100 mile diet

Sharecropping. Or, Potato, Staff of Life

A good friend of mine has been building a house single-handedly for seven or eight years now, and it occurred to me this spring that his front yard would make a great potato patch.

In what was admittedly a great gardening year in terms of rain, I only visited the potatoes four times: once to plant, twice to weed, and a final time to harvest the taters. Our efforts were rewarded with about 100 pounds of beautiful Red Pontiac and Yukon Gold potatoes.


the patch, late September



there is potato scab, a harmless toughening of the skin in some places, in the soil at this location



our kids know where their food comes from

Much maligned in our overfed times, the potato is a miracle food. The potato is the Edmonton gardener's only chance to really make a dent in how much of his food comes from his backyard, since one cannot grow more calories worth of food in a smaller space than with this nutritious vegetable.

Granted, the latest research does show that, if you are inactive and eat a lot of them, the simple carbohydrates in which their energy is contained will encourage weight gain. Still, I believe that potatoes can be "part of this nutritious breakfast".

Did you know that 100 grams of potatoes contain 24% of a day's vitamin C? And 14% of a day's iron? (source)

I celebrate the homegrown potato as a delicious, nutritious, near-zero-carbon super food. I add them to soups and stews, fry grated potatoes into hashed browns, add them to coconut curries, and bake them with cheese and leeks into scalloped potatoes.

But the best part is the harvesting. Digging up potatoes in the Fall is one of the great pleasures of being an urban farmer in Edmonton.

Community Supported Agriculture


CSA, Edmonton region

It’s the time of year to start thinking about where your locally-grown vegetables and/or meat will be coming from this year. Edmonton-area Farmers’ Markets are wonderful sources, as well as your backyard and your community garden.

Another compelling choice is to participate in community-supported agriculture (CSA) with a local farmer. The idea is that you as a food-eating citizen invest early in the farm (in the Spring), according to some calculation that will vary depending on the CSA. You may also be asked to volunteer some time, which I imagine would be a lot of fun. Then, as the crops start to come in, you receive a share of the harvest throughout the harvesting season.

There are a few CSAs around Edmonton, and there is a great website at which to find them: www.csaalberta.com

Consider supporting Edmonton-area agriculture this year. Consider participating in community-supported agriculture.


Local Food Grab Bag

Local food hasn’t been this alive in Edmonton since the pre-WW2 era. Here are a few tidbits:

A family grows ingredients for and brews wine in the Edmonton area. Seriously.

Story here and link to the winery website here.



We grow mustard in Alberta? But none of it was processed into mustard (the spreadable kind) until now? It’s available at the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market or online? Awesome.

Here’s a story on it and here’s the website.



This man is my new hero when it comes to local food. He is incredibly involved in the food that his family eats. And his blog makes this one look like something from 1997 (style-wise anyway). Check out Kevin Kossowan’s amazing local food website.



Finally, did you know that you could get local Edmonton food delivered directly to your door? Check out the good food box.

Apache Seeds

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Apache Seeds Ltd., 10136 - 149 Street, Edmonton, AB

Seeds for food-bearing plants are one of our most precious assets. Bred and tested over the ten thousand years that humanity has been farming, the seeds that we propagate today produce miraculous amounts and varieties of foods. There are entities and organizations in Canada that research and protect these treasures, but we could be doing much more. Specifically, I would like to see Alberta fund a university research centre to further research and preserve knowledge in the area of cold-climate agriculture and gardening. I think that they have a strong program like I’ve described at the University of Saskatchewan (to be honest, we could have something like that in Alberta that I’ve never heard of. Please comment if you can enlighten me).

We do have a burgeoning culture emerging around the issue of seeds. Edmonton’s annual Seedy Sunday event (for those “interested in plant biodiversity, heritage gardening, organic gardening, and seeds”) is happening this year at Alberta Avenue Community Hall (9210 118 Ave NW) on Sunday March 20, 2011 from 11-4.

And we have a local institution, Apache Seeds, Ltd. I went there today since it’s time to plant onions indoors. There’s no other place that I know of that carries garden seeds at this time of year (especially not unusual ones like onion seeds) .

As the old-timey sign implies, Apache Seeds is a long-time Edmonton company. I don’t know much about its history, but its reputation suggests that it is THE place to go if you need anything beyond your run-of-the-mill tomato and corn seeds.

I wasn’t disappointed. Apache has hundreds of different kinds of seed packets from at least seven or eight different companies. They have heirloom and organic seeds. Bulk seeds. Even grass seed (including drought-tolerant grass seed, which I have had problems finding I the past).

I had four or five kinds of onion and leek seeds to choose from, plus I picked up some eggplant and pepper seeds.

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