Category Archives: vegetables

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

Seed fund investment helps local gourmet food processor double sales in only one year

This week’s story comes to us from Bioenterprise.

By Lilian Schaer

Guelph, Ontario-based Rootham Gourmet Preserves has a long history of sourcing locally grown fruits and vegetables and partnering with local farms and businesses.

As the local food movement took hold, owner Will Rootham-Roberts started seeing increased interest in locally made and sourced small-batch gourmet condiments. He recognized an opportunity for the family-owned company to expand and offer Ontario farmers the possibility of creating and selling shelf-stable jams, jellies and sauces from their own locally grown produce.

But he needed help turning that vision into reality – help he received from Bioenterprise in the form of a grant from the Bioenterprise Seed Fund.

“Thanks to Bioenterprise, we were able to expand our processing capabilities and undertake a direct marketing campaign to promote our services to potential customers,” said Rootham-Roberts. Continue reading

Growing Canada’s emerging sweet potato industry

By Lilian Schaer for AgInnovation Ontario

Vineland – Canada’s first sweet potato variety is expected for release next year. And now work is underway to ensure Canadian farmers can also access sweet potato cuttings – called slips – right here at home.

To help meet booming Canadian demand for sweet potatoes, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland) is developing new varieties that grow well in Canada’s cooler climate and shorter growing season.

About 1,700 acres of the healthy tuber are currently grown in Canada – mostly in southern Ontario’s Norfolk County – but they’re all longer season varieties from the southern United States.

That’s also where Canada’s growers are getting their sweet potato slips every spring to plant their crops, but they can be in short supply and quality could be compromised.

“Canadian sweet potato growers use U.S. propagators and breeding programs because we don’t have the infrastructure and varieties here,” said research scientist Viliam Zvalo of Vineland. “Also, slip propagation has to be started in March when the ground could still be frozen in Canada. Our challenge is to figure out how we can produce them here so we can supply Canadian growers with quality slips at a reasonable price.” Continue reading

Going O-Naturel:

Local company enhances naturally-occurring microbes to aid greenhouse growers

By Matt McIntosh for AgInnovation Ontario

Toronto – Healthy growing conditions are critical to the success of any crop, and chemicals designed to help plants grow and resist disease are common, useful tools for farmers – whether growing conventional, organic, indoor, or outdoor crops.

Metagenom Bio Inc., however, is one company trying to help growers reduce their reliance on chemical controls.

With help from Bioenterprise, an organization that supports the development of agri-technology companies, through its Bioenterprise Seed Fund, Metagenom Bio Inc. uses improved microbe communities to both enhance plant growth and reduce the impact of disease.

“We’re what we like to call a ‘microbiome’ company,” says Patrick Ang, chief executive officer and the self-identified “business guy” for Metagenom Bio Inc. Continue reading