Produce at your Doorstep

As an avid cooker and veggie lover and living in the city without a car, I have spent way too much time weighing the pros and cons of signing up for a program to have my weekly produce delivered to me. Every few months, I do a google search and come up with a new kid on the block selling these services. It’s time for me to share this information with you all, but it’s also time for me to bite the bullet and sign up with one of these companies.

No matter your priority, there should be something out there for you. You can focus on organic, on local, on in-season varieties, and you can even add bread, eggs, dairy and meat to your order.  You can choose the size of your produce box, and have it be filled with only vegetables, only fruit, or a combination of both.  Some companies will deliver right to your door, some to a local hub in your community. Sometimes you’ll be charged to make substitutions to the weekly stock, sometimes not. The boxes are all priced similarly, with minor differences in services.

Image from Fresh City Farms

Image from Fresh City Farms

I recommend you take notice for a couple of weeks of what types of produce you absolutely eat every week (avocado? lemons? kale? apples?), and what items you buy and subsequently struggle to use before they go bad.  Summer is a particularly great time of year to sign up and give produce delivery a whirl, because the items will inevitably be a lot more exciting than the potatoes, carrots and turnips that will fill your produce box in the winter time!

Good news for the suburbs: most of these companies deliver to your door in Scarborough, Richmond Hill, Toronto, Etobicoke and Mississauga! Better yet, check out Ontario’s Community Supported Agriculture website for farm to kitchen boxes all over Ontario. The following company names are linked to websites where you can get specific information on pricing, product selection and delivery.

Mama Earth Organics

Probably one of the most popular services in the city thanks to to an effective marketing campaign, Mama Earth offers four sizes of boxes ranging between $27 – $55, with a $2 charge for customizing your entire basket. Delivery is free on orders of $30 and there is no commitment, so you can place an order on a week-to-week basis. For no charge, you can select 5 items you’d like to never receive. Mama Earth has partnered with many local companies to deliver cheeses, breads, jams, coffee and more with your order, priced as they would be on the store shelves (but with free delivery!). Live in a condo/apartment? Buzz in the delivery people remotely and they’ll leave the produce box right at your door. In season, Mama Earth aims to have 80-90% of your basket locally sourced.

Fresh City

A typical box comes with about 7 – 12 types of produce and sizes vary between $28 and $31, delivery included. Fresh City requires no time commitment and Fresh City claims to be 26% cheaper than buying the same items at your local big box grocer. Live in a building? If you get at least 3 people to sign up in your building, you’ll save $3 per order! 80% of your box is aimed to be local, with greens and sprouts grown in a greenhouse at Downsview Park. Check out their website to see what was in the box last week to get a feel for the mix. Fruit only boxes feature some pretty cool tropical fruits, like starfruit and passion fruit! Everything at Fresh City is organically grown, but not necessarily certified organic since the cost of certification is cost-prohibitive for many small local farmers.

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Celebrating the Birth of Ontario’s Greenbelt & Our First Tweet-Up

Last week Robyn and I attended our first ever “Tweet-up.”  For those of you as uncool as I was a week ago, a “tweet-up” is an in-person gathering of like-minded twitter users, in this case, for the purpose of celebrating and bringing awareness to the 8th birthday of Ontario’s Greenbelt.  Although it involved making the trek out to Cafe Belong at Evergreen Brickworks on a rainy Tuesday night, we were very happy we did.  Turns out, “tweeters” are super friendly, social people and no foodie in this province is worth his/her weight in tweets if he/she doesn’t seriously appreciate the Greenbelt and the people who work to protect it.

The event was co-hosted by Environmental Defence and acclaimed Chef Brad Long, which made for a perfect pairing. After all, what better way to celebrate environmental activism than with delicious local and sustainable food?  Sarah Winterton taught us about the history of the Greenbelt (officially established in 2005, it protects 1.8 million acres (!) of environmentally sensitive agricultural land from urban sprawl, as well as forests, wetlands, lakes and rivers from contamination), following which Chef Long shared with us his passion for Ontario’s amazing (and under-appreciated) local food, including produce, wines, and dairy industry, appealing to both our minds and our taste buds.

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Although I generally eat a pretty healthy pescatarian(ish) diet, I’m not above a cheeseburger with a side of cookie dough ice cream, and for that reason, I’ve never been a big fan of rules when it comes to eating.  This is why Chef Long’s approach to eating local was so appealing.  For him, eating local is about more than kilometer counts and organic certification – it’s about about creating a connection between the natural food from our land, the farmers that nourish and harvest it, and ultimately, the people who enjoy it.  Everything at Cafe Belong is local, sustainable and organic, but more importantly, it all has a story.  And that story is delicious.

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Our tweet-up invite promised “nibbles”, but we left the the event with bellies full of braised beef, “faux pho”, Cave Springs wine, an incredible charcuterie spread and other bite size delights.  If you’ve never been to Cafe Belong, now is the time.  I am losing my mind over the brunch menu and I can’t wait to check out Long’s five course family style meal.  The space itself is gorgeous (all that Le Creuset!) and it never hurts to know that the food you’re eating was raised/grown/prepared with love.

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To learn more about the Greenbelt, check out the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance’s recent report: Good Things Are Growing in Ontario: Expanding Ontario’s Greenbelt Through Urban River Valleys.