Cruising through the Niagara Peninsula down the country lanes you’ll notice plenty of markets, shops, and stalls all selling local seasonal fruit picked fresh from the farm.
With a long history in the economy and tourism industry of the region, over 90% of Ontario’s tender fruit crops are grown in the orchards of Niagara’s Fruit Belt.
Strawberries, peaches, cherries, plums, pears, apples, and grapes — when in season, these fruits are celebrated by the locals. We invite visitors to the region to visit the farms and join the events in celebration of the area’s sweet and delicious produce.
THE HISTORY OF FRUIT IN NIAGARA
The Niagara Region has a rich history in growing fruit. Rows of straight vineyards and thousands of acres of berries and tender fruits have played an integral role in making Niagara a summertime destination spot for visitors from around the world. Niagara is Canada’s most heavily populated rural area, with over 45,000 acres of rich soil, which have been put to work over the past hundreds of years by the area’s skilled farming community. The only other areas in the country that could be considered rival to this industry are the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, and the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia.
A warm and temperate climate with hot summers and milder winters, well-drained soil, and sufficient year-round rainfall are the prime essentials for fruit cultivation, all which the region is blessed to have.
Since the late 1800s Niagara has been a prosperous area for tender fruit growing. The railway system gave growers access to the commercial markets, leading to a highly successful canning industry by the early 1900s. The land which came to be known as Virgil in Niagara-on-the-Lake was cultivated to become one of the most productive fruit bearing areas, leading to a canning factory, now the site of a local winery.
The town of St. David’s was home to the CanGro Foods Plant, which produced peaches and pears under the Aylmer, Del Monte, and Ideal labels for 112 years, closing in 2008. Unfortunately, its demise meant that the fruit for these brands would no longer come from Canada.
Today, you will find that fruit farming is much less commercial, but there are still plenty of family-owned farms continuing to grow the freshest fruits you can find in season.
PICK YOUR OWN FRUIT IN NIAGARA
All throughout the Niagara Peninsula, the rural country lanes are home to many family-owned fruit farms, some who open their land to the public.
Out in Pelham, Jordan, Vineland, and the countryside heading towards Toronto, there are plenty of small farms, which welcome families to pick fruit straight from their orchards. In Niagara-on-the-Lake, a trip down the Niagara Parkway, and various concessions and lines, will invite you to see many fruit stands, markets, and pick-your-own fruit farms, each with their own signature products and special charm.
Visit pickyourown.org for an extensive list of farms in the region. Some welcome guests to bring a picnic to their property to enjoy during their day out.
SUMMER FRUIT FESTIVALS IN NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE
With a proud history in growing fruits including peaches, pears, prunes, plums, cherries, raspberries and strawberries, it’s no wonder the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake holds annual festivals for some of the major fruits. This summer be sure to take in take in the Strawberry, Cherry and Peach festivals.
WHEN: Saturday, June 16th
WHERE: St Andrew’s Church | 323 Simcoe St., Niagara-on-the-Lake
Every year on the third Saturday in June, St. Andrew’s Church welcomes visitors to the Strawberry Festival on their property, located by Simcoe Park in downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake. Strawberry pies, crepes, shortcakes, jams, and of course, fresh strawberries, are for sale by local farms. Guests love the delicious barbecue and their famous corn-on-the-cob to eat while watching local entertainment. There’s also a silent auction, bake sale, children’s area, plus tours of the historic church, built in 1831.
WHEN: Saturday, July 7th
WHERE: St. Mark’s Church | 41 Byron Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake
In the peak of the summer weather, St. Mark’s Church hosts the Cherry Festival each year. Both a BBQ breakfast and lunch is served to accompany fresh baked cherry pie, a favourite of locals. An array of vendors selling designer wares, gently used clothes, handmade jewelry, and other treasures will be set up on the grounds, along with a bouncy castle for kids. New this year, the silent auction will feature premier gifts including vacation packages, concerts, and fancy dinners.
WHEN: Saturday, August, 11th & Sunday, August 12th, 2018
WHERE: QueenStreet(Saturday)& St.Vincent de Paul Church 73 Picton St, Niagara-on-the-Lake (Sunday)
Get ready for the biggest celebrations of the three events, the two-day 28th Annual Peach Festival.
On Saturday, the main downtown area of Queen Street from Victoria Street to King Street will be closed off, so shops can present their merchandise on the street and welcome guests inside. The street is filled with live music and food stalls, selling fresh peaches, pies and jams, and an array of barbecued favourites. This year, five bands will perform on stage throughout the day, with the Toronto All Star Band being featured at noon.
In the evening, dance to a live Salsa band, and enjoy culinary creations from Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Signature Kitchens, local wine and craft beer.
Sunday, the festivities continue at St. Vincent de Paul Church, with a fair set up with treats, food, and entertainment like Strawberry and Cherry Festivals.
In the evening, be a part of the exclusive 1,000 guest event, an on-street dinner in the Heritage District with live music, food and wine. Visit niagaraonthelake.com to learn more about the festivals.
Peaches in the Niagara Peninsula account for 98% of Ontario’s peach crop, and 81% of Canada’s peach harvest. This delicious tender fruit has been grown since the prehistoric ages, first being cultivated in China. Peaches are considered a symbol of friendship and immortality.
NIAGARA HOME GROWN WINE FESTIVAL & THE NIAGARA GRAPE AND WINE FESTIVALS
If you’re a wine enthusiast and appreciate the lively spirit of a summer festival, be sure to partake in the festivities of the Niagara Home Grown Wine Festival and the Niagara Grape & Wine Festivals, celebrated in St. Catharines.
Kick off the summer with the Niagara Home Grown Wine Festival. Over the weekends of June 16th-17th and June 23rd-24th, wineries host food and wine pairings at their properties. The festival is inaugurated by the TD Tailgate party at 13th Street Winery in St. Catharines, where over 30 wineries come together in one night, for an evening of VQA wines, farm-to-table cuisine, and entertainment.
From September 15th to September 30th, the 67th Annual Niagara Grape and Wine Festival will be celebrated. With two parades, over 100 wineries participating in food and wine pairings, and the ultimate Niagara Grape & Wine Festival Montebello Park Experience, there’s fun for all to enjoy during this truly Canadian celebration.
STAY ON TOP OF THE SEASONAL FRUITS IN NIAGARA
The best fruit comes straight from the stands and farmers markets. Be sure to know when your favourite juicy treats are in season.
STRAWBERRIES: June and July
CHERRIES: First three weeks of July
PLUMS: Mid July- Mid August
APRICOTS: Mid July – Mid August
PEACHES: Mid July- Late August
NECTARINES: July through September
PEARS: Mid July – October. Select varieties of pears are harvested through-out the winter.
For more options, visit our Food & Drink section.