“Second star on the right and straight on till morning.” Or, if you’re a foodie with an invitation to visit the not-open-to-the-public Okanagan Culinary Farms, just “Look for the rows of purple kale, and turn right in.”
And so it happens that, on Sunday morning, we find ourselves taking a scenic drive into vegetable country.
As lessons in the birds and the bees go, a reminder of where vegetables come from is high on our edible tourism list. Equal with the comings-into-being of tree fruits, artisan cheese, wine and sundry other reasons for paying the Beautiful British Columbia Sunshine Tax.
After a few scenic detours that finally put us on the correct route, we arrive, just before 10 a.m., clutching coffees, to a morning that is just warm, not scathingly hot. Conditions that are appreciated by all and the zucchini.
“Finally got her out of bed, I see,” laughs Tom Thompson, farmer extraordinaire and our tour guide, who has been in the garden since five o’clock this morning.
It appears, though, that the garden doesn’t mind that I pressed snooze.
In fact, even though I must spend a few moments compartmentalizing an acute grasshopper phobia before plunging face first into a copse of basil, for this I might’ve even been persuaded to get up while the dew was still on the heirloom tomatoes.
The tomatoes, which are glorious with their stylish stripes and perfectly imperfect proportions, and destined for the kitchens of finicky local chefs, are plump with practically visible flavour. If you’re quiet, you can almost hear them crying out for a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and cracked black pepper. Nothing else.
Browsing the rows, where butternut squash lay ripening, little catches of cape gooseberries, or “ground cherries,” are popped into our hands. Nestled in natural parchment, the sun yellow berries taste of papaya and are warm when they burst on our tongues.
Because this is late in the season, there are zucchini everywhere. Soon our pockets are filled with embryonic patty pans, just a day past flowering, with all their flavour stored in a vegetable not bigger than a strawberry. And squash blossoms. We simply cannot leave without squash blossoms!
All the while, as Tom talks to us about soil and the sun, Dean and I are imagining butternut soup. We’ll make a tomato tart. We’ll make ratatouille, starting with fresh tomato sauce and finished with a chopped bouquet of parsley. We’ll have stuffed squash blossoms, dredged in tempura and fried until golden.
And then, content after a day started in the garden and ended in the kitchen, we’ll roll ourselves away from the table, fat and happy for having eaten all our veggies.
Stuffed Squash Blossoms
12 fresh squash blossoms
1 cup ricotta
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
1 tbs finely chopped parsley
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 large egg, beaten
kosher salt/fresh ground pepper
oil for deep frying
Mix together ricotta, feta, parsley and lemon zest. Fold in egg. Season. Using a piping bag (no tip is needed), fill squash blossoms about 1/2 full with mixture. Dip each filled blossom in tempura batter. Deep fry in hot canola oil until lightly golden. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately.
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 large egg
2/3 cup iced soda water
Whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and salt. Beat together egg and water. Add to dry ingredients and stir until mixed.
– Words and photo by Darcie Hossack