“The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses,” said author Hanna Rion. While my parents managed to work fulltime and maintain a beautiful garden, that green thumb gene wasn’t quite passed along.
Still, I spent many an hour in helping plant, weed, water and especially reap the bounty. Family time in the garden paired joy and hard labour. I absolutely love to dip in now and again to engage all of my senses and awaken those memories. The South Okanagan provides perfect opportunities to recapture that wonder from spring to late autumn.
The best of farmers markets thrive here and are a great place to measure the pulse of community and culture. They also school us on the cycle of seasons in a kaleidoscope of colours. The early reds of rhubarb and strawberries, earthy browns of morels and other foraged mushrooms, and greens of chives, onions, parsley, lettuce, chard, spinach and mint. Then, those delicate peas popped from the shell to snatch quickly before their season bids farewell.
How magical to rent an e-bike to cycle to Summerland. Explore the market, roadside fruit stands or u-pick sites. Reward yourself with a trip to Summerland Sweets, manufacturers of fruit syrup, jam and candy since 1962. Indulge in an ice cream and browse the store. Tucked in a corner is Sleeping Giant Fruit Winery which offers about 13 off-dry table wines and 8 dessert wines made in classic winemaking techniques.
Pedal over to Maple Roch gourmet retail store, where east meets west. Maple Roch Syrup is comprised of the finest maple sap from New Brunswick’s best trees. Works by local artisans are available such as Maple Almond Rocha, chocolates, Biscotti, soap, and natural bath and body skincare.
Saturday mornings in Penticton it’s all about the market. Later, hit The Bench Market for brunch and browse local products. You are close to the KVR trail where you can cycle or hike. You’re also so close to outstanding local cheese at Upper Bench Estate Winery and Poplar Grove Cheese.
Kaleden, Okanagan Falls, Oliver and Osoyoos provide more roadside stands, u-pick possibilities and Saturday mornings, the Osoyoos Market on Main. A favourite stop for me is Covert Farms where you can access the McIntyre Bluff trailhead, pick some produce, shop and even do a farm tour and wine tasting.
A must-do summer ritual is a stop at Tickleberry’s, hard to miss in Okanagan Falls because of all the grins on faces tucking into their selection from 72 different flavours of ice cream. Since 1988, this gift shop has delighted folks of every age with unique merchandise, menu options and broad selection of chocolate-covered dried fruits, real-fruit flavoured ‘Ticklebeans’ and in-house Fudge Factory.
For other cooling treats try Chabendo Gelato in Naramata; Medici’s Gelateria in Oliver with premium Italian Gelato and Sorbetto, Roberto’s Gelato in Osoyoos; Nummerland Paletas – a traditional Mexican-style fruit-cicle in Summerland, available at markets and select outlets throughout South Okanagan; and Veriberry Frozen Yogurt, Penticton.
While you’re scouting in the markets and specialty shops, be sure to pick up Okanagan Nation Alliance Salmon in its various forms. ONA is dedicated to restoring Indigenous food systems and this reintroduction and harvest of Okanagan sockeye salmon is a fine example. It is delicious and 100 per cent local and wild using selective harvesting methods and quality control.
What I love most about seeking the South Okanagan gardens, orchards and farmers market is it never gets old. The cycle of when produce is ready ensures there’s always something fresh to try. Seek, savour, repeat.