Good for our health, the environment, and our economy, locally grown food is enjoying a resurgence. As food gardens take root in more backyards, communities, parks, and schoolyards, local food is also being featured in more recipes, restaurants, markets and stores.
Want to enjoy local food more often? Check out these tips for growing, preserving, buying and cooking it all year round.
It’s easy to create an indoor garden. Long, narrow window boxes, which fit perfectly on a windowsill, are ideal for a herb garden filled with basil, oregano and parsley or mixed salad greens.
Other foods that you can grow indoors include snow peas, beans, carrots, beets and corn. For best results, pick a location that gets lots of light, and keep the soil moist.
A balcony with adequate sunlight is ideal for growing tomatoes, lettuce, herbs, eggplants, peas, cucumbers and more – even edible flowers. It’s a good idea to elevate your containers a bit so that your plants get enough light.
For more information, tips and resources on balcony gardening, visit Toronto Balconies in Bloom.
In addition to traditional backyard gardens, there are lots of other ways to grow your own food at home.
Small gardens are ideal for:
- low-growing herbs (e.g. thyme, oregano)
- vegetables that don’t take up a lot of room (e.g. carrots, radishes)
- vegetables that grow vertically (e.g. corn, beans)
- climbing vegetables, such as beans and cucumbers, will grow up the sunny side of your house, fence, trellis, apartment building, or garage with just a few strings for support
- Leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach and lettuce can be harvested continually throughout the winter in a greenhouse. For best results, a greenhouse should be well-ventilated, oriented to maximize sunlight, and insulated to hold the heat.
- An apartment or townhouse with its own deck or rooftop could support a smaller cold frame model.
- If space is not an issue, consider a larger, freestanding or attached greenhouse. In addition to being easy to access, an attached greenhouse can help to heat your home by transferring captured solar energy through the shared wall. It can also provide an extension of your indoor living space.
Learn more about the Community Gardens located within our parks system and on other City-owned lands.
Individuals can lease plots at the City’s 12 allotment gardens – 11 outdoor and one indoor. For information on rates and availability, call 416-392-8188 or visit your local permit office.
Water Efficient Landscaping
You don’t require a lot of water to build a healthy, vibrant green space. Follow these lawn and garden care practices to save water, promote growth, and control weeds.
Places to buy locally grown food include:
CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) / Food Box
Community shared agriculture is a system of growing and distributing organic produce that supports sustainable farming, preserves biodiversity, and builds a healthier, local and sustainable food system.
Through a CSA, you’ll receive fresh food on a weekly basis harvested directly from a garden.
Local CSA sources:
- Fresh City Farms
- Mama Earth Organics
- Front Door Organics
- Plan B Organic Farms
- Karma Co-op Food Store
Want to know what’s in season? Check Foodland Ontario’s availability guide to find out what’s locally grown and in season all year long.
There are a number of ways to preserve local food:
- Canning: hot water bath canning (for high acid food) and pressure canning (for low acid).
- Dehydrating: preserving food by removing water content. Without moisture, microorganisms cannot grow. To dry food you can use the heat of the sun, hot air currents or the heat of your oven 110 degrees Celsius. Drying time depends on the type of food, its thickness, and drying method. Whichever method you choose, be sure there is ventilation so that mould growth is prevented.
- Freezing: an excellent way to preserve small amounts of seasonal surplus for winter.
- Fermentation: a healthy, fun, and nutritious way to preserve food. Lactic acid is created in the process of fermenting foods such as kimchi, cabbage and yoghurt, etc.
- Store parts of your harvest in cool places such as a shed, unheated garage or unheated basement.
- Keep apples away from other products, and carrots covered.