Picture by Gabriel Li – StudioGabe
Are you not afraid to travel a little further or spend a little extra to find a quality ingredient? Fortunately for all foodies, Toronto is a ripe haven for fresh ingredients and a varied smorgasbord of multicultural foods are always available for purchase. In a recent edition of Eye Weekly, Toronto’s own celebrity chef, Susur Lee, talked about how nowhere else in the world can you so easily find ingredients from everywhere. Finally, it is not so difficult — you just have to find the right markets selling traditional foods from India, Mexico, East Africa, Cambodia, and Portugal.
One of them is the farmer’s market which is held year-round in the Dufferin Grove Park. Unfortunatley, it is only open on Thursdays from 3-7 P.M., so you need to plan your shopping trip well.
In the winter, the market is small, and contained within the park’s main building. Outside the entrance, some vendors sell homemade sweets and a gourmet tofu vendor gives out samples of his wares. I stopped to taste the tofu which was, to my surprise, delicious. The shopping starts with the purchase of one package of his sweet and spicy flavour for $3.49. Then, upon passing through the main door, there are artisan breads of many varieties — spelt, rye, whole grain — and Zamboni Café’s tiny stall serves up chili and soups, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate for cold patrons, as well as perogies, cinnamon buns, vegan muffins, and organic beef hotdogs.
Shopping at the farmer’s market is not like shopping at the supermarket: only foods that have been produced locally and are in season are for sale. There are no peaches or cucumbers or tomatoes to be seen — soft vegetables don’t keep in the winter. Instead, vendors are selling carrots, sweet little golden beets, onions, and mushrooms. I buy half a pound of oyster mushrooms fresh from Stouffville, Ontario, for $10/lb from a man who is also selling Kombucha fermented tea. The price is a few dollars more here than at No Frills across the street, but the supermarket’s variety pales in comparison to these farmer’s market mushrooms. Also for sale are all different types of sprouts and seeds for sprouting, whole rabbits for cooking, fresh herbs, essential oils, homemade cosmetics, candles, and honey. I make a beeline to the booth that is selling my favourite sweetener, and buy one tiny jar of ginger honey.
Tasting the homemade teriyaki I made later with the mushrooms, the tofu, and the honey confirms that the little bit of extra coin paid for these ingredients was not ill-spent, and I feel both extremely satisfied with my meal, and that perhaps there is something especially Torontonian about using local flavours to recreate an international favourite.