TORONTO, Ontario - From soil to sky, this season, Ontario's field to table menu is going global in rural and urban areas alike. Culinary trend setter, Chef David Garcelon of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, invites crop researchers from Vineland Research and Innovation Centre to plant South Asian Vegetables okra, round eggplant, and red hot peppers on the Hotel's rooftop garden in Toronto. Guests will learn how to grow and care for these plants from a demonstration planting and have the chance to taste some of the delicious new crops in dishes created by Garcelon.
"We serve a growing and diverse clientele and are the host hotel for many prestigious events which is why I care so much about using the best local products. To me, that means freshness and being on top of consumer demand. With the upcoming International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards, we have a large and influential audience to cater to and I think these world crops are authentic and will impress our future guests," says David Garcelon, Executive Chef at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.
Vineland in partnership with the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association is testing a dozen world crops in its own research fields and on farms in Ontario's Greenbelt. This research, which began in the spring of 2010, is funded in part by the federal and provincial governments. The full list of crops is drawn from popular ingredients in Chinese, South Asian, Latin American and Afro-Caribbean dishes. Additional crops include: Indian Red Carrot, Fuzzy Melon, Bottle Gourd, Chinese Yard Long Beans, Tomatillos, Maca, Daikon Radish, and Eggplant.
"These are tremendously important crops for farmers," says Ahmed Bilal, lead world crop researcher at Vineland. "This research will expand the diversity of what is grown locally and farmers will have a fresh competitive advantage in a new marketplace to attract discerning buyers like Chef Garcelon."
Already residents in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) purchase $61 million each month on Chinese, South Asian and African-Caribbean fruits and vegetables. Few of these crops are currently being grown commercially in Ontario and demographics in the GTA will continue to diversify. By 2017, immigrants will represent half the population in the GTA, 63% by 2031.
"It's exciting to help ignite this market around Ontario's Greenbelt where farm families are forging strong local food connections right here in the GTA," says Burkhard Mausberg, President of the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation. "This is local food with international flavour."
Before heading to the rooftop for a hands-on planting session, a sampling of what's to come in fresh, locally sourced world cuisine will be served in a sweet, spicy and savoury spread. Chinese long beans stir fried in chilli and soy will be served alongside a potato kaddu cake with mint chutney. For those who have more of a savoury taste, long eggplant Muthabak with Hummus and Red Pepper and Tomatillo Salsa Verde with Mini Quesadillas are also being sampled. In addition, people will be sent home with their own world crop seedling to try out in their own gardens.
About the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation
Ontario's Greenbelt is an example of a vibrant multi-use greenbelt that protects significant agricultural and environmentally sensitive lands from development. Underpinned by one of the strongest legal frameworks and impressive political commitment, it provides diverse economic, environmental and social benefits to Ontarians. The Greenbelt is 1.8 million acres of potential to make Ontario a better place. The Greenbelt Foundation began in 2005 with a mandate to promote and sustain our Greenbelt as a permanent feature. www.greenbelt.ca