“Even more than bananas?!”
Ok, English cucumber sales are second only to bananas in Walmart’s fruit and vegetable department, admitted farmer Jan VanderHout. Their popularity is growing at a fever pitch. This spells opportunity for Ontario farmers, he said.
VanderHout is co-owner of Beverly Greenhouses, a farm specializing in seedless English cucumbers. I visited his greenhouses north of Toronto on the Farm and Food Care Foundation’s spring 2013 Toronto media tour, a yearly event that brings media and industry professionals together to learn more about food and farming in Canada.
VanderHout and brother Dale, his business partner, put a strong emphasis on environmental stewardship in their greenhouses. Rafters are lined with pest-repelling plants. The water used is on a closed circuit — entirely recaptured, cleaned and recirculated. Furnaces run on waste wood, such as chipped old pallets. An on-site warehouse is filled to the ceiling with waste wood chips.
The tour also included a trip to Escarpment’s Edge Dairy Goats, owned by seventh-generation farmer Jason Lyons. Unlike him, Lyons’ predecessors raised dairy cows. Lyons explains his decision to switch from cows to goats simply: goats have more personality and they don’t poop on your shoes so much.
Lyons milks 300 Saanen and Alpine-cross goats. The Saanen are the pure white goats and the Alpine-cross are spotted or striped with black, white and brown. Their milk goes towards many uses, my favourite being an excellent aged banded cheddar.
Goats generally give birth to twins. Lyons ended up with about 300 kid goats this year. The females are raised for milking, while the males are sold for the chevon (goat meat) market.
Chilled Cucumber-Watercress Soup
2 lbs cucumbers, peeled
juice of 2 lemons
1 1/2 cups watercress, loosely packed
2 tbsp fruity olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic, ground to a paste
1 tbsp sugar, or to taste
3/4 tsp orange flower water
2 tbsp mint leaves, rubbed
salt, to taste
If you have a juicer, juice the vegetables then combine with all other ingredients except for olive oil. Chill well. Drizzle with olive oil immediately before serving.
If you don’t have a juicer, liquify the cucumbers, lemon juice and watercress in a high-speed blender. Strain pulp through a fine mesh sieve placed over a bowl. Use a spoon to gently press the pulp against the sieve to get all of the juice out. Combine juice with all of the other ingredients except for olive oil. Chill well. Drizzle with olive oil immediately before serving.