Editor’s Note: Good morning. As we dig into our regular Farm to Family column this morning, I’ve got to say that my eyes were opened last week as to how truly special the food system in the Comox Valley is.
I went to Toronto with an open mind, and came out surprised for the better having learned about the Eat Real, Eat Local campaign, because the revelations about Canadians and their attitudes toward local food were, truly, inspiring.
Canadians are seriously committed to eating locally!
I wanted to share with you a few numbers:
In a study commissioned by Unilever Global 86% of Canadians said that they prefer to eat local, more than 70% are label-reading to check for food origins and nearly half of Canadians eat local as a way to support community economy.
We’re asking grocers to sell us local products first, spending our weekends at local Farmer’s Markets and changing our eating habits.
Lots of Canadians struggle with finding local food, though. That’s where we in the Comox Valley have it good.
When you think about all of the amazing, fresh, local food you can get that comes directly from farmers, ranchers and producers right here in the Valley, it’s astounding.
The debate over what defines local was at times fierce over the weekend. It made my heart sing more than a little to know that a major issue so on the minds of Canadians across the country – Food Security – is something the Comox Valley is already actively engaged in and making a difference.
So, as we introduce you to Kathleen Kinasewich and her gorgeous Union Bay cottage garden today, there’s a sense of awe in it.
I always knew the Comox Valley had a sense of community that goes unmatched. Now, I know that Canadians can come for dinner in our neck of the woods and see the difference that local food makes for themselves.
I admit, there’s a bit of a food theme going on here this week. Thank goodness we’ll break up the week with Lindsay’s Kids In The Arts column tomorrow. Otherwise, you’d all be stuck with where my brain seems to have parked momentarily.
Not that it’s a bad thing.
Especially if we are talking about all things lavender and hanging out with Union Bay’s quirky, fun and heartfelt Kathleen Kinasewich.
The owner of Island View Lavender, she has transformed one of the oldest homes in Union Bay into a gorgeous lavender cottage garden. You can spend hot Summer days soaking up the tranquil effects of this happy-making herb while looking out over the Georgia Straight for a gorgeous reminder of why island life is the good life – and take some treats home as well.
Right on the Old Island Highway next to the Union Bay post office, this diminutive slice of heaven has got to be one of my favourite farm discoveries yet.
As soon as you walk in, you’re greeted by lavender of all kinds. Kathleen happily walks you through the varieties, sampling smells along the way.
She’s as much an educator as a grower. So, a tour out there means families get a the chance to learn a bit as well – making Island View Lavender a great educational day trip as well.
As you work your way up the hill, the garden blossoms – even after a harsh Winter in which Kathleen lost several of her varieties to the cold.
While our tiny person spent the afternoon watering and smelling her way through the garden, I sipped lavender tea with Kathleen in her cozy greenhouse. It’s easy to sit back and admire her work – which began five years ago after she fell in love with lavender and left her pharmacy career to take on farming full time.
What has evolved is a lifestyle and a brisk seasonal business where she creates all kinds of gems for the body and bath – even the kitchen. You’ll see her goodies popping up at places all over town these days – including Brambles Market and Beyond The Kitchen Door where some of her best are sold. Jan at Dark Side Chocolates uses Kathleen’s lavender in her lavender truffles (oh holy) and where there is lavender yumminess around town you can bet Kathleen has something to do with it.
Being a bit of a lavender lover myself, her bath sprays and oils have been on my list for a while. Even the tiny person appreciates the soothing effect - requesting often a drop or two of the purple stuff in the bath when chilling out seems out of reach (it works, I highly recommend).
But, it was Kathleen who turned me on to the wonders of lavender in the food universe.
I’d say I got incredibly creative in my culinary kitchen. But, really, Kathleen graciously passed along a jar of her fantastically yummy lavender jelly and it was Ken who invented what I may have to consider lavender genius – Lavender Gin and Tonics (recipe in the sidebar).
I could get all foodie and talk about the mix of lavender and the juniper of the gin, how just a touch of jelly mixed with fresh limes is spectacularly subtle and incredibly refreshing. But, really, they are just freaking delicious.
You can find Island View Lavender at 5511 Island Highway in Union Bay and is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday beginning June 1.