Summer is not only the perfect time of the year for Torontonians—and Canadians in general—to relish the outdoors by entertaining in patios and backyards with a gazebo nearby, or cooling off in a pool after a sweaty run or jog in the trails, but a magical time to savour the bounty of edible nature. Fresh produce abounds in warm months of this frigid part of the world, and not taking advantage of this generous profusion is akin to missing out on luxurious offerings we will have to await patiently for another year.
The incredible bonanza of farmers’ markets infiltrates almost all neighbourhoods of the city, giving us the opportunity to eat fresh local food; all while connecting with people that grow it with much love and care. Patrons can be seen walking to such venues pulling shopping carts on wheels, biking with an empty backpack to store the week’s groceries, or parking at a lot nearby with recyclable handbags to stow away in the car upon return.
If you haven’t budgeted ahead of time, you might discover at home that you spent way more money than you had planned for—the choices are so enticing. Fruit lovers stress over what to buy and what to leave behind: there are strawberries and blueberries, peaches and plums; and if the summer has just begun, ripe cherries are simply irresistible. Now, for veggies: mushrooms of all sizes and varieties, radishes, leeks, beets, carrots, spring onions, okra, yellow and green zucchini and so much more. Meat lovers scratch their heads over ethically raised meat and halal meat; staunch seafood buffs can’t complain with the selection of oysters and fish sandwiches on display. And did we forget the sweet tooth here? Not to fret. The canopies housing fragrant pies stuffed with fresh apple filling invite you with the unmistakable cinnamon scent, and the homemade pastries with liberal dollops of whipped cream topped with a cherry or pineapple wedge are impossible to resist. Tarts and savoury patties are also on the menu.
By now, you have probably drifted to the canopy sheltering herbs and health foods like thyme, basil, mint, oregano, rosemary or sage; essential oils; honey and so much more! This is when the foot-tapping music wafting from a concert tent nearby has lured you to join the street party where dozens are swaying to catchy beats of jazz and country favourites from singers sporting cowboy hats, guitars and a very engaging conduct. You mimic the steps the crowd is shaking a leg on, shout “Encore!” when they finish, and remain put until you feel the urgency to refuel again.
Food trucks are a good choice if you don’t mind the guilty pleasure of poutine or ice-cream, but if you have resolved to make this day your stellar “health food day,” you might be better off with fresh-baked oven pizza or a vegan sandwich. Yes, I understand: the choice of a healthy dessert is always tough, so go for a gluten-free pecan tart and wash everything down with vintage wine or apple cider.
The only time you look at your watch is when you notice vendors loading up their cartons with leftover items in the back of their trucks or cars. Most farmers’ markets wrap up business by 2 or 3 in the afternoon, which is when you rack your brains to think if you forgot to buy something. Of course, the purchase could wait until next week (farmers’ markets are usually held once a week, mostly on weekends).
In a tizzy, you scan the makeshift jewelry stall selling earrings and necklaces made from seashells, stones and beads. A thought flashes through your mind, and you rush to the flower vendor to buy a dazzling bouquet of roses, tulips and sunflowers for your loved one who was too lazy to join you in this indescribably fulfilling excursion.