Category Archives: food

When the time is ripe: New, natural formula helps farmers manage harvest time

Tree in front with fruit sprayed; trees to the left and right not sprayed

By Lisa McLean

Vineland – Why do the best fruits seem to have the shortest shelf life? It’s a challenge that plagues fresh fruit markets around the world, and has real implications for consumers and fruit growers.

Now, new research from University of Guelph has led to the development of a product that extends the shelf life of fresh fruits by days and even weeks, and it is showing promise in food insecure regions around the world.

“In people and in fruit, skin shrinks with age — it’s part of the life cycle, as the membranes start losing their tightness,” said Jay Subramanian, Professor of Tree Fruit Breeding and Biotechnology at the University of Guelph, who works from the Vineland research station. “Now we know the enzymes responsible for that process can be slowed.”

The secret, according to Subramanian, is in hexanal, a compound that is naturally produced by every plant in the world. His lab has developed a formulation that includes a higher concentration of hexanal to keep fruit fresh for longer.

Subramanian’s research team began experimenting with applying their formula to sweet cherry and peaches in the Niagara region. They found they were able to extend the shelf life of both fruits and spraying the formula directly on the plant prior to harvest worked as well as using it as a dip for newly harvested fruit. Continue reading

Canadian farmers seeking new crops could consider growing okra

By Lilian Schaer

Vineland – Farmers interested in adding a new crop to their production line-up may want to look at okra as an opportunity.

That’s according to researchers at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland) who have been working with the crop for the past five years and have some very promising results from two years of field trials with three okra varieties.

“We know okra can be grown commercially in southern Ontario and that yields of 20,000 kg per hectare are possible,” said Vineland research scientist Dr. Viliam Zvalo.

Canada imported over six million kilograms of okra in 2015 – an increase of 43 per cent since 2011 – so the market demand for this new crop, popular especially in South and Southeast Asian cuisine, is there.

Zvalo is particularly excited about three additional varieties Vineland has been able to source from East West Seeds from Thailand. The company is a key player in the okra seed market in countries like India, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand where much of the world’s okra is grown.

“We planted some of these varieties in June last year and were amazed by the yield potential,” he said. “I believe they may outperform the varieties we’ve been using so far and we are quite optimistic they’ll do very well here.” Continue reading

Fermented foods preserve old-world process to create new, local markets


By Jane Robinson

Guelph – When Josh Whitehead and Caroline Pilon started selling homemade kimchi at the Guelph Farmers’ Market about 12 years ago, they were simply doing something they loved.

Word spread about their Korean-style fermented sauerkraut and their business quickly grew.

“We stumbled into making food for the retail market,” said Whitehead, co-founder of Green Table Foods together with his wife Caroline. “We didn’t set out to try and change trends. I’d been making kimchi since I was about 15 years old, and we just wanted to make something we loved.”

Their first big customer was the Ontario Natural Food Co-op, looking for a private label to manufacture organic sauerkraut. They formulated three recipes that fit the organization’s requirement for 100 per cent organic and 100 per cent Ontario, and started manufacturing in 2009.

Kimchi and the other fermented vegetables may be newer foods for North Americans, but according to Whitehead, it is one of the oldest food categories in existence. No cooking is used to produce their products, retaining more of the vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants of the raw ingredients and Green Table Foods work with a wild fermentation process.

“We use a slower fermentation method that uses the ambient bacteria that are naturally found on vegetables to create our products,” Whitehead said. “The flavours in the finished product reflect where the vegetables came from. It’s like wine that way.” Continue reading

Artisanal meats make waves in local market

By Jeanine Moyer

Sharbot Lake, ON – Five years ago, Mike Mckenzie set out to make delicious food.

His distinguished taste for salami and smoked meats, combined with his drive to acquire meat-making skills led to the creation of Seed to Sausage, a meat processing, retail and distribution company in Sharbot Lake, a small Frontenac County village north of Kingston.

Mckenzie follows his own suite of guidelines – to make the most delicious food he can, prioritize quality and consistency, source certified humanely raised meat and local products, and use as few additives as possible. These business and product requirements have quickly become the recipe to success for Seed to Sausage.

Building the business took time. Before settling in Eastern Ontario, Mckenzie’s travels and love of meat saw him sampling salami wherever he went, refining his taste and preferences. Continue reading

Canadian oats inspire new frozen dessert

By Jane Robinson

Ottawa – Candace Tierney came up with the idea for her frozen dessert over a bowl of oatmeal.

She eats it every day, and one morning she started to pay more attention to how creamy and thick the oats were. And she wondered about the possibility of creating an ice cream alternative from oats.

“I’m a lactose-intolerant ice cream lover, and that’s not a good combination,” said Tierney, founder and owner of Ottawa-based Oat & Mill food company.  “I started out playing with the idea of using oats as an alternate ingredient in ice cream. I was tired of eating products made from coconut, almond or soy, and wondered why there weren’t other options on the market.” Continue reading