Farm-to-Table on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia

Organic veggies straight from Foxglove Farm at the Saturday Market. Melinda Quintero
By Melinda Quintero

Salt Spring Island, in British Columbia, Canada, attracts farmers, artists, and travelers alike with its warm climate and postcard-perfect scenery.

Spring to autumn, the island's farms brim with organic produce and local artisans open their studio doors to the public. Wild blackberries cover the island and reach their peak in late August. Find a patch in a park or even on the side of the road and have your fill.

Signs pointing to farm stands and artisan studios dot nearly every intersection across the island, beckoning visitors off the main path. Here is what you should see and taste on your trip.

Photo Caption: Organic veggies straight from Foxglove Farm at the Saturday Market.
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At the Saturday Market in the Park. Melinda Quintero
If you come to Salt Spring for only one day, make it a summer Saturday.

Salt Spring's biggest and most famous weekly summer event is the Market in the Park when seemingly the entire island descends on Centennial Park in Ganges.

All vendors at this market must either "make it, bake it, or grow it" themselves on the Island. Wares range from hippie tie-dye and knitted wool to delicate silver jewelry and fine pottery. Produce and food for sale includes Foxglove Farms veggies, Salt Spring Island Cheese, Moonstruck cheese, and Salt Spring Island Bread Company. Enjoy a picnic on the grass with a view of the harbor. Some weekends feature live music.

When: April-October, 8:30am-4pm Saturdays

More Info: www.saltspringmarket.com

Photo Caption: At the Saturday Market in the Park
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The Salt Spring Centre of Yoga's farm stand at the Tuesday Farmer's Market. Melinda Quintero
While Saturdays are a high-energy social event, Tuesday's farmer's market is the island's low-key produce market. Buy veggies, quick snacks, and picnic supplies from a broad selection of the island's farms.

The island's farmers prefer organic and natural methods of growing food and, like the Saturday market, you're guaranteed to find something unique and original to Salt Spring here -- be it flowers, mushrooms, or heirloom tomatoes.

When: June-October (10am-2pm Tuesdays)

Where: behind the United Church, 111 Hereford Ave.

Photo Caption: The Salt Spring Centre of Yoga's farm stand at the Tuesday Farmer's Market
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The tasting room and spread at Salt Spring Island Cheese. Melinda Quintero
With eight flavors of chèvre alone -- from truffle to lemon, basil to chili pepper -- along with several varieties of feta and hard cheeses, you can easily spend a half hour in the Salt Spring Island Cheese shop tasting through the line. The goats' milk comes from off the island, but is made into fine cheese in the small on-site factory. Picture windows labeled with informative placards allow you to watch and learn from the whole process. Coffee and outdoor cafe tables invite visitors to enjoy their purchases before leaving the farm.

When: May-September (11am-5pm daily); October-April (11am-4pm daily)

Where: 285 Reynolds Rd.

More Info: tel. 250/653-2300; www.saltspringcheese.com

Photo Caption: The tasting room and spread at Salt Spring Island Cheese
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The herd at Moonstruck Organic Cheese. Melinda Quintero
Julia and Susan Grace of Moonstruck Organic Cheese began raising cows and dabbling in cheesemaking as a hobby. The Graces have tended cows here since 1996 and are devoted to a holistic approach to caring for their herd of about 25 Jersey cows. As a result, their cows produce a milk perfect for soft, succulent, French-style cheeses, such as their Beddis Blue and ash-ripened camembert. In contrast to the refined operation at Salt Spring Island Cheese, the humble Moonstruck farm stand and tasting room runs on an honor system.

When: May-September, 11am-4pm Mondays-Fridays; winter by appointment

Where: 1306 Beddis Rd.

More Info: tel. 250/537-4987; www.moonstruckcheese.com

Photo Caption: The herd at Moonstruck Organic Cheese
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The "Bread Lady" Heather Campbell (left) seasons bread in her shop. Melinda Quintero
What's the best pairing for cheese made on the Island? Organic fresh-baked bread, of course. The Salt Spring Island Bread Company's outdoor wood-burning oven and shop sit on a bluff with Mt. Baker, in the U.S., visible in the distance. Head baker Heather Campbell calmly mixes, kneads, and flavors the dough while workers, friends, and family feed the oven and pull out a dozen varieties of savory flatbreads, crusty baguettes, and sweet loaves. You won't have to wait long to buy your bread direct from the fire.

When: May, June, September (11am-4pm Thursdays & Fridays); July, August (11am-4pm Wednesdays-Fridays)

Where: 251 Forest Ridge Rd.

More Info: tel. 250/653-4809; www.phillipvanhorndesign.com/bakery

Photo Caption: The "Bread Lady" Heather Campbell (left) seasons bread in her shop.
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The fields of Sacred Mountain Lavender Company at their summer peak. Courtesy Sacred Mountain Lavender Company
The two acres of picturesque fields at Sacred Mountain Lavender bloom their brightest in July and August. Former plant scientist Ben Sutton harvests the majority of his crop to make pure lavender essential oil and sets visitors loose to pick their own (CA$4 a bunch). The flowers' gentle perfume, the occasional statue of Buddha, and fluttering prayer flags enhance the farm's naturally sacred atmosphere. Calming soaps, lotions, spritzers, teas, and herbs de provence, mixed with lavender flowers, are also for sale in the shop.

When: May-Sept. (10am-5pm Wednesdays-Sundays)

Where:
401 Musgrave Rd.

More Info:
tel. 250/653-2315; http://sacredmountainlavender.com

Photo Caption: The fields of Sacred Mountain Lavender Company at their summer peak.
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The fields at Foxglove Farm. Michael Ableman
The 120-acre Foxglove Farm is one of the Island's original homesteads. Its new stewards, including farmer and author Michael Ableman, believe their responsibility to the farm and Island extends beyond the field. As a result, Foxglove now serves as an organic farming and sustainable living education center offering classes (around C$100) and multi-day programs (typically C$250) throughout the summer. Subjects range from cheesemaking and canning to grain production and foraging. Overnight program guests share space in one of several small cottages and heritage houses on the property (C$90 per night) and enjoy meals made almost entirely of the farm's produce. Visitors can also rent the cottages by the week. The farm's yearly festival in July features tours, live music, and food. Trails on the huge property lead to Maxwell Lake.

Where: 1200 Mount Maxwell Rd.

More Info:
tel. 250/537-1989; www.foxglovefarmbc.ca

Photo Caption: The fields at Foxglove Farm
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The vines at Mistaken Identity Vineyards. Courtesy Mistaken Identity Vineyards
Though only open to the public for three years, Mistaken Identity Vineyards is already producing award-winning wines -- such as their Pinot Gris and Rosé. Warm-weather grapes, like Merlot and Gewürztraminer, are sourced from vineyards in the British Columbia interior, while Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir, are grown here. However, all of Mistaken Identity's wines are organic. The gorgeous picnic grounds and sleek tasting room (tastings $3) are venues for food and music events throughout the summer.

When: May-Sept. (inquire for hours)

Where: 164 Norton Rd.

More Info: tel. 877/918-2783 or 250/538-9463; www.mistakenidentityvineyards.com

Photo Caption: The vines at Mistaken Identity Vineyards
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Salt Spring Vineyards owner Dev McIntyre offers a tasting of the blackberry port. Melinda Quintero
Nearly all the wines produced by Salt Spring Vineyards are composed of coastal grapes grown on the island. The vintner has had great success developing varieties of grapes to flourish in this cooler climate, making the wines here prototypes for future wines of Canada's West coast. The best-selling Blackberry Port is made with blackberries foraged by Islanders. Complimentary tastings are paired with Salt Spring Island products, like olive tapenade, goat cheese, and chocolate. Summer weekends include live music in the late afternoon. Two romantic bed-and-breakfast suites are available for C$165 per night year-round, with a garden-fresh breakfast prepared by owner Joanne McIntyre.

When: March-Oct. (inquire for tasting hours); accommodations are open year-round

Where: 151 Lee Rd.

More Info:
tel. 250/653-9463; www.saltspringvineyards.com

Photo Caption: Salt Spring Vineyards owner Dev McIntyre offers a tasting of the blackberry port.
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Preparing a raw vegan Japanese dinner at Rawsome Living Foods. Melinda Quintero
Dedicated raw-foodists Jim Maurice and Chris Gay of Rawsome Living Foods are trying to trick you. The duo offers completely vegan raw meals and treats composed almost entirely of veggies grown on Salt Spring. On Wednesdays and Saturdays from noon to 3pm, you can catch a "cooking" demo and pick-up goodies for sale (C$3-C$12) direct from the kitchen and the couple's garden gate. "If you want to get people to go raw, you serve them dessert," winks trained raw-food chef Maurice. Chocolates or ice cream ought to do the trick. Gourmet entrées can include pizzas, ravioli, soups, tacos, and other seemingly impossible-to-be-raw foods. Call or check the website for a schedule of workshop dinners (C$35) for small groups.

Where: 854 Long Harbour Rd.

More Info:
tel. 250/537-2048; www.rawsomelivingfoods.ca

Photo Caption: Preparing a raw vegan Japanese dinner at Rawsome Living Foods.
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Summer meals picnic-style at the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga. Ella Cooper
The food offered at the Salt Spring Island Centre of Yoga is quite possibly as close as you'll get to sustainable dining. These vegetarian meals are made almost entirely of vegetables from the Centre's garden and are grown, hand-picked, and cooked by the full-time volunteers living at the Centre -- and who are sharing the table with you. Attend a scheduled multi-day yoga and wellness retreat or book a retreat for yourself. Personal retreats (C$100 per day for shared accommodations or C$140 for private rooms with bath) include all meals, yoga, meditation, and philosophy classes and use of a wood-burning sauna. Treat yourself further with an Ayurvedic massage from the on-site Chikitsa Shala Wellness Centre (tel. 250/537-8443; by appointment; C$50-C$160).

Where: 355 Blackburn Rd.

More Info: tel. 250/537-2326; www.saltspringcentre.com

Photo Caption: Summer meals picnic-style at the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga
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