Saturday, May 21, 2011

Travelling to Eat: Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market for all your Necessities

“A diet based on quantity rather than quality has ushered a new creature onto the world stage: the human being who manages to be both overfed and undernourished…” – Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food

Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market. May 21, 2011 (pre-Rapture)
I’m making a big assumption here, but I would imagine that I won’t be one of the ones to ascend to Paradise today at the Rapture. So I’m making plans a little longer term than 6pm tonight.

Halifax's Farmers' Markets
One of those plans is a visit this morning to our local farmers’ market to buy some groceries. We have two markets here on the “Halifax” side of the harbour, in close proximity. There used to be just one, but it’s an epic saga of lies, deceit and sexual intrigue. Actually it’s not, but it would make for a better story.

The building was specifically designed to be eco-friendly.
You can't see them, but on the oppoite side are wind turbines.
For many, many years there was one market in a cavernous 1800s warehouse. It was packed, with sellers as well as shoppers. Because of this overcrowding a decision was made to build a new, environmentally friendly facility. Over the length of the build time vendors separated into two camps. Some left for the new, some stayed in the old.

So now to adequately cover all your favourite marketers you have to hump your way to two crowded places rather than just one. Oh well.

What you can purchase
Both markets have vendors selling meats of all kinds, cheeses and other animal products. You can buy baked goods (remember the Vendenee post?), homespun clothing, soaps, flowers and plants, homeopathic items, wine and liquor, metalwork, etc. They’re unbelievably varied.

As one would imagine, many of the vendors are on the “granola” side so you don’t just get the “run of the mill.” Take plain old vegetables for example. Some vendors sell heirloom beets and tomatoes, leafy greens, fruits, and a massive variety of the unusual and obscure as well as the commonplace.

Vendors come from all over the province to the market here in the capital city. Many of the products that are on sale have won multiple awards locally, nationally and even some internationally. A notable one is the Dragon’s Breath Blue Cheese from That Dutchman’s Farm. It's appropriately named.

You can get nearly anything you want. This is the booth of
Ironworks Distillery from Lunenburg, NS. They sell booze!
That Dutchman's Farm is owned and operated by Maja and Willem van den Hoek, who emigrated to Nova Scotia in 1970. They also make some pretty fantastic gouda.

It’s these kind of people who sell at the markets. No one is in it to make a fortune. They're there because they love it.

Looking for Kéfir grains...
The reason for this post is not to only inform about some of the produce and products that vendors sell, but also to document the start of my chase for something elusive – kéfir grains from a non-mail order source.

If you’ve never had kéfir you should really try it. It’s cultured effervescent milk. Yes, effervescent – bubbly, kind of like pop,but not really. It’s fantastic. 

Kefir grains are a re-usable culture that sort of resembles cauliflower florets. You culture your kéfir, drain and save the grains for the next batch. Now you can understand why I want to find the grains. I'm intrinsically "cheap."

Kéfir grains can be purchased over the inter-web but it would be nicer to find a local supplier. And I think I have. 

There’s a mom and pop vendor called Ran-Cher Acres from Aylesford, Nova Scotia that sells goats milk, a variety of goat cheeses and (so I am led to believe) Kafir grains!! The “pop” of the operation is the Baptist minister in Greenwood, NS in his “spare” time. This couple must have a busy, full and rewarding life.

So once I get my hands on the "grains", kéfir will be made. I’ll document the process for you. But today I’m on a streak to make yogurt. I want to make a culture I can just feed and continue to make yogurt long term. It’s incubating as I write.

These wonderful vendors deserve our support. 
Not only are all these vendors employing Nova Scotians but they are part of the solution as we move inevitably toward a more seasonal and locally secure delivery system for our food. It's just plain fact that as modes of transport become more and more expensive the types of food we purchase now will become priced out of our reach.

We won't have strawberries in January, or grapes at Christmas. Fresh peas will be available in June/July when they should be. We will re-learn how to preserve and freeze. The sooner we start the better off we will be, financially and physically. I'm not prophesying the Rapture, just a return to more of the way our grandparents lived. They did fine. So will we.

Because it's early in the season the produce is pretty standard.
That will change as summer stretches on.
It’s not that I’m NOT religious either, but I believe a better “rapturous” feeling to be focussing on right now would be one brought on by improving ourselves and our neighbours by supporting each other every way we can.

Purchasing locally grown food and commodities (of every sort) not only puts money back into the local economy but also back into YOUR own pocket.

Think of it this way. What do you do for work Monday through Friday? Are these vendors and their employees potential clients for your particular service? I would say the answer is yes in almost all cases.

So by supporting the local economy you are securing your own future in more ways than you can imagine.

Thinking local is the new global outlook. We should embrace it.

Addendum: I found some kéfir starter culture (on sale, no less) at one particular local grocery. I would tell you which, but if I can’t get the grains, I’ll be buying all of it…

Just so you know, today already I have set some buttermilk to make mesophilic culture for cheese starter, set some yoghurt to thicken, and am about to inoculate milk with the kéfir starter to let that culture.

So anyone who's lactose intolerant better step away from this blog for the next few days... Hopefully I will be reporting successful results.

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