City Bites

SPOTTED AT THE MARKET: Castor River Farm grows and grinds organic grains on the spot

Castor River Farms grinds grains into flour before your eyes

 Let’s face it, there’s nothing sexy about oats.

On my last visit to the the Ottawa Farmers’ Market, I wandered up to the Castor River Farm stall that consisted of little more than a beige tablecloth topped with several large white plastic containers. It’s no wonder I’d never noticed it before — it’s rather frumpy when compared to the immediately edible goodies and the rainbow of colours bursting forth from neighbouring flower and produce stalls. It’s a shame that its homely appearance means many market-goers may be missing out on the amazingly fresh organic grains — wheat, buckwheat, oats, spelt, and rye —that can be ground into flour right in front of their eyes. The large oats are rolled in the “flaker” the same morning that they are sold at the market. Talk about getting fresh!

But what’s wrong with those big old bags of flour and oats stashed up in the pantry since last autumn’s apple crumble obsession, you ask? As it turns out: plenty. For starters, the fact that most of the supermarket flour we buy has a scary-long shelf life means it has been stripped of its fibre and other nutrients.

According to The Castor River Farm’s newsletter: “Flour loses up to 90 percent of all the essential nutrients and oil-based enzyme within 72 hours of being ground.” Admittedly, fresh flour doesn’t last very long (stored in an airtight container in the fridge it might last up to a month), but the tradeoff is flour without preservatives or synthetic nutrients that retains more of its fibre as well as B vitamins, vitamin E, calcium, zinc, copper, manganese, potassium, and about 20 other vitamins and minerals. Isn’t that exciting?

George Wright and his wife Kim MacMullin are behind the 50-acre family farm in nearby Metcalfe. In addition to selling grains at the market, the couple built a “funky off-grid” retail shop at the farm where they sell fresh eggs and chickens — items that are regulated and therefore prohibited for sale at farmers markets. They also produce honey, maple syrup, tea, Dijon-style mustard, homemade ketchup as well as apples, pears, sweet potatoes, garlic, and various other vegetables. Sounds like the perfect destination for all the fixings for a fall feast.

Now, if they could just find a way to make flax more seductive.

Please note: On Thursday, the Ottawa farmers Market returns to its home in “Parking Lot #4” of Lansdowne Park after a three-week stint at Sylvia Holden Park. The Castor River Farm stall is there on Sundays only. The farm store, located at 2696 9th Line Rd., Metcalfe, is open Wednesdays from noon to 8 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.