsnips and more - even the now-famous Queensland squash - will be flowing from Rootdown this season. You can check them out at markets; enjoy their produce at restaurants, such as Araxi and Rimrock; or even visit the farm by calling first (604-894-5929). You can also buy a "pig share" of one of their Tamworth pigs. Sample a taste at the Swine & Dine that's part of this year's Slow Food Sunday Cycle. Rootdown keeps an excellent blog at .



Dig in in the city

Even if you live in Vancouver, there's no excuse for not enjoying fresh, local Pemberton produce practically grown right in your backyard. Along with Helmers and Rootdown Organics, Ice Cap Organics, an eight-acre farm run by Delaney and Alisha Zayac, makes a point of keeping delicious, fresh produce flowing to city slickers via farmers' markets there. Locals in Whistler/Pemberton area can sample Ice Cap's impressive organic veggies through their harvest box network - another CSA venture - and enjoy an array that reads like a who's who of vegetable gardening, including intriguing Scarlet Ohno turnips and piquant mizuna. Alisha and Delaney are happy to take you on a tour of their farm, and show you the new chicks they're raising that you can buy for your own backyard chicken ranch. Call first. Visit their blog ( ) to learn more.



Farmers' markets, sky to sea


• Pemberton: Wednesdays 4 p.m. - 7 p.m., Pemberton Valley Supermarket parking lot. North Arm Farm, Helmers' Organic Farm, Riverlands Market Garden, Rootdown Organics


• Whistler : Wednesdays 3 p.m. - 8 p.m., Sundays 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. Upper Village near Fairmont Chateau Whistler. North Arm Farm, Riverlands Market Garden, Rootdown Organics every second Sunday, starting July 24.


• Squamish Saturdays, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. Cleveland Ave. North Arm Farm, Helmers' Organic Farm, Riverlands Market Garden, Rootdown Organics. Tuesdays, 3 p.m. - 7 p.m., Village Garden Centre.


• Vancouver: Trout Lake: Saturdays, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. Helmers' Organic Farm, Ice Cap Organics. Kitsilano: Sundays, 10 a.m. - 2  p.m. 10 th . Ave. & Larch St. Helmers' Organic Farm, Ice Cap Organics, Rootdown Organics every second Sunday, starting July 17. West End: Saturdays, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. Comox St. Ice Cap Organics. Main St. Station, Wednesdays 3 p.m. - 7 p.m. Ice Cap Organics



Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning freelance writer who loves her local farmers.