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Nuts for Butternut at the Market

Market building

An assortment of fresh fruit and vegetables

The last farmer’s markets of the year are:

Dunnville – Saturday, December 17th – 7:00 am-noon; and Tuesday, December 20th – 7:00 am-noon

Caledonia – Thursday, December 22nd – 2:00 pm – 7:00 pm

For us “big kids”, Christmas is not only a time of gift-giving but also of eating – whether at festive cocktail parties or family gatherings. In anticipation of a mix n’ jingle event, I was to be attending with friends that evening, I decided to don my stretchy pants and head for the Dunnville Farmers Market in search of inspiration and supplies for my cooking contribution.

For those who are unfamiliar, Dunnville itself is a picturesque community situated on the banks of the Grand River. And while there are markets closer to home for me (Hamilton, that is), Haldimand County is rumoured to have a lot of tasty, locally-grown produce. The fact that the Dunnville Farmers’ Market was created for local farmers BY local farmers only adds to its appeal for me, as does the fact that its farmers and artisans live within 100km of Haldimand County – meaning their produce and farm products are as fresh as they come.

After making my way through scenic Cayuga and doing some drive-by window shopping of the stores in downtown Dunnville, I finally rolled into the Dunnville Farmers’ Market’s (surprisingly) spacious parking lot, grabbed my reusable shopping bags, and made my way indoors.

Upon entry, I was immediately greeted by the lovely sound of a Christmas carol – not through a radio – but a live musician who was happily strumming a guitar while singing “Run, run Rudolph”. I stood to enjoy his performance for a moment before following my nose to the best-smelling vendor at the Market, aka Sippy Cup Coffee Roasters. These lovely folks are not only local to my hometown, but are well known for their passionately roasted and ethically sourced coffee beans. After enjoying a tasty cup of their Mexican Sumatra Blend, I made my way to the table next door for another sensory delight: lavender a la Purple Haven Lavender Farm. This Canfield-based vendor sells everything from lavender-infused cooking salts to bath and aromatherapy products, making it well worth a stop n’ sniff!

I’ve always been a sucker for homemade jams, jellies, and pickled things, so when I spotted Olive’s Heirlooms – yet another Canfield-based business – I knew I needed to have a browse. There were so many inventive items to choose from (pickled garlic or cherry vinegar, anyone?), but ultimately I settled on purchasing some garlic jelly, which pairs fabulously with a sharp old cheddar on a crispy baguette. With jelly in tow, I made my way over to the largest vendor in the market, Richardson’s Farm and Market, where piles of fruits and veggies were laid out with care. As I browsed the shiny apples and maple syrups and potato varieties, I started to think of what I wanted to make for my mix n’ jingle event which led me to purchase a couple of butternut squashes.

Equipped with my purchases and fully inspired, I took a final look at some of the other vendors in the market – including Houser’s Fruits and Vegetables and KarMichael’s Seafood – before making the journey home. One thing to note for those who don’t wish to make the trek to Dunnville is that Caledonia, too, has a lovely farmers’ market that’s open every Thursday from 2:00 pm – 7:00 pm in the Canadian Tire Parking lot at 365 Argyle Street South. I was sad to miss it this trip, but eager to make use of my butternut squash later that evening.

There are lots of ways that butternut squash can be used, and it offers a gentle enough flavour that even roasting it with just a touch of salt, pepper, and olive oil can be delicious. But for my mix n’ jingle event, I decided to bring my A-Game and pair it with some fresh ravioli I already had at home. The end result? Ravioli in a creamy garlic sauce with roasted butternut squash, toasted pumpkin seeds, and crumbled goat cheese. In a word, it was DELICIOUS – and I have the Dunnville Farmers’ Market to thank for its contribution!

Find out more about the vendors and the markets in Haldimand.

Dunnville Farmers Market facebook page

Caledonia Farmers Market facebook page

Andrea Dyer is a writer and editor for a boutique creative agency, as well as a freelance writer who enjoys promoting small businesses, travel experiences, and social good projects.