“Fresh Ontario produce – in the winter months?” I know I know, it sounds impossible but here in Ontario, we are lucky to be served by the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers (OGVG), a not-for-profit organization, formed in 1967, representing approximately 220 members who grow greenhouse seedless, mini and cocktail cucumbers; red, yellow, orange and specialty peppers; tomatoes on the vine, beefsteak and specialty tomatoes on over 2,500 acres across the province from Windsor to Niagara and as far north as Ottawa. Mostly located less than one day’s drive from the majority of markets they serve in Canada and United States, the majority of these greenhouses are family-owned and have been in existence for several generations.
OGVG growers use hydroponic technology, computerized climate control and integrated pest management (using good bugs to eat the bad bugs) in order to ensure their vegetables are fresh and nutritious. The controlled greenhouse environment enables them to grow a uniform product in a nutrient-rich water solution that both minimizes waste and maximizes yield and quality. The growers also use bumblebees to naturally pollinate tomatoes and pepper crops.
So yes, during the cooler months, there is more local produce available than you might think, precisely thanks to the OGVG (something that I’ve made sure to look for in my organic produce deliveries and in the supermarket – I love that most places tell you where your produce is from these days!) and while I do always have good quality tinned tomatoes and roasted peppers on hand, sometimes for a recipe, only fresh produce will do. When I was asked if I’d like to try one of the OGVG new spring-themed recipes featuring fresh cucumbers, peppers or tomatoes, I was happy to see shakshuka on the list as it’s something I love to order when I go out to brunch but that I have never made, for some reason (especially now I know it’s so very easy!).
A dish of eggs gently poached in a spiced tomato sauce, this is the perfect brunch, lunch or breakfast-for-dinner meal (so, really, anytime!). It’s made with fresh tomatoes so they don’t completely collapse when they cook so make sure to choose firmer tomatoes than you might for, say a salad or a sandwich. I also added a touch of liquid to my pan when I was cooking – even at a low temperature, most of the liquid evaporated before I put the eggs in so I added around 1/3 cup water and it was the perfect amount of “sauciness” to place the eggs in. Next time I might put a lid on my pan as it cooks to avoid all the lovely juices evaporating.
This was a perfect Sunday night dinner and now I know how easy it is, I will definitely be making it again, most likely for brunch. By the time the coffee’s brewed, you’d have a fabulous, fresh meal to go with it!
Look out for fresh tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers from the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers in your produce section or market and whip up a spring-themed recipe for yourself!
Disclosure: I received compensation from the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers in exchange for this post. All opinions are 100% my own and this post was not reviewed prior to publication.