Baking always starts with one common denominator, ingredients, and for me I enjoy using the freshest available product. Some critics will say, “We are what we eat”. Now lets be honest, we all know baking isn’t always the “healthiest” choice to make. As a baker I try to incorporate healthy ingredients into my baking. We only live once so we may as well enjoy it and my rule of thumb is, everything in moderation. Adding fresh, healthy ingredients make every bit of difference to our diet.
Shopping local is a wonderful thing, not only do you know where your ingredients come from but the flavour is undeniably fresh. The best part is not having added preservatives or chemicals sprayed onto them. I will support my neighbour who grew the fruit and vegetables themselves, rather than some big corporation that just sprays their food full of preservatives because this cannot be good for our bodies.
For me personally, I enjoy planting, caring for, and harvesting my very own fruits and vegetables. When you desire some carrot cake there is no comparison to walking over to go to the garden, pull a few carrots from the soil, wash them up and turn them into a stunning carrot cake. One of my favorite fruits that I grow and harvest is strawberry. Strawberries are so versatile and to name a few ways that they can be used is fresh to make a strawberry shortcake, or boil them down and make jam to spread on your toast.
With that being said, there is a ton of hard work that goes into gardening, from strategizing where to plant what seed, to determining what fruits and vegetables are going to thrive next to each other. This is really important in order to produce a beautiful crop to harvest in the fall. Not only do you have to worry about planting, now comes the big factor, relying on Mother Nature to provide adequate rain and sunlight to produce a lush garden and plentiful fruits. With a lot of patience, weeding, and love, some years are very plentiful and others not so much.
You take what you get and you harvest it, either by preserving through canning, freezing, dehydrating, refrigeration or using the fresh ingredients as they come. In the middle of winter there is no feeling like going down to the freezer and grabbing some shredded zucchini for a delicious loaf, or some rhubarb for a crisp. Also there is the option of opening up the cold storage, grabbing a can of peaches to make a peach cobbler, or a jar of applesauce to spice up my muffins, or pumpkin puree to make pumpkin roll for my family and friends to enjoy. The possibilities are endless and oh so satisfying.
Also I have the privilege of harvesting goods from my sister-in-laws orchard. For this I am forever grateful and blessed to be able to use the fruits from her orchard. This is due to the fact that in Northern Alberta it is extremely difficult to grow fruit and I have never seen an orchard so plentiful as my sisters in the North. Here I can pick apples to make yummy pies and of course harvest the rest into applesauce or apple pie filling, there are plum trees to pick from to make a tasty German plum cake. There is a Saskatoon bush to harvest from and make pie. She has a huge grapevine, black current bush and chokecherry tree to harvest and make jelly that is to die for on a slice of fresh bread. Now when we haven’t quite had enough there is also a hazelnut tree that I can harvest from if I beat those darn squirrels to the prize!
Nonetheless baking starts with fresh ingredients and for me that means everything. Fresh ingredients produce an incomparable product. To know where your ingredients come from and how they are treated, this is a huge win. Therefore we are not consuming harsh chemicals and pesticides that are used on commercial fruit and vegetables. There is nothing more satisfying than planting a seed, eventually harvesting the fruit or vegetable that produces from it and transforming it into a delicious baked good for someone to enjoy.