I recently purchased a new car which means I can finally now drive on a whim out to the country. This is great timing because early September means that the local farmer's markets are full of local produce, especially fresh stonefruit from the Okanagan Valley. While there are countless farmer's markets in and around Vancouver, my favourite is possibly Richmond Country Farms.
Located on an acreage out at Hwy 99 and Steveston Hwy, Richmond Country Farms has been a childhood tradition of mine. They're not only an onsite farm (where they grow their own vegetables, like corn, cabbage, and squash), but they're also a great supporter of local farms in and around BC. Their store consists of a permanent indoor structure but most of their local produce is sold outside in gigantic wooden crates. And it's precisely right now when I like to visit, because they definitely have the best selection of Okanagan fruit that I've seen.
On Monday after work I quickly drove down Richmond's No 6. Road - a country road full of U-pick blueberry farms - and found myself down at Steveston Highway, and decided to pay Richmond Country Farms a visit.
They had 3 haywagons full of local corn - people digging through all the ears for the nicest pieces. The corn is often a bargain, usually several ears (3? 4? 5?) for $1. Not only that, but the corn is some of the sweetest you'll ever taste.
There were wooden crates of prune plums, crabapples, Macintosh apples, Walla Walla onions, red onions, Gala apples, golden plums, red plums, apricots, nectarines, white peaches, roma tomatoes - all from the Okanagan.
I then noticed these beautifully fragrant crates full of white (more like pale yellow) peppers, but also these deep purple peppers which were grown in Cache Creek. They were so beautiful, I picked some up to make stuffed peppers with.
There were local green beans, jalapenos, field cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, English peas, zucchinis, and some beautiful acorn squash that they grow right on site. An aside - after tasting those green beans with dinner later that day, I doubt I'll be able to buy them from regular grocery stores ever again!
But local cherries? Richmond blueberries? They had it. Eggplants, bittermelon, watermelon, okra, and tunips? Locally-grown herbs, green onions, garlic? They had that too. Not to mention mushrooms, and pearl onions, and crates of things you rarely see, like locally-grown turban squash!
I spent a good half hour browsing through the dozens of wooden crates and picked up 3 shopping bags worth of fruit and vegetables. After taxes it came to $10.80. Ten dollars! How can you go wrong with that? (You can't!) This is certainly a great feeling on the wallet, but knowing you're supporting local farmers and enjoying the best tasting produce in the region, that's possibly the best feeling of all.
Richmond Country Farms is located at 12900 Steveston Highway, immediately east when you get off the Steveston Hwy exit from Hwy 99 (just north of the Massey tunnel). It's open 7 days a week from 9am until 8:30pm from April until December 23.
For more information, visit http://www.countryfarms.ca/