Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dreaming in Green

Long gone (for us) are the cold cellar roots that fulfilled our comfort food desires and kept our braised meat dishes company on the plate over the past few months. Now my palate is awakening with the new season ahead and I am noticing a direct correlation between the weather and my current desire for crunchy, fresh green veggies. And I don't think I am alone. We are a culture that likes to talk - almost obsess - about the weather, and I find Ottawans are equally obsessed. Not a day goes by that I don't hear people commenting about too much rain, too much sun, too cold, too hot...are there ever perfect conditions? We are at the mercy of Mother Nature herself and we all know that she likes to play tricks as the seasons turn. And for the food-obsessed this time of year, this is simply torture. Just when we think we've turned the corner on that first warm and sunny day, straining to see the first wild leek poking out from under the soil- surprise! - we're hit with an out-of-the-blue freak snowstorm. Ah, the joys of Canadian living. Although we can't officially predict when we will be enjoying our first plate of spring asparagus, it's the lead-up of anticipation that makes the first bite all that more sweet.

In the kitchen at urban element, Chef Candice has composed her spring/summer menus and we are beginning to test and sample our new seasonal recipes. Its a time of transition - having to gradually phase in the first spring ingredients as they become available from the farmers serves as a reminder that we have waited patiently all winter and will soon be rewarded with finer and more delicate flavours to come. Of course, this depends on how quickly our growing season sets into motion, contingent on Mother Nature herself. Ramps, asparagus, fiddleheads, lovage, dandelion... anything green makes me absolutely giddy this time of year.

Speaking of green, as yesterday was Earth Day, I can't imagine a better time to reflect on and be thankful for where we live, what we do (we eat for a living!) and how lucky we are to have access all the incredible producers in the region who provide us with the variety and goodness of fresh locally grown produce. This summer Oliver and I will be receiving another bountiful CSA (community supported agriculture) share from Juniper Farm and if it is anything like what we received and enjoyed last year, my taste buds are in for a treat yet again. I love the surprise and thrill of what each produce basket brings weekly. The long winter wait will have surely paid off.

(I'd be happy to point you in the right direction to locate a farm in the Ottawa region that offers CSA shares, although be forewarned: most farmers solidify their contracts months before so they know quantities to plant and supply. You can always contact them directly to see if they are offering any additional shares for this season)