By: Megan Pasche

Superfoods have become a bit of a buzzword in the last little while, but that doesn’t negate the fact that they are called that for a reason: they are foods that are said to have extraordinary health benefits and that are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. A lot of times, you read about superfoods and aren’t able to recognize the names, let alone know where you might be able to get them and in a busy world, trying to find the time to add things like spirulina and acai berries to your diet isn’t always easy.

Thankfully, a lot of the items that are considered “superfoods” are things that are grown right here in Niagara soil. Accessing local produce has never been easier really, with farmer’s markets, roadside stands, and “pick your own” farms dotting almost every area of the Region, there is definitely no shortage of options.

Niagara’s Superfoods

Not only are all of these foods considered to be of the “super” variety, but they are all grown right here in Niagara, and can be found in various venues throughout the Region. This list is not exhaustive by any means; these are just some highlights of the many locally grown foods that are available.

Apples are full of antioxidants including tons of vitamin C, which is great for skin and gums. They also contain fibre and potassium. Make sure to eat the skin, as this is where the majority of antioxidants are. Available January to May, October to December, with the peak season being August to September.

Blueberries may be just cute little berries, but they are stuffed full of antioxidants, which help to maintain cell function in the human body. Peak season is July to September.

Beans are an adaptable superfood that are full of protein, B vitamins, fibre, iron, potassium, magnesium and folate. Beans are available from July to October.

Beets, a lot of people can take or leave the earthy flavor of beets, but they are quite versatile for cooking, are full of minerals and vitamins, and do a great job of purifying the blood and liver. Beets are available from January to April, October to December and the peak season is July to September.

Broccoli is a delicious food that is full of foliate, fibre, calcium and absorbic acid. It has numerous health benefits including cancer fighting power, as well as contributes to strong bones and a healthy heart. The peak seasons for broccoli is July to August, but it is available into October.

Grapes have a little bit of everything good: vitamins A, C, B6 and folate as well as potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium and selenium. Grapes peak in August and September, but are available until October.

Garlic is a popular seasoning in many dishes and is full of a sulfur compound called allicim, which is only present once the garlic is crushed, chopped or chewed. Other goodies include: phosphorus, potassium, zinc and B6. Garlic is available January to February, November to December, and peaks from July to October.

Spinach is one of the healthiest plants on earth. It contains iron, antioxidants, vitamin K, and chlorophyll just to name a few. Spinach is available in May and October, and peaks from June to September.

Pumpkins are a delicious fall time food, and are good for way more than just carving. They are packed full of beta carotene, fibre, potassium, magnesium and vitamin E. Fresh pumpkins are available in October.

Tomatoes can be enjoyed in many forms, whether it is on a sandwich or in a pasta sauce. Tomatoes are full of lycopene, ascorbic acid, alpha and beta-carotene, potassium and fibre. Tomatoes peak from August to October, but are also available in November.

Farmer’s Markets

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Every town in Niagara has them. Some are seasonal and only operate in the spring and summer, and some function year round. These markets are great because you get to meet the actual farmers, and you can directly ask them questions about the food that they grow. There is something really enjoyable about walking from stall to stall and picking out produce. It’s a great community resource, and it binds the community together in a way that a regular grocery store does not.
Notable farmer’s market: St. Catharines Farmers Market in Downtown St. Catharines, open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays year round.

Local Farms
There are tons of farms in the Niagara Region; different ones specialize in different items, but chances are you will always be able to find exactly what you are looking for. There are many farms that are of the “pick your own” variety, and this can be a great spring or summertime activity. Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, apples, whatever it may be, being able to actually pick the food yourself is a really neat opportunity, and a fun activity for the summertime. Plus, you can’t get much fresher than directly from the plant.
Notable pick your own farm: Bry Anne Farms on Foss Rd in Fenwick where you can pick your own raspberries, strawberries and tomatoes.

Roadside Stands
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You know spring and summer have arrived in Niagara when you see the familiar sight of roadside food stands popping up along many of the areas rural roads. It’s one of the coolest benefits of living here. Usually these stands are located at the front of the farmer’s property, but they have also been known to pop up in other areas as well.
Notable roadside stand: Quiet Acres Farm on Lakeshore Rd between St. Catharines and Niagara-on-the-Lake, which sells a large variety of fruits and veggies.

Shopping locally ensures the money stays in the Niagara Region, it means we reduce our dependency on food imported from other countries, and it means we continue to support the livelihood of local farmers. It also means that we get food that is fresher and that tastes better. Local farmers also used less chemicals in the growing process because things like shelf life isn’t as much of a concern, as the food is not being shipped across entire countries.

With all this bounty available, there are endless recipes to be made, picnics to enjoy and local goodness to devour. We are lucky to have all this healthy food grown right here in Niagara and to have it be so accessible. So head on out, hit some roadside stands, and get healthy with all of our locally available superfoods.

More info can be found at these websites:

www.niagaraculinarytrail.com

www.eatingniagara.com

www.greenbeltfresh.ca

www.niagaragreenbelt.com