As the eating local trend gains momentum in Canada, one community college is offering a night class on how to go about doing it.
Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ont., will be holding "Eat Locally - The 100 K Menu" to be conducted by chef Chris Venhuis.
The idea to stage such a course came from Susan Bowinkelmann, director for hospitality and travel courses in the continuing education department at the college.
"I was looking at the preponderance of imported foods such as fruits and vegetables in our markets and grocery stores, and I thought such a course would be very timely," she says. "Eating locally is healthier, sustainable and supports our farmers, not to mention that it tastes better."
Venhuis, 37, concurs with Bowinkelmann, saying that the idea is to get people aware of what "amazing locally grown and produced foods are on their doorstep and how to utilize it."
"I think a lot of people are intimidated by some of the local products they see at the farmers' market or supermarket," he says.
"They will look at a fresh pork loin from a local hog farm or a bunch of leeks and wonder what to do with them."
Venhuis says he will show his students what to do with some of these products by demonstrating how to put together a three-course meal using only local ingredients.
One challenge for most Canadians is what to eat in the winter months when it seems imported fruits and vegetables are all that is available.
"But there are a number of products if kept in a cool area, such as a cold cellar, can help consumers get through the winter without relying on imports," he says.
Venhuis says at that time of year there are squash, potatoes, carrots, parnsips, cabbage and apples, to name a few items, and his goal is to show his students how to utilize them in different ways.
Bowinkelmann says the closing of most of Canada's canneries has meant that we are now importing peaches, for example, from China and other countries and a source of canned homegrown fruit is no longer available. This may be why many Canadians are returning to the art of canning their own fruits and vegetables, which Venhuis applauds.
Instead of eating unappetizing imported tomatoes, he suggests canning the local crop now at its peak.
And for those who haven't the inclination or time to put up preserves, some enterprising artisans are making batches to sell at farmers' markets and specialty outlets.
Venhuis says that it is very important for shoppers to read labels not only on canned goods but also in the produce department of the supermarket where pricing can be confusing.
"If something says product of Canada, it doesn't necessarily mean it's made or grown here," he says. "Look for made in Canada and don't hesitate to ask the produce manager at the supermarket where the products are coming from."