Question: Our restaurant has made a commitment to serving as much local food as possible—but our patrons (and our chef) get a little tired of limited winter fare. (Root vegetables get boring!) What can we do to use more varied produce?

Answer: If we were in California, you wouldn’t need to ask this question—but serving local food all year in Canada can be challenging. Here are some tips:

  • Embrace canning. More and more restaurants are discovering the almost-lost art of preserving foods, adding an upscale twist to old-fashioned pickles and jams. Consider putting away some tomato jam, salsa verde, pickled green beans, oil-packed eggplant, or brandied fruit to help preserve fragile, seasonal fare and bring a fresh taste to winter dishes.
  • Feel free to freeze. If you don’t want to can, then freeze. Berries, corn, spinach, and rhubarb can all be frozen with a little preparation.
  • Go green(house). Tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, lettuces, and herbs can be grown year-round in greenhouses or hothouses. For a list of greenhouse growers in Ontario, check out the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers‘ website.
  • Pick late-harvest produce. Many hearty veggies, like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Jerusalem artichokes, celeriac, and fennel have seasons that last from fall until early spring. Others, like beets and apples, can be stored for a relatively long time.

Do you have tips for serving local food all year? Share your stories in the comments section.

Image credit: Shreveport-Bossier