As Mother Nature sends out her spring wakeup call after a long, grey winter, there’s no better place to treat your taste buds to the fresh flavours of the new season than Ontario’s Southwest. Home to some of the country’s most fertile farmland, you’ll find delicious spring produce and products around every corner at local farm markets and roadside stands and in the delectable dishes of our region’s many talented chefs. If you’re wondering where to begin, here are few favourite stops for feeding your spring flavour cravings:
Certified Greens Leads to Amazing Dishes
The certified organic lettuces, herbs, greens and micro greens don’t come any fresher than those you’ll find at Slegers Organic Greens in Strathroy. The plants are sold with the root systems intact. That live energy creates more vibrant flavour than anything you’ll find at the supermarket that has been picked and sitting in packaging for days.
If you can’t wait until you arrive home to get a taste of Sleger’s out-of-this-world greens, plan to enjoy a meal at The Clock Tower Inn, Bistro and Pub in Strathroy. Chef Mark Graham has passion in spades for the region’s farm-to-table ingredients. Chef Mark takes the 100-mile diet to a whole new level with his delicious 30-mile salad, featuring vegetables, eggs, meats and cheeses from his nearby neighbours.
Once you taste a dish prepared with freshly picked asparagus, the imported asparagus at the grocery store will forever disappoint. Chef Benjamin LeBlanc’s asparagus omelette is perfect proof. The former Chopped Canada contestant does such amazing things with local produce that the Iron Kettle, the charming bed and breakfast he runs with his wife, has become one of the region’s most beloved culinary destinations. Benjamin loves helping his guests build flavourful itineraries for their stay, providing recommendations for local wineries, breweries and more.
If a pancake breakfast at a sugar bush is on your spring bucket list, Ontario’s Southwest has some great options, like Richardson’s Farm and Market in Dunville and Jakeman’s Maple Products in Oxford County.
For a delicious example of how local producers incorporate the region’s maple syrup into their products, stop by Chocolatea in Ingersoll for a taste of their “Canadian Breakfast” chocolate, which is made with Jakeman’s maple syrup and maple candied bacon.
Freshly Foraged Produce
Chef Eric Boyar regularly takes to the land to source the freshest seasonal ingredients for his buzzed-about farm-to-table offerings at his restaurant, Six Thirty Nine in Woodstock. Time your visit right and you may be lucky enough to taste the magic of just-picked fiddleheads.
The New New Age in Port Stanley is another great option to visit if you’re eager to discover unique foraged flavours. Visit their online shop browse their amazing selection of products, including Forest Floor, a nutrient-dense mineral broth spice blend that contains shiitake, reishi, chaga, turkey tail, ginseng, ginger, bay leaf, spikenard root, red root, pine needles and more.
Burgers and Birds
Ontario’s Southwest is one of North America’s premier birding destinations, and birders flock to the region to catch the miracle of the spring migration every year. In-the-know birders fuel up after their early morning sky watch at Jack’s Gastropub in Kingsville. In addition to burgers made with locally sourced ingredients, the restaurant’s nano brewery, Banded Goose Brewing, crafts flavourful pints that are well worth the trip. To learn more about experiencing the spring migration in Ontario’s Southwest, check out our Insider’s guide to the region’s best bet birding sites.
Continue the bird themed tasty journey to Harrow for EPIC wines. As you drive up the long road into Cooper’s Hawk Vineyards, roll down your windows and listen for the distinctive cry of the Cooper’s Hawk. If you hear it, your next challenge is to determine if it’s from an actual bird or one of the “squawk boxes” used in the vineyards to replicate the bird’s call and scare other birds away from the grapes. Rolling vineyards, an expansive patio and beautifully landscaped green space may make you think you’ve been transported to Napa at this stunning winery.
Fill the Trunk
No trip to Ontario’s Southwest is complete without picking up some regional produce and products to enjoy at home. Stock up on fresh produce, local cheeses, maple syrup and more at the region’s many farmer’s markets and farm stands. Read our Top of the Crop blog post for a roundup of some of our all-time favourite stops.