Why ship in almonds from Israel and olives from Japan when they grow on Vancouver Island? Victoria's farm to table movement, also known as farm to fork, has gained astonishing momentum, promoting locally sourced ingredients and strong ties between restaurants and farms. Sooke, the Saanich Peninsula and the Cowichan Region are home to an abundance of farms, eager to share their organically and sustainably grown products with visitors to Victoria.
Fruit and Veggies
Overlooking the ocean, Sooke Harbour House transformed its two acre property into an edible garden. You'll discover the 400+ herbs, fruit, veggies and flowers that give their colourful dishes a punch of flavour. OLO Restaurant, located in downtown Victoria, doesn't have the luxury of growing their own produce in their backyard. Instead, they partner with farmers growing a rich variety of fruits, veggies, grains and herbs in greater Victoria. Some products that you may not know grow on the island: wasabi (the real stuff, not the powder), lentils, olives, kiwis and figs, to name a few. As most of these products don't grow year round, many restaurants adapt their menu on a daily basis to serve only the freshest and seasonally available fruits and vegetables.
Dense in nutrients and stunning in its power to help your digestion, seaweed is often overlooked as a great addition to your diet. With over 250 local species of seaweed, Vancouver Island's southern coast is a forager's dream. Diane Bernard, owner of Outer Coast Seaweeds and also known as the Seaweed Lady, harvests our green treasures and supplies local restaurants, like the Sooke Harbour House, with her produce.
The beauty of living on an island is the abundance of amazing seafood right at our doorstep. The fishermen at Finest At Sea head out on the water on a daily basis, bringing back fresh catches of wild salmon, scallops, crabs and everything your heart may desire. As they love the sea, they abide by sustainable fishing standards, ensuring that locals may enjoy seafood for years to come. The Vancouver Aquarium recognized the dangers of overfishing and makes it easy to find sustainably sourced seafood. Just look for this symbol on your menu or ask your server about Ocean Wise. Try some of our best local seafood, served with other locally sourced products, at Blue Crab or Spinnakers.
You can taste happiness and ethically raised meat. As soon as you leave Victoria's bustling core, you'll drive past large and small farms, where farmers raise free-range poultry, medication and hormone free pork and grass fed beef. At 10 Acres you can taste the hard work that goes into their food. Their wonderful, seasonal meals are comprised of produce and meat sourced from their own farm, located just outside the city. Many of Victoria's restaurants have embraced the farm to table food movement, looking to farmers on Vancouver Island for their ingredients. Just head to Nourish, Ca Va, Camille's or the Fireside Grill and you'll quickly find that your cook knows the farmers and butchers personally and that the food on your plate was raised a short drive away.
While cooks are busy cooking and farmers are busy watering plants and raising livestock, local artisans turn local ingredients into wonderful products, such as bread and cheese. Salt Spring Island Cheese, for example, makes the most wonderful handmade goat cheese - it's to die for! Nourish Kitchen & Café have turned locally grown vegetables into an art form, brining them as well as water kefir into their Fermentorium upstairs. Try these probiotic, rich fermented goods in dishes like their Ploughman's Board. And numerous bakeries around town mill locally grown grains, supplying restaurants with a stunning addition to your meal.
Wine, Beer and Spirits
As the warmest region in Canada, the Cowichan Region is a great place to grow luscious hills of grapes, which are then turned into delicious wine. Make your way to Averill Creek or Blue Grouse for a taste. Don't forget to also check out the stunning orchards at Merridale. Their beautiful grounds and tasty cider will leave you with a wonderful sparkle. Still can't get enough? Discover the flavours of the Saanich Peninsula. If you're more of a beer person, don't sweat! While not all of our hops is grown on Vancouver Island, Victoria is home to a growing number of excellent craft breweries that aim to source as many local ingredients as possible.
Take A Tour
Undoubtedly the best way to explore Victoria's farm to table scene is on a tour. Both Cheers Cowichan and Kitchens of Distinction offer sensational tours that will show you around private farms and kitchens that are not open to the public. When else can you tour a salt harvestry, tea farm, creamery and goat farm, kiwi cove and beds of vegetables, and stables in one day? Cheers Cowichan loves showing off the vast array of products grown and made in the Cowichan Region, including local wineries. Shirley, chef and head of Kitchens of Distinction, offers a unique perspective as she picks up fresh ingredients for a closing meal on the tour. If you'd like to learn a thing or two about cooking, she'll pull you in to help prepare a meal that draws on her First Nations heritage and influences from around the world.
Pro Tip: If you'd like to get a little taste of the farm without leaving town, look for the small Food Eco District, hidden behind Be Love. Local businesses have worked together to grow their own herbs in the inner city. And don't miss the Victoria Public Market and public markets. Farmers and artisans alike sell their products here and would love to tell you more about where their products come from.